Is there life after Baywatch? The syndicated tsunami proved T&A translates into any language, becoming the world’s most popular show and making star-exec producer David Hasselhoff even more money than his German pop records did. But can its ex-lifeguards ever be seen as anything more than red-bathing-suited beauties running in slo-mo?
The ninth season of Baywatch has gotten bogged down by the show’s weakest roster ever (a sad distinction, considering such dramatically impaired grads as Carmen Electra, who’ll soon dive into the soggy WB serial Hyperion Bay, and David Charvet). After sagging in the ratings in recent seasons, Hasselhoff set adrift much of the cast, including Electra, Traci Bingham, and Donna D’Errico. They’ve been replaced by knockoffs of the babes from the show’s glory days: Mitzi Kapture (Silk Stalkings) fills Bleeth’s brainy-brunet role; Kelly Packard plays the Nicole Eggertesque blond ingenue; and the obligatory buxom bubblehead is Brooke Burns, whose vapid acting makes Lee look like Dame Judi Dench.
As Hasselhoff’s physique has softened into a lumpy paunch, he’s added two young hardbodies, David Chokachi and underwear model Michael Bergin, to pick up the action slack. Unfortunately, their characters’ definition seems strictly limited to their pecs. The series has also strained for hard-edged plotlines this season (Gangbangers blow up the lifeguard station! Escaped convicts hide out at the beach!), but it’s tough to escape the obvious conclusion: It’s time for the Baywatch hunks to hang up their trunks.
Fear not, Herr Hasselhoff. Having the word Baywatch on your resume doesn’t have to be a career death sentence. Angie Harmon, a survivor of the unsuccessful spin-off Baywatch Nights, has resurfaced on Law & Order, and her book-’em-and-cook-’em character, ADA Abbie Carmichael, has given the NBC drama a shot of new life. Maybe Hasselhoff is just what Homicide needs to burn Nash Bridges. C-