Baywatch was one of the most successful and long-running TV shows in history, and it became a franchise, with multiple spinoffs, made-for-TV movies, and even a semi-tongue in cheek feature film starring the Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Here's the inside story of one of the biggest and most universal phenomena in pop culture.
One of the creators of Baywatch, Greg Bonann, worked as a lifeguard himself patrolling the beaches of Los Angeles County throughout the '70s and '80s. One day he mentioned to fellow lifeguard Michael Newman that their job might make for good TV. Newman recalled on E! True Hollywood Story,
"[Greg] goes, 'If that show CHiPs could make it, we could make a show about lifeguarding.'"
Bonann unsuccessfully pitched his show for 10 years. Then in the late '80s, while still working the beaches, Bonann rescued the children of Stu Erwin, an executive at TV production company, MTM Enterprises. Bonann pitched Erwin his series, and while Erwin passed, he helped the lifeguard refine his story.
A few lucky connections later, the idea was developed into a show called Baywatch, by co-writers Michael Berk and Douglas Schwartz. It was then pitched to CBS. That network said no, but NBC approved a two-hour TV movie which would also serve as a pilot called Baywatch: Panic at Malibu Pier.
Airing in 1989, Panic at Malibu Pier ranked among the top 10 most popular shows of the week, leading NBC to order a Baywatch series set to debut that fall. But early Baywatch was less a breezy swimsuit spectacle and more of an '80s action drama. It also wasn't that popular, finishing at Number 60 in the Nielsen ratings, edged out by My Two Dads and Father Dowling Mysteries. NBC's Baywatch run ended after a single season. Keep watching the video to see the untold truth of Baywatch.
It almost didn't happen | 0:19
Getting its sea legs | 1:19
Production on a budget | 2:32
The real reason it hit | 3:30
Visuals by a blind creator | 4:34
Crazy would-be castmates | 5:22
The Hoff wasn't into Pam | 6:42
The slo-mo story | 7:52
The cast came and went | 8:46
Toxic filming conditions | 9:49
Tommy Lee…not a fan | 10:34
A reboot dies in the water | 11:53
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