A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Baywatch is a 1990s lifeguard series that owes much of its popularity to good-looking cast members wearing short swim trunks and cleavage-revealing bathing suits. While the show's sexual innuendo is fairly tame compared to today's standards, it's still a bit iffy for young kids. Some of the drowning scenes might be a bit scary to watch, too, and serious subjects like safety, alcohol addiction, and specific medical disorders are touched on. On the plus side, the show offers some positive messages about leadership, teamwork, and parenthood.
What's the story?
During its original run from 1989 to 2001, BAYWATCH -- which follows the adventures of a team of Los Angeles County lifeguards -- became an international hit. David Hasselhoff stars as Lieut. Mitch Buchannon, a veteran lifeguard who leads a crew of dedicated, distinctively good-looking men and women. Some of the more notable members of his life-saving team are C.J. Parker (Pamela Anderson), Jimmy Slade (Kelly Slater), Stephanie Holden (Alexandra Paul), and her younger sister Caroline (Yasmine Bleeth); later seasons saw the addition of characters like Lani McKenzie (Carmen Electra) and Jessie Owens (Brooke Burns). When not assisting in dramatic rescues, they all get caught up in various adventures, from solving murder mysteries and searching for sunken treasure to working through various romantic relationships.
Is it any good?
The most-watched series in TV history, this show's international appeal lies in the conspicuous presence of attractive, buxom lifeguards, as well as Hasselhoff's star power outside the United States. But despite Baywatch's obvious sex appeal and silly plotlines (like battling ghosts in a haunted hotel or fighting a giant moray eel with heart defibrillator paddles), it also offers some positive messages about leadership, teamwork, and even parenthood, thanks to Mitch's role as a single parent to son Hobie (Jeremy Jackson). The show also touches on important issues like water safety, addiction, and the multiple and often little-known health risks associated with excessive sun exposure.
Despite Baywatch's relatively high dose of sex appeal, its innuendo quotient is actually pretty mild compared to many of today's shows. Still, some of the romantic storylines are decidedly adult, and the rescue scenes -- many of which show people drowning and being resuscitated -- might be scary for some kids. But for older teens and adults, it has been -- and always will be -- a guilty viewing pleasure.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what made Baywatch so popular in its heyday -- particularly internationally, where it was a huge hit. Why do some American shows have more appeal for viewers outside of the United States than others? Which of today's U.S. shows do you think have "global appeal"?
Families can also discuss what it really takes to be a professional lifeguard. What kind of training do lifeguards undergo before they can patrol beaches and pools? Does this show do a good job representing what a lifeguard's job is really like? Why or why not?
For kids who love classic TV
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.