Cultural Wavelengths

Theology, philosophy and breasts, among other things, are featured in this new guide to the world's most popular TV series. Did we mention breasts?
By James DiGiovanna

Planet Baywatch by BrendanBaber and Eric Spitznagel (St. Martin's Griffin). Paper, $12.95.

THE THESIS OF Planet Baywatch is that Baywatch is not a part of culture...rather, it is culture. As proof, take the fact that there are more Baywatch viewers than Christians or Muslims...and that Baywatchers outnumber Jews by 100 to one. And yet you never hear about one sect of Baywatchers violently terrorizing another. Clearly, world peace merely awaits the coming of the new Baywatch order.

To prepare us for this, the authors present important information, such as the "10 Truths Learned from Watching Baywatch," or "What People in Outer Mongolia Think of Americans" (based solely on viewing our most successful cultural export). These include such obvious conclusions as "people in the U.S. look thoughtfully at the ocean for an average of 15 seconds after being told anything important," and "Americans never worry about getting enough to eat, but fat people are unreliable and sometimes evil."

The recurring theme of the Evil Fat Person is not the only one discerned by the authors' keen interpretive minds. Also noted are the bizarre preponderance of midgets, the sad fate that awaits those who answer C.J.'s (Pamela Anderson's character) siren call, and the many subtle variations on the Slow Motion Montage. But don't think all this heavy, hermeneutic analysis precludes discussion of Baywatch's greatest asset: breasts. While only one chapter is exclusively dedicated to this issue, it is certainly raised whenever necessary to further the dialog. For example, important facts explored include: Pamela Anderson's contract stipulation for 15 cleavage close-ups per episode; her specially designed bathing suit to show more of her "natural" assets; and Alexandra Paul's announcement at a press conference that she was the first actress on Baywatch "with small breasts."

Indeed, one only wishes there was more text in this slim volume (128 pages). Many questions are asked and left unanswered, such as Is C.J. a cyborg? How flabby does David Hasselhof have to get before he stops appearing shirtless? and Why all the midgets? TW

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