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'Paradise' Found Down Under

June 20, 1993|Libby Slate

When is a bikini not a bikini?

When it's worn by a young actress on a new soap opera taped in Australia, co-produced by American and Australian companies for syndication in the United States, Down Under and at least a dozen other countries.

The new show, "Paradise Beach," premiered last Monday on KCBS in Los Angeles and on KTTY in San Diego. Although it was created to appeal to youthful viewers around the globe, featuring sleek teen-agers romping on the glistening sands of Australia's Gold Coast, one crucial element of the beach milieu suffers in translation.

"The longest negotiation we had with the writers was: What do you call a bikini?" says Brian Frons, executive vice president of New World Television, which co-produces the show with Australia's Village Roadshow Pictures. "Australians call it a swimming costume, but we didn't want that. So finally the character who was going to mention it just said, 'I'll go change.' "

Geared toward the 18-35 crowd, the half-hour soap features three teen-agers from the suburbs who decide to move to the Gold Coast: recent high school graduates and best friends Sean Hayden (Ingo Rademacher) and Roy McDermott (John Simon Holding), and Sean's younger sister Tori (Megan Connolly).

There are also the requisite high school stud (Jon Bennett) and his beautiful sister (Kimberly Joseph), and an intellectual friend (Raelee J. Hill). The cast member probably best known to U.S. audiences is Matt Lattanzi, who plays adventurous fashion photographer Cooper Hart. Veteran English theater actor Robert Coleby plays Tom Barsby, father of two teen-age characters.

Bikinis aside, "Paradise Beach" has been pretty smooth sailing, Frons says, noting the greatly reduced costs and quicker storytelling pace that come with producing a soap Down Under. Looking beyond the show's initial order for 65 episodes in the United States and 130 in Australia, he is already developing another soap designed to serve as a companion to this one.

"This show is geared to younger viewers, who don't have (their own) soap," he says. "It's like 'Beverly Hills, 90210,'--it's about teen-agers, and it draws young adults and their parents. It also deals with real problems of growing up, falling in love, and what teen-agers do with their lives."

"Paradise Beach" airs weekdays at 2:30 p.m.on KTTY, at 3 p.m. on KCBS and at 4 p.m. on WGN.

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