The First Season
In the late 1980s, a new television aired on NBC called Baywatch. The series did not do very well and NBC cancelled it at the end of its first year. The series went into syndication and individual funding sources helped keep it alive. In 1991, Baywatch started its second season. Afterwards, Baywatch grew in popularity and ran until 2001--its eleventh season with two hundred and forty-two episodes. The series has been herald as one of the most popular (in terms of audience numbers, not necessarily quality) television series worldwide.
Baywatch, in its first nine seasons, takes place on the sunny beaches of California. The final two seasons followed Hasselhoff's character relocating to the beaches of Hawaii. Baywatch's stories deal with beautiful lifeguards saving drowning swimmers and thwarting criminal masterminds. Another major aspect that Baywatch is well-known for is its beautiful female cast that runs on the beach in slow motion while certain parts of their bodies bounce.
This review covers the "first season". While it is dubbed as the first season, it is not really the first season of the show. The episodes included in this set come from the series first season in syndication. First Look Home Entertainment, the group putting out the DVDs, started the season numbering from the series' first season in syndication. The actual first season that NBC aired is being included in the syndicated season releases. For instance, this release includes the original pilot episode "Panic at Malibu Pier". It is also important to note that due to licensing issues, the two-part season premiere episode "Nightmare Bay" (from the syndicated season one) is not included in this set.
Headlining the season one cast is Mitch Buchannon (David Hasselhoff). Mitch is a Los Angeles County lifeguard. He is in charge of the lifeguard team. He is also a single parent trying to raise his son Hobie (Jeremy Jackson) while managing his career. Eddie Kramer (Billy Warlock) is the young, charming lifeguard with a heart. He is your average good guy who tries to go out of his way for others. Shauni McClain (Erika Eleniak) is similar to Eddie. She has a good heart and continually finds herself overly involved in situations trying to help people. The two are engaged in a romantic relationship.
Harvey Miller (Tom McTigue) is the woman-crazy lifeguard. He adds a brief bit of humor with a non-serious personality. Don Thorpe (Monte Markham) is Captain of the Los Angeles County lifeguards. He is Mitch's direct superior. Garner Ellerbee (Gregory Alan-Williams) is the police officer who helps the Baywatch crew out on occasion when their paths cross criminals and murderers. He is a reoccurring character, but shows up frequently.
The season one content has stories that include elements like drama, comedy, and action. The actual focus varies from episode to episode. Some episodes are very dramatic like "The One That Got Away", where Vanessa Angel guest stars as a lifeguard who is forced to relive traumatic events when a crazed fisherman tries to assault her. Some other dramatic stories include "Thin Or Die", Eddie teaches an overweight girl how to feel good about herself, "If Looks Could Kill", Mitch gets a little too close to a wonderful woman who turns out to be a killer, and "Big Monday", Hobie tries to show he isn't afraid of anything by surfing deadly waves. Many of these episodes also feature a lot of cheesy action with guns and fight scenes.
Other episodes have a humorous angle. A good example is "Money, Honey", where Mitch is given a chance to make extra cash by starring in a movie. The overall notion of the storyline and how the characters carry themselves produces fun, light humor. And of course the episode "Now Sit Right Back And You'll Hear A Tale" that includes some of the Gilligan's Island cast.
Overall, Baywatch's first season in syndication provides a variety of episodes that you will either love or hate. As for the general content, I did not care for it much. The acting performances are far from quality and the writing rarely includes anything close to average. Nor are the characters anything special. There are a few aspects I enjoyed about them, but not enough to really get into the show. The bottom line, I think this show is best reserved for the fans looking to subdue nostalgia. However, if you can catch re-runs on television, you might be better off saving your money.
1. Nightmare Bay Part 1: Mitch saves the life of an underwater photographer after she is attacked by a supposed "sea monster," which the press quickly picks up on, throwing the community into a panic. Meanwhile, Shauni rescues an inner-city girl from drowning. This episode is not included in this season set.
2. Nightmare Bay Part 2: After a fishing boat is destroyed by a supposed "creature in the bay," panic invades Santa Monica. Meanwhile, Shauni travels to Watts to enlist junior lifeguard candidates in a program for inner-city youths. This episode is not included in this season set.
3. The One That Got Away : A Fisherman tricks new lifeguard Megan into rescuing him in order to attack her. When he continues to stalk her, Mitch has to find a way to stop him. Meanwhile, when Shauni suffers from lifeguard burnout, Eddie takes her on a romantic weekend getaway, which quickly turns passionate.
4. Money, Honey : Mitch is offered the lead role in an action movie when the star is injured, but risks losing the role when he rejects the amorous advances of the film's producer. Meanwhile, Shauni trie to raise money to keep an animal rescue organization from shutting down.
5. Fabulous Buchannon Boys : Mitch's brother Buzzy comes to visit with his estranged son Kyle, who proves to be a bad influence on Hobie. When Kyle illegally surfs near the condemned San Dimas Pier, he collides with a submerged piling, and is sent underwater, unconscious.
6. Point Of Attack: Cort returns to Baywatch, helping Eddie in an aquatics program designed for inner-city youths. When Eddie takes a gang leader under his wing, he finds himself in conflict with the boy's father, who has encouraged his son's gang activity.
7. Sandcastles: Hobie becomes enamored with a homeless girl whose mother has disappeared.
8. Thin Or Die: Eddie teaches an overweight girl who has loved him from afar the importance of self-esteem, while Mitch and Hobie adopt a dog that is the only witness to his owner's kidnapping.
9. The Trophy Part 1: Eddie's life is torn apart by an accusation of statutory rape, while Mitch deals with the anger of a paraplegic former lifeguard.
10. The Trophy Part 2: Facing rape charges, Eddie is suspended from Baywatch, while his accuser attempts to kill herself. Mitch saves a paraplegic's life in a daring hang glider rescue.
11. If Looks Could Kill: Mitch falls for a beautiful woman he has rescued, never dreaming she is actually a murderess.
12. Reunion: Mitch attends his high school reunion, rekindling an old flame with ex-wife Gail, while Eddie plays father for a day.
13. Now Sit Right Back And You'll Hear A Tale: A routine rescue sends the Baywatch crew on a madcap adventure back to "Gilligan's Island."
14. War Of Nerves: Ex-con and martial arts master Mason Sato terrorizes Mitch, Kaye, and Hobie.
15. Big Monday: Kaye Morgan introduces a deaf girl to sign language, while Mitch confronts a terrifying childhood memory.
16. Sea Of Flames: The Baywatch crew crack a seaborne drug ring, and Ben finds love with an aging movie star.
17. The Chamber: Mitch rescues a diver trapped 90 feet below the ocean surface, but almost dies himself while suffering the effects of decompression.
18. Sharks Cove: A beautiful Olympic hopeful disappears after a savage shark attack and Eddie's brother Bobby arrives for a weekend visit.
19. Lost Treasure Of Tower 12: Two thieves lose their loot under a lifeguard tower and Shauni is swept off her feet by an eccentric beach poet.
20. The Big Spill: Toxic waste, corporate greed, and a determined environmentalist spell trouble for the Baywatch lifeguards.
21. Game Of Chance: Harvey and Mitch pursue and capture a disgruntled gambler turned high-seas pirate. Meanwhile, Eddie struggles with the disapproval of Shauni's family.
22. Summer Of '85: After seven years, Eddie's first love appears in Los Angeles, complicating his life with Shauni and entangling him in a web of lies and an unsolved murder.
Video is given in its original television aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame color. The picture quality is on par with what you could expect from broadcast television. The picture is grainy and blocky. The transfer is dirty and the occasional glitch pops up. Visually, it is not the prettiest picture, but it is still viewable.
Audio is provided in two formats, 5.1 Dolby digital surround and 2.0 stereo. Both formats are in the English language. The 5.1 track is overkill and makes very little use of the full surround sound capability. The audio sounds pretty clean with dialogue easy to hear throughout the season episodes.
The release has subtitle support in the English and Spanish languages.
Panic At Malibu Pier is the bonus episode (it is twice as long as a normal length Baywatch episode). It is the pilot episode from the NBC season. Here is the episode description: Two members of the Baywatch lifeguard unit stationed on Santa Monica Bay experience traumatic personal upheavals, a potential suicide victim and a dramatic ocean rescue.
Baywatch Through The Years is a photo gallery of the cast in action and posing. There are a total of thirty pictures.
A Conversation With The Creators (16:00) is an interview featurette with the show's co-creators and executive producers Michael Berk, Doug Schwartz, and Greg Bonann. The interview begins with Berk in mid-sentence introducing their topic of discussion, which is the episode "The One That Got Away". They talk about problems they had with British censorship. Then they talk about how the show had a lot of freedom because they did not have a network directing them. The remainder of the discussion continues with them talking about different aspects of the show and its impact.
Clip of Girls on the Beach (2:00) is an Easter Egg (I made up the name!). It is accessed from disc 5's menu. While "A Conversation With The Creators" is selected, press the right arrow on the DVD remote to highlight the female lifeguard shape. The clip is a montage of scenes with girls on the beach, lifeguards and civilians.
Prior to reviewing this set, it had been many years since I had seen an episode of Baywatch. I have fond memories of Baywatch, but re-watching this collection of episodes left me less than excited. There was a lot that I did not care for about this show, which includes (and is not necessarily limited to) characters, writing, story, and dialogue. Basically, the major elements that make Baywatch a television show just weren't enough to pull me in. I think this set is best reserved for the fans of the series looking for moments of nostalgia. However, I suggest renting before purchasing.
Note: In addition to this season not including all of its episodes, music has been replaced, most notably the opening theme song.