Baywatch Nights Musings – S01Ep01 Pursuit

by ryankl

If you dig crime fiction then you kind of have to watch this show. I am not kidding.

Staggers me that BAYWATCH NIGHTS is nearly 20 years old, first ep is 1995, and I’m just getting to it now. I thoroughly enjoyed this first episode, though don’t let that confuse you into thinking I’m saying it’s great, or even really good, but it is distractingly enjoyable.

BAYWATCH NIGHTS is clearly the Hoff’s play at diversifying his presence and trying something new. Spinning out of his mega-success on BAYWATCH, which is really just lifeguards on the beach going above and beyond into solving crimes and saving lives, the Hoff puts his iconic character of Mitch into an actual PI agency and has him solving crimes for reals.

If you are confused as to how this might come about just watch the opening minute of the show where Mitch breaks the fourth wall and tells us how his friend bought an ailing PI agency and how he can’t stop himself from helping everyone, including a friend in need. So, we get Mitch PI. Oh, and the Hoff tells us this while wearing a beach jacket with no shirt underneath so the hirsute chest segue from beach to darkness will make complete sense. Complete sense.

From there, we get an introductory episode that puts the Hoff in the middle of a model and her stalker paparazzo sleaze of a problem. Or so you’d think it all is. Where BAYWATCH NIGHTS succeeds is that it truly wants to be a crime show. The Hoff narrates like a grizzled penny dreadful lead, the night is neon soaked as he spends off hours nursing drinks in a local blues bar, there are foot chases and fist fights and salacious photos. Everything about this show is ripped from crime fiction standard tropes.

The most fascinating element is the fact the Hoff becomes the perfect crime lead because he is fallible. He gets punched, he makes poor decisions, he kisses the dame when he shouldn’t, and by the end of the episode you see he’s actually handled this case poorly. He isn’t the superheroic lifesaver decimating problems in slow motion anymore, he is human and he is new at this and he is making mistakes. There is a DNA thread of Sam Spade in this new Hoff incarnation – the genes have just been washed out a little so the quality is diluted.

It should also be noted that the PI agency is made up of the Hoff, his friend who is African-American, and some other lady (I’d know names and specifics but I was writing while this was on) and this means the diversity of the core cast is pretty good considering this is twenty years ago. Most core casts today don’t stretch this far. Though it should also be noted that the other two PIs barely get on screen as the Hoff is too busy chewing up the scenery like its sovereign German land.

For a terrible knock off sequel tv show, BAYWATCH NIGHTS brings a new spin on an old character, it borrows the right things from the right places, it’s amusing in a way you can still write with it on in the background, and it’s bookended by an opening theme and a separate closing theme both written and performed by the Hoff himself.

BAYWATCH NIGHTS is the crime fiction show you need to catch up on to truly round out your gumshoe knowledge of the world. Trust me. And enjoy.