Whoosh! Issue Ten - July 1997

THE CURSE OF BAYWATCH
Special to WHOOSH!
By Kym Masera Taborn
Copyright © 1997 held by author
3050 words



Editor's Note:
This article is an expanded and updated version of an article originally published in XENA MEDIA REVIEW (XMR) #17.



1995 (02-10)
1996 (11-30)
1997 (31-32)
Any Meaning To This? (33-36)



THE CURSE OF BAYWATCH





[01] There is a great "XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS is BAYWATCH" mass hallucination within the professional media. I have discussed this phenomenon in lesser detail in XENA MEDIA REVIEW #21, annotation 309, LA WEEKLY, 05-31-96, "Atlas, Shrugged: Xena, Hercules, Barbie and Ken" by Arion Berger. However, the eerie BAYWATCH/XENA connection deserves closer analysis.



1995


Winner: Most Likely to Set Off Metal Detector Winner: Car Costs More Than Most Homes

BAYWATCH Babe versus XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS Babe:
Is there really any comparison?


[02] The BAYWATCH/XENA love-hate relationship started with the DAILY VARIETY review of SINS OF THE PAST (#01), dated 09-08-95, by Brian Lowry (see XMR040). Mr. Lowry, referring to HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS, stated, "[It] stumbled into a formula that incorporates plenty of action, reasonably good effects on an obvious budget, a self-effacing sense of humor, California surfer dialogue that for some reason doesn't seem out of place and enough scantily clad flesh to qualify as a sort of mythological Baywatch."

[03] Mr. Lowry was clearly associating HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS to BAYWATCH. About XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, he added, "Xena doesn't measure up quantitatively in that last regard but compensates with its lead, Lucy Lawless, who -- in the spirit of Red Sonja and other sword-wielding females -- wears uncomfortable looking metal breastplates and proves undeniably easy on the eyes."

[04] Although Mr. Lowry offered a caveat, he did introduce the idea that HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS and XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, in a lesser way, were "a sort of mythological Baywatch." Can Mr. Lowry be faulted for this? No. At the time, BAYWATCH was one of the premiere syndicated shows of the time. It made the big bucks, it was very popular, and it had a huge international market. To many this would be seen as an virtue. The BAYWATCH stereotype, however, though easily deserved on a superficial level, was used to illustrate the 'mindless' entertainment value which HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS and XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS could offer to the market.

[05] Soon afterwards, CINESCAPE (see XMR050.5), of all magazines, broke the news that the target audience for XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS would be those who watched BAYWATCH (see CINESCAPE'S 1995 SCIENCE FICTION TELEVISION YEARBOOK, October 1995, page 78). Again, that created an inference that XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS would be a carbon-copy of BAYWATCH, or at least a carbon-copy of those things which made BAYWATCH unique.

[06] The first mainstream defense of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS from the pestilent BAYWATCH association was in the ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE, 11-17-95, in "Beefcake, Cheesecake on TV's Myth Menu" by Ellis Widner (XMR082). The article was a musing about how XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS and HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS might affect popular appreciation of mythology. Widner described the basic premises of XENA and HERCULES, then wrote, "Sounds like adventures in bimbo/himbo land, doesn't it? But what sets these shows above programs like Baywatch are the story lines." Widner then went into detail how the stories and productions differed. Widner admitted to superficial similarities between XENA and BAYWATCH, but averred that XENA was fundamentally different because of content. Widner was arguing that XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS and BAYWATCH were not different breeds of the same animal; rather, XENA was as different to BAYWATCH as a cat was to a dog.

Next we'll do BAYWATCH DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME


BAYWATCH cast
wondering what that person with the camera is doing


[07] Although writing about BAYWATCH NIGHTS rather than BAYWATCH, Ken Tucker in ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY (the true arbitrator of popular culture) on 11/24/95 in ""Gimme Some Skin: Drawing Strength from Hercules, Xena Proves a Scintillating Spin-off--but Without That Bevy of Bods, David Hasselhoff's Baywatch Detective Faces Dismal Nights" predicted BAYWATCH NIGHTS would be a failure because it was not like its forbear, BAYWATCH. He suggested, however, that BAYWATCH NIGHTS could use XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS as its model for improvement. This comment implied an understanding on his part that BAYWATCH and XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS were fundamentally different. Also, as an interesting aside, BAYWATCH NIGHTS announced in late summer 1996 that it would take on a more science fiction/fantasy/horror approach for the 1996-97 season. Perhaps the producers had read Mr. Tucker's suggestions?

[08] December 13, 1995, CNN's SHOWBIZ TODAY broadcast a feature with reporter Paul Vercammen and anchor Laurin Sydney discussing the ascendancy of syndicated television hour dramas with Bernard Weinraub, of the NEW YORK TIMES; Dick Wolf, a television producer; and Jim Parriott, the executive producer of FOREVER KNIGHT. Although XENA was not directly associated with BAYWATCH, HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS was mentioned numerous times in conjunction with BAYWATCH, thus reinforcing an impression that the two shows should be identified with each other.

[09] This discussion was significant mainly because it demonstrated that syndicated television was an up and coming contender in terms of big business for television production industry. Again, there was an easy association made between HERCULES and BAYWATCH but another problem reared its ugly head -- an equally easy association that HERCULES and XENA were essentially the same program. This issue is outside the purview of this article, but it would be wise to keep this prejudice in mind when evaluating the media reaction.

If Maeve leaves, you can kiss this show goodbye


Mighty Sinbad, he's a cad!
Not tidy, or even mighty as Joxer, what a lad!
We only watch to see her, Maeve's rad!
Mighty Sinbad, so sad that it makes us mad.
Mighty Sinbad, we have been had!


[10] On December 31, 1995, the Auckland SUNDAY NEWS, in an article announcing the show SINBAD, which was being produced by All American TV, which produces BAYWATCH, propagated the news as BAYWATCH's revenge on HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS. The article also stated, "In the meantime, Hercules' Kevin Sorbo soon will make his big-screen bow in a Conan The Barbarian-style movie while Kiwi Lucy Lawless, who stars in the Hercules spin-off, Xena: Warrior Princess, could be well on her way towards becoming the next Pamela Sue Anderson." The down-under papers evidently snatched the "XENA is BAYWATCH" sentiment and put their own unique twist on it. They wanted to make Lucy Lawless into a Pamela Anderson Lee. For some reason this was viewed as something desirable.



1996


[11] In early January 1996, the DETROIT NEWS reported in an interview with Robert Tapert, the creator and executive producer of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, that BAYWATCH had been viewed as XENA's original competition (see XMR129). Had the producers been told in the beginning that they would consistently knock STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE off the first and second mark within less than a year, they would have no doubt laughed.

[12] This added another connection between XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS and BAYWATCH. The previous connection was superficial -- that people ran around with little clothing and did not do much of anything else. Here, the connection was in terms of direct competition. If the producers were openly competing against BAYWATCH, then it could be assumed that they would create a product similar to BAYWATCH.

[13] On January 4, 1996 (in THE VANCOUVER SUN, "Trash Essential Part of Well-balanced TV Diet"), Alex Strachan made his greatest contribution to Xenadom: he coined the phrase Baywatch B.C. to describe XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS. The LOS ANGELES TIMES even stole it, using the derivative Babewatch B.C. (see XMR171). Mr. Strachan used the term again later (see XMR232). He did not mean to use it derisively. It was clear from his articles (XMR130, XMR232, and tentative XMR323) that he enjoyed the show. However, he was also clearly in the camp that found many substantial similarities between XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS and BAYWATCH. Can there be a better high concept comparison between the shows than Baywatch B.C.? Although the DAILY VARIETY started it with "mythological Baywatch", Baywatch B.C. just rolls off the tongue too well.

[14] Later that month, the STAR TRIBUNE's Phil Rosenthal, in "TV-show Producers Hawk Their Wares at Programmers' Annual Convention" (see XMR 140e) observed that the syndicated television shows, TARZAN and SINBAD, appeared to be modeling themselves after XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, whereas BEACH PATROL appeared to be modeled after BAYWATCH. This, again, pointed to a distinction between BAYWATCH and XENA. However, whether it was as lofty as Widner's defense (see XMR082) or just a superficial difference (for example, BAYWATCH takes place at the beach today while XENA and SINBAD take place a long time ago) is not known.

[15] The same month, Jennifer Weiner, in the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, "She's a Kick in More Ways than One. Xena, Warrior Princess Is TV's Toughest Sister. Foes - and Fans - Know She Can't Be Beat," (see XMR152a), printed quotes from XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS fans that captured what appeared to be their subconscious fear that XENA might be assumed to be just another form of BAYWATCH. One fan stated that Xena's "not a wasp-waisted beauty, like on Baywatch," while another ambiguously defended Xena's sex appeal.

Hey, Mike and Maty!  My show lasted longer than yours did!


Lucy Lawless, the focal point of much adoration,
on MIKE AND MATY .


[16] Perhaps the best indication of how high the level of confusion was regarding the "XENA vs. BAYWATCH" debate, was Mike's reaction during the MIKE & MATY interview in February 1996 with Lucy Lawless (see XMR166 for a transcript). Apparently, he just could not get BAYWATCH off of his mind:

  • Maty: Well, you're on, you're on TV GUIDE, the cover of TV GUIDE with Kevin Sorbo a couple of weeks ago.
  • Lucy: Yeah, yeah wasn't that great.
  • Maty: That is neat. I mean that's really, that's the most umm what do you call it? Uhh.
  • Mike: The most successful show in syndication?
  • Maty: No, no the TV GUIDE seen by the most, so many people.
  • Mike: That's BAYWATCH. Oh TV GUIDE.
  • Maty: TV GUIDE.
  • Lucy: Yeah, it sells in huge numbers.
  • Mike: Trying to be there, right with you.

    [17] It was hard to believe, and their readers could tell it was painful for them to admit it, but the LOS ANGELES TIMES came out in February 1996 in favor of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS in the BAYWATCH debate. The title of the article said it all: "Forget Baywatch: The Action's with Hercules, Xena". (see XMR172). Using the term BabeWatch B.C., Steve Weinstein agreed that sex sells both BAYWATCH and XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, but he also begrudgingly admitted that XENA transcended BAYWATCH in terms of demographic, content, and canniness.

    [18] Things looked great on the horizon for the XENA camp. By the end of February 1996 they had thought they had skewered that evil dragon called BAYWATCH which had been cruelly compared to their beloved XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS one too many times.

    [19] That was until ETHNIC NEWSWATCH (hmmm, BAYWATCH, NEWSWATCH... mere coincidence? You decide.) came out with their March 1996 issue (see XMR183). Julius Lester in "Legislating Sexual Morality," obviously not aware of the raging debate, callously referred to XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS and BAYWATCH together as an example of primetime erotica.

    [20] Then the PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS stabbed the XENA camp in the back with their "Fresh Picks" comment on 03/05/96 (see XMR188), which stated, "With a bawdy mix of humor, role reversal and Sonic the Hedgehog- inspired flips and kicks, Xena: Warrior Princess, is the same type of fodder that is embraced by the lonely male set that made Baywatch a hit." How cold.

    [21] Just when the loyal camp thought it could not get darker, The ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 03/28/96 (see XMR214), quoted Warren Carl, the American-dialect coach for XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, as saying that he tells the cast of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, "Watch Baywatch. Talk like the lifeguards." Not only was the world accusing XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS of being a BAYWATCH clone, but now insiders were forcing XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS to *sound like* BAYWATCH.

    [22] April 12, 1996, Alex Strachan again used his coinage Baywatch B.C. (see XMR232), unwittingly creating more evidence for the BAYWATCT contingent. This was highly ironic since Mr. Strachan did enjoy the show, although he seemed to show periodic signs of self-doubt.

    [23] Even the on-line world was not safe from this debate. On the PEOPLE ON- LINE site of 04/15/96, in initially a debate between the fans of STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE and XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, a fan supporting STAR TREK, once again compared the essences of BAYWATCH and XENA, and found them the same. They wrote: "The likes of Herc, Xena and Baywatch are pure fluff...Why most of the American viewing public (And about half of fandom) doesn't realize it, I don't know."

    [24] The media comparisons continued. On 04/24/96, in the TORONTO STAR, Antonia Zerbisias referred to XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS and BAYwATCH together as "mindless junk". Even in the extremely pro-XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS essay in SPECTRUM, Volume 1, No. 5 (May 1996), BAYWATCH was still mentioned in the same sentence as XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS. The SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE on 05/14/96 even had a headline read, "Hercules, Xena a sort of mythological Baywatch". The article did express surprise that XENA and HERCULES were beating the pants off of BAYWATCH, but little analysis was done other than a body part comparison.

    [25] Perhaps artfully dodging a trend, Williams Grimes in his lengthy 05/19/96 NEW YORK TIMES article ("A Woman Wielding Many Weapons, Among Them a Sneer and a Stare") proudly stated that XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS had in 24 of its first 29 weeks vanquished the "awesome Baywatch". That was followed by some indirect discussion of how XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS was different from both BAYWATCH and HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS.

    Wait a minute -- you're not Xena, you're a body double!


    Xena and Gabrielle walk off into the sunset reunited once again.
    Peace and harmony is restored in the Xenaverse
    in TEN LITTLE WARLORDS


    [26] Walt Belcher, in the 05/25/96 TAMPA TRIBUNE, jumped on the pro-XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS band wagon lukewarmly with his support, promoting that the fundamental difference between the shows was XENA's action fantasy bent in "Mythical TV Heroes; They're Tan, They're Taut, They're TV Titans." Six days later, the LA WEEKLY published "Atlas Shrugged: Xena, Hercules, Barbie and Ken" by Arion Berger. This article was perhaps the most articulated position paper that XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS was a clone of BAYWATCH. However, it was obvious that the author had only watched a few shows, if any, and that his basic premise was based upon some pre-existing prejudice.

    [27] On June 6, 1996, the Wellington EVENING POST quoted the VARIETY review of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, which stated that XENA features "enough scantily clad flesh to qualify as a sort of mythological Baywatch". (It is sad when your own people turn against you.) On August 26, 1996, USA TODAY told us "Think Xena: Warrior Princess, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Baywatch" when thinking of the popular dramas that deal with sexier fare.

    [28] A classic expression of "XENA is BAYWATCH" was found in the September 1996 MAD Magazine parody "Jerkules & Zima." The parody concluded when the characters representing Xena, Gabrielle, Hercules, and Iolaus were transported magically into BAYWATCH. (Now that's supercold.)

    [29] But there was a light of hope in October! October 9, 1996, the BOSTON HERALD's Stephanie Schorow actually must have watched the show. In "Xena: It's those Thighs", Ms. Schorow wrote, "Don't let that metal-studded leather miniskirt fool you. This ain't no Baywatch babe." This light did not make it to Britain, however. Their inspiration was downunder's fascination with Pamela Anderson Lee. In the British EVENING STANDARD, 11/13/96, in "TV Heroine Muscles In", Jane Flanagan wrote, "The heiress apparent to the Robo Babe title, should Pamela Anderson decide to step aside, is six-foot, muscle-bound Lucy Lawless, perhaps better known as Xena: Warrior Princess."

    [30] Riding the wave of "XENA is BAYWATCH", Dna Smith, of the ORLANDO SENTINEL, in "Dna's Guide to TV Viewing", invented a TV rating called TV-BF for "Babe Factor. Shows like Baywatch, Xena: Warrior Princess, any of those Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue specials, any Women Behind Bars movies on Cinemax, or all programming on the Spanish Channel (except for soccer) would fall under this category, as would certain episodes of Friends where Jennifer Aniston seems to be walking in a perpetual breeze."



    1997


    Typical Boston traffic


    Callisto and Xena having a little chariot racing before having to get back to work
    in RETURN OF CHARIOTS
    oops! we mean RETURN OF CALLISTO (#29)


    [31] Yet, not a month later, in another rare anti-BAYWATCH comparison, Canada's February 1997 issue of SATURDAY NIGHT, Mark Kingwell in "Babes in Toyland: Xena versus Sailor Moon" wrote, "In this age of explicit tele-visual disclosure of bodily attributes, when Baywatch is the worldwide standard of what's watchable, the warrior princess compellingly combines action with appearance." This observation sets BAYWATCH and XENA at odds, not as co-conspirators.

    [32] In support of the grassroots understanding that BAYWATCH and XENA were not cut from the same cloth, Gary Dunford, on February 14, 1997, in the TORONTO SUN, in his "Dunford's Top Ten List", made Lucy Lawless number 8 in his Valentine's Day Sweeties List. He wrote "A cynical buddy calls Zena [sic], 'Baywatch without boats.' Pow, pal! You're toast!"



    Any Meaning To This?


    [33] What does all this mean? It means that the majority of the non-fan media cannot differentiate between XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS and BAYWATCH. Is this good or bad? Good, if you want to keep the cult edge on the series. Bad, if you want it to become the next STAR TREK....but then, STAR TREKs are created upon the fan base which exists because the show has retained its cult edge. The last few months have shown that XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS has transcended its cult status. It is now a mainstream syndicated hit. However, its writing, its content, and its production idiosyncrasies still scream out cult show.

    [34] Could this BAYWATCH confusion be a signs that XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS is growing regardless of the critical poo-pooing? Creation Entertainment has had its contract renewed to the year 2000. Creation has the license to run the official XENA fan club, to run the official conventions, and to develop and market the official merchandise. Good or bad? Good if you want a professionally run convention. Bad if you wanted to see the growth of fan run gatherings. However, that was the STAR TREK way.

    [35] STAR TREK was the trail blazer. There can be no more naive Trek-like developments. XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS/HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS fandom is growing up in the shadow of big brother TREK. Things go faster and commercial sooner in the TREK wake. Good or bad? Good if you like commercialization and all the appurtenances. Bad if you don't like commercialism.

    [36] Back to BAYWATCH vs. XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS. Personally, I find the differences between the shows glaringly apparent. Yet I can see how someone would be confused if they did not pay enough attention. I consider it all part of XENA's charm.

    When I said it would be fun to bury me in the sand I didn't mean
-- AHHHHHHH!


    Callisto waving good bye to Xena
    in RETURN OF CALLISTO (#29)













  • Episode Guide FAQ Air Dates Encyclopedia Xenaica Membership Submission Back Issues