In 10 Words or Less
Finally, the conclusion of the insanely silly "Baywatch" spoof
Loves: Good parody
Likes: Tim Stack, T&A comedy
Dislikes: Meddling TV networks
Hates: Incomplete TV DVD sets
Backed by executive producer Howard Stern and starring Tim Stack and a cast of funny actors and amusing guest stars, "Son of the Beach" had a respectable three-season run on the once-not-deadly-serious FX Network, taking the "Baywatch" concept and adding a winking flavor of cheesy comedy, before heaping on a healthy serving of T&A. The first volume of the show, collecting the first season and half of the second, was released by Fox waaaaay back in 2003, and was reviewed by DVDTalk.
Well, that was one hell of a wait. Since last we joined you, back a few years into the Bush Error, the world has changed quite dramatically, while legendary lifeguard Notch Johnson (Stack) and his SPF-30 team remained frozen in time and their yellow swim gear, sitting on the shelf, waiting to complete their adventures on DVD. As someone who purchased Volume One the day it was released, I can't say I've given much thought to the show (except when TV's Tim Stack appears on "My Name is Earl.") That said, it was nice to see this set on the release schedule, allowing me to return to Malibu Adjacent once again.
Unfortunately, that trip ended after a short stay, as the Malibu Adjacent I remembered only lasts about seven episodes, which coincidentally is the length of the second half of the second season. Watching these goofy :22-minute shows immediately reminds one why they were such guilty pleasures, from the delicious lack of political correctness, to the oddly innocent, yet raunchy humor, to the over-the-top sexuality of the women in the series. Somehow, it doesn't matter that the level of sophistication in the comedy rarely rises above that of a MAD Magazine (though a base understanding of Nazi Germany is helpful.) It's just silly and that's the whole point.
But after enjoying more of B.J. Cummings (Jamie Bergman), Chip Rommel (Roland Kickinger) and company, including the ever-valuable Lisa Banes as the mayor (with her flamboyantly gay son Kody), Season Three rolls around, bringing with it a bunch of changes that hurt the series, several of which were not by the choice of the creators. It all starts in B.J.'s vagina, as Bergman's real-life pregnancy had to be dealt with, as it's hard to hide a baby bump when a character spends 98 percent of the show in a bikini. So the pregnancy (an issue for B.J., who prides herself on her virginity) creates a bit of a void in terms of mainstream hotness, which was dealt with by removing the mayor (a mistake, as some of the best plots come from her machinations) and inserting Amy Weber as Porcelain Bidet, a slutty princess of a lifeguard with more of an interest in rich guys and a movie career than saving lives.
The addition of Porcelain doesn't come close to replacing the mayor, as Porcelain is pretty much a one-note character, chasing the bigger, better deal, and with her bad attitude, her sexiness goes to waste. It's hard to even come up with a really good Porcelain moment, as she barely even gets into the puns, lacking the delivery of the more enjoyable Bergman and Leila Arcieri. Fortunately, the rest of the cast remains strong, especially Stack, who created a genuinely classic character in Notch, a beloved man oblivious to reality. Though the series is an ensemble, it would not be nearly as enjoyable without Johnson in it. (Sorry.)
The change in the female cast is accompanied by a change to the general formula of the show, as there seems to be more of a focus on pop-culture parodies, like "Godfather Knows Best" and "Saturday Night Queefer," than lifeguard adventures, and little things, like the once-an-episode "What would that be like?" sexy fantasies, slipped away. While Notch and the gang are still funny, and there are some solid episodes, like the ridiculous "The Gay Team" (with RuPaul) or Gilbert Godfried's return as Noccus Johnstein in "Hamm Stroker's Suck My Blood," it just doesn't feel the same, especially when the final three-part story arrives. Sure, it allowed the show to wrap up on the creators' terms, but it's overlong, repeats the same Porcelain gags that made her unlikable and is too final for such a goofy series.
One thing that stayed the same throughout though is the insane stunt casting, as the show features guests from the B, C and D lists, including George Takei, Gary Coleman, Adam Carolla, John O'Hurley, Jason Alexander, Lee Majors and Jon Lovitz. None of them can top the two most impressive guests though, as the returns of Alan Thicke, as possibly gay military man Captain Buck Entenille, and David Arquette, playing former punk/disco dancer Johnny Queefer, set the bar high for guest appearances. Both embraced the odd, cheesy nature of their roles and really became part of the series, which is what made "Son of the Beach" work as a whole. If the cast didn't lose themselves as the crew of the SPF-30 and enjoy the ride, you certainly couldn't.
Incredibly, five years after the first set was released and following a shift from Fox to Shout! Factory, the packaging remains consistent from Volume 1 to Volume 2, with the three discs, holding 21 episodes, packed in three ThinPaks, inside a slipcase with a nice cover featuring Notch walking on water. The discs feature static, full-frame menu with options to play all episodes, select shows and check out the bonus features. There are no audio options and no subtitles, though closed captioning is included.
The full-frame transfers on these episodes don't look great, with a somewhat soft image with good deal of visible grain and noise and color that's a tad shy of vivid. It's not that they look bad, but when you have a low-budget series that's a few years old, it's not going to look as good as the HD footage we have today. There are no issues with dirt, damage or digital artifacts though.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks are solid, but traditional cable-TV quality sound, which means there's nothing impressive about it, as the sound is right down the middle, with nothing dynamic about the mix. The dialogue and music sound good, without any distortion, so the discs do the job they need to.
First up, each disc has an amusing audio introduction from Notch Johnson on the main menu, before diving into the rest of the extras. You can hear more from Notch, or actually Stack, along with producers David Morgasen and James R. Stein, on the eight audio commentaries they provide. The selection of episodes is pretty good, meeting my standard by including a track for the finale, though one for the first episode of Season Three would have been appreciated. The trio is obviously friendly, and there's a good deal of joking going on, along with info on the production effort, as well as the business side of things, especially in the later episodes, when they talk about the show's cancellation. It's fun to hear them forget about things, as it's clear they haven't watched these episodes in a while, and there are some good stories about their experiences with the show.
The first disc also features a pair of All-Access featurettes, with on-set footage from "The Island of Dr. Merlot" and "Grand Prix," running a total of over 17 minutes. Getting to see how they these episodes is interesting, as you can see the stuff the camera doesn't catch. There's more behind the scenes material on the second disc, in the form of highlights from the table read for the show's pilot, which was done in 1999. Table reads can be dry to some viewers, but it's worth a look to see them feeling out the script (which is displayed on-screen below the video. Also on this platter are two minutes of promos from the show's second season, which play off religion, old TV and NASCAR.
The third DVD has a set of four audition tapes, with Bergman, Arcieri, Kickinger, Banes and Weber, and are notable mainly because the younger ladies do their lines in very revealing bikinis, on what must have been a great day for the producers. It's easy to see why this group was chosen after watching the tapes, but one thing bugged me: what's going on in Arcieri's bikini bottom?
Three sets of "Sexy Montage Highlights" are also included, one per DVD, which put all the sexy "What would that be like?" segments together for some purpose that's probably better left unmentioned.
The Bottom Line
While I'll never complain that a studio finishes off a TV series on DVD, perhaps in this case incomplete was best, as the second volume pales in comparison to the first, thanks in large part to a lackluster third season. The DVDs look and sound decent, representing the show's low-budget, basic cable origins, and have a decent mix of extras for fans to enjoy. If you enjoyed the series, it's nice to catch up with the shows again after almost five years, but the first volume is a better pick for almost anyone.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.