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Club Baywatch

August 13, 1995|BETH KLEID | Beth Kleid is a regular contributor to TV Times and Calendar

David Hasselhoff isn't big on sitting still. He jumps out of his chair and admires his new ornately carved desk ("Isn't it great?"). He shows off pictures of his two young daughters ("I'm totally addicted to them. I have to look at them"). He proudly points out a framed MAD magazine "Baywatch" spoof on the wall ("It's so irreverent, it's incredible").

And then all 6-foot-4 of this human dose of caffeine takes a rock-star stance and with a booming voice belts out the closing song for his new show, "Baywatch Nights." Ah, to be serenaded by Mr. Chest Hair himself.

"So, what were we talking about?" he says with an impish smile. Oh, "Baywatch Nights," the spinoff to Hasselhoff's global mega-hit "Baywatch."

With all of his unbridled energy, it comes as no surprise that Hasselhoff is executive producing and starring in a TV show that will run concurrently with "Baywatch," the syndicated series that just happens to be the most-watched show on the planet with 1 billion fans in 140-plus countries, including those in the United States who would never admit to watching the luscious lifeguards strut their stuff on the beach.

But, Hasselhoff explains, "Baywatch Nights" is no "Baywatch." It's a whole new game of beach ball. Off with the sunblock and swimsuits. "Baywatch Nights," arriving in late September on KCOP, deals with the gritty reality of what happens down by the waterfront when the sun sets.

To give a little introduction, Hasselhoff pops a tape with the show's opening into his office VCR. He cranks up the volume. "This is cool," says the enthusiastic one.

At first, its seems like one of those "What a difference a day makes" commercials. Hasselhoff's character Mitch Buchannon, the "Baywatch" hunk in trunks by day, is transformed into an Armani-clad stud muffin when night falls. From the voice-over, it's clear that this fatherly head lifeguard now moonlights as a hip private investigator. He co-owns a detective agency with his buddy Garner Ellerbee (GregAlan Williams), the former beach patrol cop from "Baywatch." And the two get into some pretty dangerous situations. Watch Hasselhoff run away from a blown-up building. "That was actually pretty scary," he says.

Hasselhoff has coined a name for this genre: "light action humor." For in addition to those crazy P.I. capers like going undercover in drag and dressing like a chicken to solve a case, "Baywatch Nights" is a buddy show. And Hasselhoff claims that he and Williams have major chemistry. "There's a charisma and a timing that's unspoken," he says. So expect a little bit of "I Spy" (Hasselhoff's favorite show) and a little bit of "Moonlighting."

And a lot of David Hasselhoff.

"Basically, I've taken all of the ingredients I think I've done successfully before. Part of 'Knight Rider,' part of 'Baywatch.' And, you know, David Hasselhoff." Indeed, modesty isn't big at so-called Camp Baywatch, the Culver City warehouse where Hasselhoff has his office, and where both "Baywatch" and it's noir version are shot. Note the scantily clad women roaming around the place.

To think that Hasselhoff, 43, didn't even want to do another TV show when All American, "Baywatch's" distributor, approached him. "I said, 'I'm burned out on series. I want to go on to movies.' " But the multimillion-dollar deal he was offered to do "Baywatch Nights," which makes him the highest-paid actor in syndicated TV, resuscitated him better than any "Baywatch" lifeguard could have.

"So here I am," he says. "I kind of foresee this year as 'Baywatch' and 'Baywatch Nights,' and then I'll start weaning myself out of 'Baywatch' and focus on 'Baywatch Nights' and features."

In fact, he just turned down a "major, major, major, major movie. It just wasn't right. I had the guts to turn it down because I believe in myself," he says, sounding like inspiration guru Tony Robbins.

But "Baywatch Nights" is absolutely right, because Hasselhoff made it that way. "I said I'm not going to do the show unless I have 51% creative control. I want to do it my way," he says, raising his anchorman-like voice, "or the highway."

"And they said, 'Whatever you want within the budget.' " Hasselhoff is clearly a man who knows what he wants: "I said I want blues. I want a nightclub. I want Lou Rawls ... "

And the King of Syndication gets what he wants. Hasselhoff persuaded Lou Rawls, a longtime friend, to co-star as the owner of the beachfront blues club--conveniently called "Nights"--which is in the same building as the detective agency and serves as the show's hangout.

Sure, "Baywatch" might have blue skies, blue sea and blue-eyed Pamela Lee (formerly Anderson), but "Baywatch Nights" has blues. Rawls thinks the musical element of the show, including performances by Rawls himself and some of his friends who will guest star, will be a draw. Gladys Knight, Ray Charles and Nancy Wilson are on the list.

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