There was nothing quite like “Baywatch” on television when it first debuted in 1989.
Everybody had reasons to tune into the show. Some loved the attractive stars — like David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson — while some liked the cheesy idea of lifeguards fighting crime. Other viewers and fans simply appreciated the non-ironic heart of the show.
Airing for 11 seasons (plus three movies and a spinoff) and a whopping 242 episodes, “Baywatch” was one of the most watched programs around the globe when it first aired.
There’s still a love for program today, too. It was rebooted last year (some of the original cast returned); and actors such as Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron took over the lead roles. Though the R-rated reboot was rejected by fans who missed the non-tongue-in-cheek nature of the show, the push behind the movie proved there was still a major market for everything “Baywatch.”
Here’s a look at five facts most people likely never knew about “Baywatch,” one of the corniest yet most beloved programs of all time.
1.) There was a strange spinoff. David Hasselhoff’s Mitch Buchannon (the lead on “Baywatch”) received a two-season spinoff that is one of the oddest series to come out of the ’90s.
The premise of the “Baywatch Nights” was that Buchannon was a lifeguard by day and a private investigator in the evenings.
Initial ratings in the first season, which premiered in 1995, weren’t that great, so the writers went a little wild with the second season. In these episodes, Buchannon faced off against such villians as werewolves, aliens, and sea monsters. It’s pretty unforgettable television — but it’s no surprise the show was axed following its bizarre second season.
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2.) Aquaman got his start on the show. Before he was Aquaman in last year’s “Justice League” or one of the primary characters in season one of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” Jason Mamoa cut his teeth on this program.
Mamoa starred in 44 episodes of “Baywatch” from 1999 to 2001, as well as in the 2003 film “Baywatch: Hawaiian Wedding.”
“I was 19 and folding T-shirts in a surf shop. And I got chosen out of 1,300 people to play a leading role on ‘Baywatch Hawaii.’ I didn’t even know how to act,” Momoa said, according to The Richest, about his experience on the show.
The actor reportedly could not get an agent for years after the series concluded because no one would take him seriously — no one thought he could play more than the “pretty boy.”
This means his newfound success as one of DC’s leading superheroes is quite the comeback for the actor. He will next lead the cast of “Aquaman,” set to be released this December.
He’s gone from playing around on beaches and in the water to playing the fictional King of Atlantis, an underwater kingdom. That’s quite a promotion.
3.) The series was supposed to move to Australia. “Baywatch” at one point was going to make a move to the land down under. But Australian citizens prevented such a relocation.
In 1999 there was a “near-riotous” town hall, Reuters reported, at which the shows’ producers faced a barrage of concerns and criticisms from 1,000 of the-then 9,000 residents of the town of Avalon.
“We’ve just about lost all our koalas in the area already, and ‘Baywatch’ will only make matters worse,” said resident Mark Warren, according to the Sun Sentinel.
The idea of launching a new part of the show in Australia was nixed after locals fretted about an influx of tourists and potential damage to the environment. The town of Avalon wound up being used for a two-episode storyline in the show.
4.) Leonardo DiCaprio was almost in the show. DiCaprio is an Academy Award-winning performer today, as most people know, with roles in such blockbuster films as “The Revenant” and “The Departed” on his resume.
His career, however, could have gone in a very different direction had he landed a gig on “Baywatch.”
DiCaprio was reportedly going to play Hasselhoff’s son, Hobbie, but Hasselhoff himself killed the idea because he thought DiCaprio was too old and would make his own character appear older.
“If he had been two years younger, his whole career would have been ruined. He would’ve been on ‘Baywatch,'” casting director Susan Glickman told Esquire.
5.) It was originally canceled after one season. Though it ran for 11 seasons, “Baywatch” was originally canceled after only one season by NBC.
The network axed the show because it cost too much, reportedly. The series was picked up and distributed by a small company in Europe and the producers were approached and told there was a major market for the show outside of America.
Creators Michael Berk and Douglas Schwartz bought back the rights to the canceled show for just $10 (no, that’s not a typo) — and moved forward with producing it themselves.
David Hasselhoff helped with financing by cutting his salary for an executive producer credit. His strong presence in the European market also helped get major financing for new episodes. And the rest, as they say, is history.
PopZette editor Zachary Leeman can be reached at [email protected].