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Television embraces extreme sports

”Extreme Blue,” ”Pacific Blue,” and more have bikes and surfboards propel their plots

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Never shy about exploiting a trend, TV producers are seizing on extreme as a way to spiff up stale nature documentaries and stagnant cop dramas. ”Everyone’s tapping into extreme culture,” says ESPN2’s director of programming, Ron Semiao. ”People don’t need to be out there doing it to experience it.” In fact, all you really need is a remote:

— Welcome to one beach on the planet where Missy Giove is a bigger sex symbol than Pamela Lee. The USA Network’s Pacific Blue is Baywatch on bikes. The series, featuring former Extreme Games announcer Jim Davidson, focuses on a Santa Monica mountain-biking patrol unit. ”We had to play up the extreme angle,” says creator Bill Nuss. ”We’ve done car chases and motorcycle spills. It’s time for something else.” Audiences agree: Blue is USA’s second-highest-rated one-hour drama.

— Following in Pacific Blue‘s tread marks is UPN’s Extreme Blue, set to be a mid-season replacement. ”Extreme means pushing it beyond the usual limits, and water is blue,” says exec producer David Taylor of the series, about surfer dudes who catch waves when not on duty for the U.S. Customs Service. Even Taylor is skeptical about the show’s title: ”We might have to change it. Extreme’ll lose its appeal if it becomes overused.”

— This Fox nature special, which aired April 28, might best be described as Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom — on crack! With scenes like a whale charging a swimmer and bees swarming an old man, Attack finished 55th in the ratings but jumped to 22nd when it was repeated. Coordinating producer Bill Bracken is now scavenging for new footage for a fall edition, while worrying that viewers may already be immune to such images. ”We might get to where there aren’t any really compelling stories anymore.” Now, that would be extreme.

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