Idiot Box- Baywatch Nights 1.01- "Pursuit"A column article, Shot For Shot by: Danny Djeljosevic, Rafael Gaitan
Sometimes, bad television makes for great television. Which is why we've chosen to allot a certain amount of space within Comics Bulletin's tv section to the exploration of truly wonderful bad television. Why are we starting this now, you ask? Well, Danny Djeljosevic and Rafael Gaitan have chosen to watch and review every single episode of the detective-themed Baywatch spinoff Baywatch Nights. Nobody asked them to. But they insisted, and here we are...
Danny: So, Raf. Why are we watching every single episode of Baywatch Nights? Do we have tumors? If so, how big are these tumors?
Rafael: That’s a good question, Daniel. Because we owe it to ourselves and the loyal viewers of Comics Bulletin to put our malignant tumors to bad use by watching one of the most amazingly bizarre programs to ever air. And don’t forget the tangential comics relation, with that one Gerry Conway-scripted episode!
Danny: Yup. We both listened (separately) to that one episode of War Rocket Ajax where the Trip Fantastic guys talked about the gonzo brilliance of Baywatch Nights and I got interested in checking it out and you were interested in not getting fired from Comics Bulletin due to having not written for us for, like, eight months. I had never seen it before and you had, and I really, really did not want to ever watch True Blood again. So in lieu of modern popular trash television, we’re revisiting a niche “classic.”
Rafael: And I know you’ll believe me when I say I watched it AS IT AIRED. You will also believe that I never watched Baywatch. Since we couldn’t give you Falling Skies Season Two and Danny hates good television like the FX Original Series Justified, we will be discussing and mocking your favorite spin-off and mine.
Danny: Wait, you never watched the original Baywatch? What did you have boners to when you wore a younger man’s clothes?
Rafael: The clothes of younger men. Well, I did watch it after the fact, and this will sound idiotic, but I didn’t “get” it. If I wanted to see girls I could see girls, but where else would I find ‘90s men’s fashions billowing in the evening? WHERE?!
Danny: Right here, in the first episode of Baywatch Nights! It’s called “Pursuit,” because, um, all the characters are pursuing things? I don’t really get it.
Rafael: CAN WE TALK ABOUT THE TV GUIDE SUMMARY SOLILOQUY where Mitch Buchanan actually comes out and breaks the fourth wall while he tells us the premise of the show -- could this have been tagged with the pilot for investors, or just made for us, knowing I love this kind of bullshit?
Danny: It’s a really strange cold open, meant to ease in the kind of audience who chooses to watch Baywatch. He may as well be telling us not to be scared or confused even though he does zero swimming in this show, despite being presented with several opportunities to swim. And it’s delivered like a PSA. “We had a lot of fun here on Baywatch, but now it’s time to talk about something serious: Spin-offs.”
Rafael: And from there we segue into the Sports Authority/Casual Male 1995 Fall Catalogue, aka the opening credits -- if the premises are half as amazing and varied as Hasselhoff’s style, we’re in for some claaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaasy shit.
Danny: Which lasts for like half the show’s runtime, good god that thing is long. We’re still watching it now! Then we get what SHOULD have been the episode’s cold open, which crosscuts between a bluesy Skinemax guitar solo and a Skinemax model being bluesily chased off a cliff.
Rafael: It’s amazing because it looks like she’s running away from a Guns ‘n Roses video- she’s in a white dress, everything is slow mo, and then Switchblade (Slash’s jazzier cousin) performs the deadliest bend of his career -- INTO THE EDGE OF DARKNESS.
Danny: Then we cut to Baywatch Days, where a model is posing on top of a horse with some perfume amidst a photoshoot... while Hasselhoff narrates about the differences between detecting and lifeguarding. Which... aren’t that different?
Rafael: Apparently in both you can save lives? My experience with P.I.ing is more like Jon Polito in The Big Lebowski -- you wear a suit, you get sweaty and then you move on with your life. Also can we take a minute to discuss how my love of the ‘90s extended to its women? (What up, Yasmin Bleeth in like 1997 and The Woman In This Episode) But I regress -- Mitch seems to think he’s qualified to detect because he has the uncanny ability to notice that someone isn’t breathing when they’re underwater. Why isn’t he in Elementary?
Danny: Elementary never tried to seduce a woman via horse. This scene not only introduces Baywatch Nights’ first major client, but also the character of Destiny Desimone, who is a psychic and a computer whiz and also the understudy of Phoebe from Friends. Then it’s time to meet Mitch’s partners at Baywatch Nights Headquarters.
Rafael: Cut to
The Regal Beagle The Maxx Baywatch Heights, the shitty office building that may have been where they shot that Glenn Frey detective series that actually exists- here we see Mitch’s two partners -- Garner Ellerby, a former Baywatch character, and Ryan McBride, a new addition played by The Sound of Texas Talking, Angie Harmon. Mitch’s Baywatch Voiceover tells us she earned a P.I. degree and Ellerby is a former cop, but in this scene they act like a bunch of goons who can’t file or answer phones -- it’s wonderful.
Danny: The funny thing about Baywatch Nights is that there are a lot of scenes that take place during Baywatch Days, including the next one where a photographer (played by The Terminator) won’t stop hassling the model lady and Mitch (in his Baywatch Dayjob uniform, a.k.a. an open red jacket) intervenes. It’s in this scene where we find out the photographer’s secret superpower -- using bystanders as weapons.
Rafael: And he does it so well! Apparently Mitch’s secret weakness is other people teetering at him off-balance: during this episode he remains cool in the face of guns and imposing violence, but lob a 19 year old in a half-shirt at him and he is DONE. It’s also another opportunity to get to enjoy the fashion of the '90s -- the bystander that drops Mitch is wearing one of those stupid Hurley Beach Cowboy hats and an Adidas pullover while biking -- which of these activities is it gonna be, hoss? Then we cut back to Ellerby and McBride trying to run a detective agency while Mitch complains about a hammer?
Danny: Which is another scene where the office is in disarray. The files are confusingly organized and they seem to think the telephones are haunted -- which is curiously prophetic considering Season 2 of this show takes a supernatural X-Files approach to detecting things near a beach (like sand and hot women running in slow motion). And then the model lady whose name I STILL haven’t learned comes in to show them those threatening notes made from cut-up newspapers and hires them (read: Mitch).
Which brings us to OUR FIRST BAYWATCH NIGHT.
Rafael: I love this scene so much, because now I’m realizing why the hell would she go to an unlisted agency with a lifeguard at its head if she was concerned for her safety? I mean, if I had a stalker who left me notes and I was scared, I’d... go to the beach and hire the first person who tried to hit on me while I was writhing on a horse. OKAY I SEE IT NOW.
Danny: Here we get a seductive hangout scene where model lady is DECIDEDLY not wearing a bra and shows off her very own Chekov’s Gun, which she refers to as her “sleeping pill.” They get chummy and then the Terminator Photographer takes their photos, including a few taken IN HER BEDROOM, which somehow managed to elude Mitch’s keen detective skills. Probably because it didn’t involve noticing someone drowning. Also, can we talk about Mitch’s narration? Most of which is preoccupied with personal baseball anecdotes?
Rafael: To be fair, he was reading a mystery novel. Probably to pick up tips like “Investigate” and “Baywatch Your Client.” My favorite part of his narration which Segways (clumsily transitions us) into the next scene is that he goes on about “I played baseball” and “baseball really is like life” but then he DOESN’T KNOW WHAT THE GAME THIS WOMAN IS PLAYING BECAUSE WHAT. “I didn’t know the game OR the rules.” (BASEBALL) Also peace to him “heh-hehing” his own realization like some sober Tom Waits or something.
Danny: Then we find out the woman who fell off a cliff at the beginning was Model Lady’s model buddy and that the Terminator probably did her in, which is the best time for Mitch to make a move. Which he does, as Mitchtastically as he can. By which I mean “amidst more baseball themed narration.”
Rafael: In the next scene, Mitch post-sex struts while talking to Ryan, who apparently was staring at his lips long enough to notice he has lipstick on them. And she’s right -- it is not his color, but Mitch has other worries. Angie Harmon, God bless her, she’s actually trying.
Danny: Cut to Ellerby and Mitch talking to a tabloid magazine editor -- played by What’s Her Name from In the Loop -- who really likes eating the kind of Peeps that are Bunnies. Mitch noisily steals one of her photos of Model Lady and then invades Model Lady’s dressing room to show it to her, ignoring the fact that the room is full of nude women covering their breasts in ways that probably caused a lot of sexual awakenings in 1995.
Rafael: Having been one of those boys, I can verify that. And it’s pretty amazing how he manages to steal that photo while she’s sitting in her chair looking at him, then offers him a job. Cue the dressing room where a woman comes up and all but tells him he’s uncomfortable with his presence and he turns to Ryan and pulls a total “Chicks, bro, amirite?” :smugbrow:
Danny: What really matters is what comes next: a slow-motion runway scene full of ugly swimsuits, pretty ‘90s ladies and a pedal-steel-driven song that wouldn’t be out of place on, say, Hot Springs Hotel or something else I watched scrambled on late-night Cinemax back in -- oh, I’ve said too much.
Rafael: We then groove back into the dressing room, where we discover that, in the hustle and bustle of all the models getting ready, someone was able to legibly threaten Cassidy (Model Lady) and then Mitch spots The Terminator and they engage in the most poorly-shot chase scene of all time, complete with stuttering slow-mo and Mitch is ALMOST foiled again by a Bystander Bullet.
Danny: He tackles The Terminator over a table and they fight through several small sidewalk vendors selling (1) souvenir T-shirts, (2) sunglasses and (3) rollerblades. And yup, The Terminator throws a rollerblader at Mitch and we get a GREAT view of Mitch’s horrible/amazing/horrible vest:
Rafael: We cut back to Baywatch Heights, where Destiny has her Phoebe Buffay moment of cracking the filing system and solving everyone’s problems through stupidity (and exorcises the phone!)
Danny: Well, she didn ‘t crack it, she CREATED it. Y’see, she so quirky that she uses numerology to (dis)organize everything. I can tell she’s going to be a huge annoyance on me, the viewer.
Rafael: Mitch also takes a call from Ellerby who is wearing the wall of a chain Mexican restaurant and they have a weird-ass talk about watching Maury I don’t even know anymore. Mitch decides he has had enough of doing his side-gig and is apparently still off from his day gig, so he goes over to Cassidy’s house for possibly the most upsetting seduction since Blue Velvet, but BLUER. Throughout this scene Mitch’s expression switches from “watching Esteban at Red Rocks” to “staring lustfully,” previously known as Hasselhoffing.
Danny: Model Lady -- whose name I never seem to know even when my co-writer mentions it and also tells me in real life as we’re writing this piece -- swims around in a pool for a while while Mitch watches and the camera captures him
watching leering from behind fire and steam and blue filters -- at which point we start to think HE’S the culprit. Also, sometimes during this scene he looks a bit like Will Ferrell. Which is the sound of me predicting the next classic TV show that will be made into a big-budget comedy.
Rafael: Cassidy then spills wine on Mitch’s only pair of night pants so she seduces him into her home again, where he uses what he learned from his book to notice A GUN ON THE TABLE. With no bystanders to throw, Terminator results to good ol’ fashioned stage combat and Baywatch Nights is about to be canceled when...
Danny: Mitch SUCCESSFULLY tackles The Terminator into a table this time -- not just over it. Then Model Lady whose name I continue to not know for some reason (CASSIDY CASSIDY CASSIDY- RG) shoots him with that gun her friend Chekov gave her earlier. And for some reason the kissing just isn’t as sweet! Mitch knows he’s being bamboozled.
Rafael: The aftermath of this scene is amazing -- they make several references to “this night” when it’s clearly 3:12 p.m. the day they shot it, and the Black Official sent to investigate stacks the deck against Mitch: “She saved your life tonight. Everybody got lucky tonight. Except this guy.” And then they wheel The Terminator’s body past them. I love the idea that the crime scene and EMT people in the Baywatch Nightverse have a sense of humor.
Danny: The most important part of pushing a stretcher is knowing when to wheel it past the main characters. First thing they teach you in Hollywood Upstairs Emergency Technician School. Cut to Mitch being sad on a bench on a pier, admitting that he got bamboozled like he thought earlier. Then cut to Mitch confronting Model Lady in The Terminator’s house, PROVING he got bamboozled.
Rafael: Mitch must have read that book TWICE, because when he goes to confront Cassidy he has A) actual facts, B) motive and C) a timeline of events that subscribes to A and B -- something he never had in YEARS of Baywatch. He Columbos Cassidy but she pulls a gun on him, and none of us are surprised when he’s outsmarted her by taking the bullets out of a gun he didn’t have access to before he arrived.
Danny: Mitch completely pulls at Batman in this scene -- he walks in, has all the answers AND has taken precautions to prove that he’s way smarter than the bad guy. He may as well have thrown a boomerang at her.
Rafael: I’m not entirely convinced Mitch isn’t Batman -- he even “HHs” the shit out of some people and his own narration.
Danny: We don’t even see her get arrested or anything, though -- as soon as he shows off the bullets, we immediately cut to the pseudo-eponymous nightclub Nights where Night Mitch is enjoying some Night Music and Ellerby and McBride bring in their big payday from helping retrieve a corpse that the funeral home lost -- oh yeah, that was kind of the B-plot that they only kind of referred to so we didn’t spend time on it in this review AT ALL -- which offers a weird bit of gallows humor: apparently this old bitty’s body accidentally got sent to Calcutta, where they cremate bodies, so “They have to send her back in an envelope!”
Rafael: Then everyone laughs about who gets to break this terrible news to a grieving family. Roll Night Credits!
Danny: Was... was this good? I don’t think it was. There’s a very funny straight-facedness to Baywatch Nights that makes up for the fact that it isn’t as entertaining as it thinks it is. Like, why watch Son of the Beach when you could make your own jokes watching the real thing? But... did you like it? Like, as a goofy thing we watched for laffs?
Rafael: Forget it, Danny -- it’s Baywatch Nights. But yes, yes I certainly did. Full disclosure: I enjoyed it more as a moving catalog of all the fashion I missed out on being a kid in the ‘90s (and that we will see RiFF RaFF sporting in the video for “Versace Nightgowns”) but there is a certain ill-informed smugness that I just like about this show. It’s sleepwalking through its perceived success and I’m not about to wake it up and get metaphorically peed on. 100% with you on the earnestness -- the show is like pea soup: it is hammy, but it isn’t the ingredient you come into the meal for. Daniel?
Danny: I came for David Hasselhoff’s vest:
Danny: Tune in each week as we do the same thing 43 more times. JESUS CHRIST.
Rafael: THINK OF ALL THE VESTS WE HAVEN’T GOTTEN TO YET. AND THE ZUBAZ JUST WAITING AROUND THE BEND.
While you wait for your next dose of nocturnal jazz,
why don't you reread past installments?
- Baywatch Nights 1.01: "Pursuit"
- Baywatch Nights 1.02: "Bad Blades"
- Baywatch Nights 1.03: "Silent Witness"
- Baywatch Nights 1.04: "Deadly Vision"
- Baywatch Nights 1.05: "Just a Gigolo"
- Baywatch Nights 1.06: "976 Ways to Say I Love You"
Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book creator, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions) and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter at @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat. Read his comic with Mike Prezzato, "Sgt. Death and his Metachromatic Men," over at Champion City Comics and check out his Tumblr. His webcomic The Ghost Engine, with artist Eric Zawadzki, updates twice a week.
Rafael Gaitan was born in 1985, but he belongs to the '70s. He is a big fan of onomatopoeia, being profane and spelling words right on the first try. Rafael has a hilariously infrequent blog and writes love letters to inanimate objects as well as tweets of whiskey and the mysteries of the heart. He ain't got time to bleed.