“Hasselhoff: The Night Stalker” I dubbed “Baywatch Nights” when it aired its fabulously misguided second (and final) season. The “Baywatch” spin-off with lifeguard David Hasselhoff moonlighting as a PI abruptly transformed into an “X-Files” wannabe with him battling the paranormal.
The results, as you are about to see, were pure trainwreck TV.
Believe it or not, there really was a time when “Baywatch” was the most watched television program in the entire world. Pamela Anderson’s (ahem) buoyancy transcended language barriers worldwide. The primary reason for the show’s global success was obvious to every red-blooded male except perhaps for producer/star David Hasselhoff. I once heard him in an interview try to claim it was the show’s storytelling that kept people coming back week after week and not because internet porn was still a few years away from being at everyone’s fingertips. Yeah, the storylines… That’s why nearly every single female cast member at one point did a Playboy spread. You know, for the articles.
Perhaps it was due to this misnomer that viewers were turned on by the storylines and character dynamics, or because Hasselhoff was coming to the realization that he was starting to get a little too old to keep running around in nothing but a pair of orange swim trunks on a weekly basis, that back in 1996 the decision was made to parlay the success of “Baywatch” into a spin-off. “Baywatch Nights” would see Hasselhoff’s “Mitch Buchannon” moonlight as a private investigator. Lifeguard by day, private dick by night, who knows when he would actually sleep.
Let me consult with Wikipedia for a better summation of what “Baywatch Nights” was supposed to be:
The original premise of the show was that, during a midlife crisis, Sgt. Garner Ellerbee (Gregory Alan Williams), who was the resident police officer of Baywatch since the beginning of the series, decides to quit his job as a police officer and form a detective agency. Mitch Buchannon (David Hasselhoff), his friend from Baywatch, joins to support him and they are, in turn, joined by a detective named Ryan McBride (Angie Harmon). Singer Lou Rawls, who starred in the first season, performed the series theme song, “After the Sun Goes Down”.
“Baywatch Nights” was like a mid-Nineties version of an early Eighties crime show, the kind that boasted flimsy storytelling, snappy banter that wasn’t all that snappy, pedestrian action, and a good deal of eye candy. Just look at the incredibly long opening credits sequence and marvel knowing that this show was made in 1995 and not 1985.
The show was truly terrible in every way a television show can be. Even Hasselhoff must have realized the storylines weren’t cutting it because midway into the season the show added two new cast members clearly brought in strictly to add some Baywatchian sex appeal.
Eddie Cibrian fulfilled the shirtless young hunk quotient and Donna D’Errico was introduced in a desperate attempt to clone Pam Anderson. D’Errico was such a Pam Anderson wannabe that not only was she a bubbly blonde with the same body type (i.e., big bazonkas), she also posed naked for Playboy and married a band member of Motley Crue.
Based solely on my viewing of the second season episodes, I remain convinced to this day that the “Baywatch Nights” writers must have hated Donna D’Errico for some reason. It’s the only reason I can figure why they consistently saddled her with dialogue designed to make her sound like a total simpleton. It’s like they sat in their writers’ shack and decided that the character should be written as an eight-year-old child in the body of a Playboy Playmate. It fit her character, though, given that D’Errico frequently delivered her lines in a manner that sounded like a small child talking. It says something when you’re the worst actor on a show called “Baywatch Nights”.
This might also explain why, despite much flirting throughout the series, Eddie Cibrian’s “Griff” never appeared all that interested in her. You know; a woman who is gorgeous until she begins to talk and then you’re completely turned off by her personality.
The introduction of washboard abs and big boobs did not help the floundering ratings. Even taken as nothing more than mindless action mixed with a healthy dose of jiggle, you still would have been better off at the time just watching reruns of “Acapulco H.E.A.T.” on the USA Network. Alison Armitage > “Baywatch Nights” – end of story.
“Baywatch Nights” appeared poised to become a one-season spin-off flop destined to go down in dubious television history alongside the likes of such other notorious short-lived spin-off debacles as “Joanie Loves Chachi” and “AfterMASH”. If not for “The X-Files” becoming a pop culture phenomenon, it probably would have faded away into television obscurity. Instead it went down in dubious television history all right, but for slightly different notoriety.
Oh, just solidifying its place amongst the worst TV shows in the history of television, that’s all.
There I was in my school library flipping through a USA Today when I saw a short blurb in the Entertainment section about the upcoming second season of “Baywatch Nights”. I think the main reason this blurb caught my attention was disbelief that the show had actually been renewed for a second season. Personally, I watched all of like one episode and could take no more. My disbelief would be magnified by a thousand upon reading that the plan for the second season was to retool the show into an “X-Files” style monster-of-the-week series. I’ll never forget the quote from Hasselhoff that went something along the lines of, “X-Files is very cerebral. We want our show to be more like a hockey game.”
And thus “Hasselhoff: The Night Stalker” was born.
Most of the first season cast was sent packing. Poor Gregory Allan Williams; he went from a third-string character on “Baywatch” to the #2 guy on “Baywatch Nights” to completely out of a job by the start of season two. Never any mention of whatever became of his character despite it being his detective agency.
The revamped “Baywatch Nights” saw Mitch and Ryan running the detective agency that never seems to do any investigative work except when a mysterious figure named “Teague” shows up to cryptically point them in the direction of some mysterious paranormal happening. You’d think the writers might have wanted to offer an explanation as to why this clandestine man chose a part-time lifeguard and newbie private investigator to deal with matters involving ghosts, aliens, monsters, alternate realities, mad scientists, the Illuminati, the end of the world, and even Satan himself. Episode one of season two simply begins with Teague prodding them into investigating a shipwreck with tales of an underwater New Guinea Bigfoot as if they’ve been doing this sort of thing for a while.
Not even sure why they really needed Teague seeing as how a major quirk of the show was how Mitch and Ryan would out of the blue become inexplicably knowledgeable of whatever the episode’s strangeness might be. Angie Harmon’s novice detective magically transformed into a Dana Scully, looking into microscopes and spouting off scientific hypothesis as if she has multiple degrees in biology, astrophysics, or whatever field of scientific theory they were dealing with that particular week. Give her a Necronomicon and she’ll be a master of the dark arts before the end credits roll. With an unfrozen Viking on the loose, Hasselhoff suddenly spouts off facts about them as if he were a scholar of Nordic lore. Why does a professional lifeguard possess MacGyver like knowledge, such as how to how to jimmy up a makeshift flamethrower on the spot?
For 22 episodes, they would contend with matters of the supernatural on a budget so low the special effects usually weren’t that much superior to those seen on “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” 20 years earlier.
For 22 episodes, they would engage in paranormal encounters so stupefying they made the average episode of “Scooby Doo” look like the penmanship of Rod Serling.
For 22 episodes, Dear Lord, the acting…
Enough talk. Just watch. Here’s a montage I put together comprised of show promos for 16 of the 22 episodes of season two that really do say more than I ever could in words.
Geez, Angie Harmon really did yell “Mitch” an awful lot during the run of this show.
Season two of “Baywatch Nights” alternated between hilariously bad and dreadfully dull with, unfortunately, the dullness prevailing in most episodes. As much camp potential as this level of televised badness held, the only saving grace much of the time was the fast-forward button.
Hey, if you can’t afford a ton of special effects, just make sure you have a spacious setting and actors that can walk around it slowly pretending to be investigating or looking for someone, anyone, for extended periods of time. If you don’t have enough material to fill out an entire episode, just keep flashing back to the lifeguard station so that Griff and Donna can engage in a going-nowhere subplot that has nothing to do with the rest of the program.
But when “Baywatch Nights” was enjoyably goofy, when it was in Hasselhoffian overdrive, it was truly something to behold.
Like the episode with the unfrozen Viking during which Hasselhoff A) rattles off an endless list of badass Viking facts just so he could finish it off by declaring that if he lived back then, he would have been one himself, B) sword fights an unfrozen Viking with a broomstick, and C) gives a dead Norseman a traditional Viking funeral by shoving his corpse out into the ocean on a makeshift wooden raft and shoots a flaming arrow hundreds of yards to set if ablaze, but not before yelling “VALHALLA!”
Or the end of the episode in which Donna is in the hospital after having been possessed by a serial killer and we’re told she is going to be fine because the doctors are filtering the evil out of her blood – somehow.
Hasselhoff’s favorite method of waging combat with unnatural enemies typically begins with him yelling at the top of his lungs and then charging at the monster or mutant like a crazed sumo wrestler.
That trademark Hasselhoffian glibness sometimes results in some real humdingers. My favorite: “You know how I feel about boogedy boogedy.”
A major conceit of the show, clearly at the behest of its star, was, simply put, women, human or otherwise, cannot resist The Hoff. The sexual tension between him and Angie Harmon is played up the entire season. Vampire chicks want to suck him. Genetically engineered mutant women want to mate with him. Even the ghosts of dead “Baywatch” characters return for one last chance to get busted by The Hoff. Donna D’Errico is about the only female on the show never drawn into his irresistible web of Hoffness. I’m sure they were saving that for season three.
Going back to genetically engineered mutant women, that promo reel much to my disappointment doesn’t include promos for two of my personal favorite episodes. “The Creature” was the second episode of the season and the first to play up that inescapable Hoff magnetism. Clearly a Species rip-off, a beautiful amphibian woman (that growls like a jaguar for some reason) escapes a scientific laboratory, and you can take one guess who is the only man on earth she wants to mate with.
I condensed this program down to about five minutes for those of you unsure if you can handle an episode of “Baywatch Nights” in its entirety. Prepare for… EPIC STARING!
I also condensed another episode down for your viewing pleasure. Easily the apex of the short existence of “Baywatch Night” and maybe even the greatest hour of Hasselhoffian television since that “Knight Rider” episode where he played his own evil goateed twin. All that needs to be said is DAVID HASSELHOFF VS. THE BLOB.
Did I mention this blob roars? How does a blob roar?
Alas, transforming “Baywatch Nights” into David Hasselhoff’s mentally challenged hockey game of an “X-Files” knock-off failed to save the show from cancellation.
Lest you think being involved with the making of one of television’s all-time worst programs would be a career killer, just about all the top talent would move on to bigger and better things.
The brotherly writing duo responsible for several of season two’s episodes jumped to the big screen, penning the remake of House of Wax and the Hilary Swank chiller The Reaping.
Angie Harmon became a cast member for several years on “Law & Order”, going from one of the worst acted shows on television to one of the finest and managing to hold her own despite much initial scoffing from skeptics. Now she can be seen back doing detective work once again on TNT’s “Rizzoli & Isles” AKA “Lady Cops: The Series”.
Dorian Gregory (Teague) would soon be back dealing with the supernatural, playing the police officer friend of the Halliwell witches on the hit WB series “Charmed”.
Eddie Cibrian, on the other hand, has probably become more famous these days in the tabloids for his scandalous marriage-wrecking relationship with country darling LeeAnn Rimes.
Donna D’Errico’s character got transplanted over to the main “Baywatch” show and would go on to star in Candyman: Day of the Dead before mostly fading into obscurity. Supposedly, she has found religion and claims to be currently off hunting for the location of Noah’s Ark.
As for David Hasselhoff, once The Hoff, always The Hoff.
And thanks to The Hoff, the nights will never be the same.
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