"Ocean knowledge: None. Snorkeling experience: None."
Ability to look good in a tight bathing suit: Unlimited.
That's our girl! Shawn Weatherly! Miss Universe, 1980! Sign her up for the voyage! Strap those air tanks to her! Oh, but take care not to obscure any of that world-class curvaceousness! Or should that be, universe-class curvaceousness? Whatever it is, don't obscure it!
"oceanQuest," which is spelled just like that, is a five-part NBC summer series premiering Sunday night at 8 on Channel 4, and so we are going to see a lot of Miss Shawn Weatherly. We see a lot of Miss Shawn Weatherly right up top, so to speak, because here she comes a-jogging and a-jiggling toward the camera, bump a dump, in a tight white clingy thingie, while the announcer, who shuts up maybe 30 seconds during the entire show, gasps and prattles about the wonder and peril of it all. "It all" meaning the sea.
He reads from a script pockmarked with more colons than the moon has craters, or Shawn Weatherly has bathing suits (a blue one, a yellow one, a black one -- no bikinis, but maybe next week). "Her quest: the ultimate human adventure," Mr. Narrator says. Let's see, what color bathing suit would be just right for the ultimate human adventure?
Before the ultimate human adventure can begin, we get to know Shawn. She answered a classified ad ("Wanted: A Year of Your Life") and agreed to sail the bounding main with, says the narrator, a bunch of "the toughest guys in the business." Apparently it slipped her mind what happened to Fay Wray in "King Kong." Shawn's mother died when she was 9, the narrator says, but "despite the loss, Shawn grew up a wholesome, beautiful and goal-oriented young woman."
It's lucky she's goal oriented because there's a goal in every port. Off the coast of Australia, the crew does its darndest to attract sharks and tick them off. "Ultimate goal: Learn why sharks attack man," says the narrator (could it be they're hungry?). Later there are close-up views of shark mastication, and the sharks are thrown a sea-full of hors d'oeuvres and the narrator says, "The goal? Work them into a feeding frenzy."
But wait -- Shawn's down there in a shark cage! Or is she? Not at first. She eschews that particular dubious thrill, preferring to watch the shark action from below deck, where a TV monitor is set up. "For Shawn, a video adventure!" gushes the narrator, trying to make everything but mal de mer sound exciting. Later, Shawn stands on the edge of the boat and considers for the longest time going into the cage and then does and then cries. She cries earlier, too, when underwater photographer Al Giddings, who produced this silly program, seems to have suffered an embolism. Shawn gets hysterical.
Things look pretty bleak.
Al has seen better days.
Shawn dabs at her eyes.
And then guess what; it was only a minor lung infection. In fact, as the opening credits admit, although the diving scenes are real, the "dramatic" scenes were re-created later, minor lung infections included. For some reason, the Van Halen tune "Jump," sung by someone else, jangles onto the sound track at this point. They should have used that later, when Shawn is perched on the edge of the boat.
Segments of the program are given ominous white-on-black titles, like "The Beginning" and (gulp!) "The Human Experiments." Soon after "White Death" appears on the screen, we see Shawn, in Australia, scamper down a pier and step onto the waiting boat and ask, "Al! Al! Is this the boat?" No, honey, it's the Hindenburg. Of course it's the boat! Will you get on board and stop fooling around and slip into something rubber? She does, and soon she, Al, shark experts, and five tons of shark bait are off.
Some of the shark footage is, to be truthful about it, startlingly good. They are fascinating creatures (yes yes Shawn, you're a fascinating creature, too). But it seems a little sadistic to put Shawn down there in the cage, writhing and squirming, just for the sake of spicing up the pictures. Of course Al had warned her. "You're going to see some things that'll really humble you," Al had said. Yes, and some things that'll really bore the bejabbers out of you, too. Like Al, for instance.
But heck, it's summer, and the NBC programmers certainly have nothing better to put on, poor embolism-headed little things that they are, and Shawn, for all the ogling that the camera does of her, certainly is a pleasure to have around. Peter Guber and Jon Peters co-executive-produced this show, as they did the movie "The Deep." You remember that one. It was the one with the big eel and the treasure -- and Jackie Bisset in a wet T-shirt. Wait a minute, wait a minute -- why, it's a miracle! By George, I think my sea legs are coming back!