There's nothing particularly shocking about "Son of the Beach," a clever "Baywatch" spoof debuting tonight at 10:30 on the FX cable network. Nothing, that is, if you're a fan of the show's executive producer, Howard Stern, whose morning radio program consistently delivers envelope-pushing laughs.
"Beach" is a half-hour walk through a minefield of offensive jokes and toilet humor that lowers the TV language bar yet another notch. At times you may find yourself wondering, "Can they say that word on television?"
But the end result is a hilarious spoof of the popular lifeguard series, following in the footsteps of the short-lived "Police Squad," which so brilliantly mocked cop dramas. And in this day when "There's Something About Mary" and "American Pie" are box office hits, the series may just make it on the small Fox-owned network.
How exactly does one spoof "Baywatch," the weekly series full of jiggly lifesavers and hard-bodied hunks? First, cast pudgy, pasty Tim Stack (a virtual unknown whose appearances up to now have been limited mostly to bit parts) as head lifeguard Notch Johnson, parodying David Hasselhoff's lead role.
The mere sight of the pear-shaped Stack in bright yellow trunks with a whistle hanging over his sunken chest is reason enough to tune in. His lines can be downright dirty, but he gets away with them because he delivers them with a deadpan earnestness, seemingly not meaning to offend.
Notch's team is made up of four unabashed stereotypes. There's Chip Rommel (Roland Kickinger), a well-chiseled Arnold Schwarzenegger type who speaks fondly of his Aryan roots and, at least in the pilot, is never seen with his shirt on. Former Playboy Playmate Jaime Bergman portrays "B.J." Cummings, the blond bombshell of the group who says she got her nickname "from the men's volleyball team." Rounding out the group is Jamaica St. Croix (Leila Arcieri), a "lifeguard from the inner city" who frequently uses such urbanized words as "booty," "homegirl" and "crib."
Joining the team in tonight's pilot is Kimberlee Clark (Kim Oja), a "corn-fed" all-American girl who appears destined to be the levelheaded member of the group.
Seasoned thespians they are not (press materials state that Kickinger is best known for his work in a 1-800-COLLECT commercial), but they all fulfill their roles as props in this effective parody. In tonight's pilot the evil mayor, portrayed with bitchy abandon by Lisa Banes, attempts to drive Notch out of town. Mayor Massengil (the characters' names do get tiresome) frames him in a house of prostitution on the same day the team is scheduled to entertain children from the "Sick Kids' Hospital."
The sick-kids theme is dragged out comically. The young patients arrive in a bus with "Sick Kids" painted on the side and are wearing "Sick Kids" T-shirts. The voice of a boy in a plastic bubble is muffled beyond recognition by the contraption.
Aiding the mayor is her aggressively gay son, who spouts lines like "Oh, mother, that is so Joan Collins" and is seen reading Playbill. Stern can't resist taking a potshot at his favorite target, Kathie Lee Gifford, by naming the young man Cody, presumably after Gifford's real-life 9-year-old son.
The series, created by Stack, David Morgasen and James R. Stein, contains enough clever moments to keep it humming along briskly--subtitles are provided for two Asian characters even though they are speaking English, Notch makes an error in judgment while attempting to save a beached whale, an excitable bulldog greets a guest with a passionate embrace of her calf ("That means he likes you," Notch says). Classy material? No way. Funny? Yup.
The star of the show is clearly Stack, whose deadpan delivery may make him the Leslie Nielsen of the new millennium. Also, credit FX for airing the series at 10:30. It's definitely not for the kiddies.