Set afloat on a winning formula of biceps, boobs and bronze, it sailed seamlessly into multiple seasons of ever more outlandish exploits, in which a team of tanned lifeguards tackled everything from love triangles to international crime syndicates while running in slow motion.
Considering that resident flotation device CJ Parker (played by Pamela Anderson) moved across the dunes with all the pace of a potato salad, it’s a wonder nobody drowned.
All of which makes Baywatch considerably ripe for a spoofing, and the movie based on the series goes balls to the wall in its determination to do just that. Quite often literally.
But anchored on the frat humour canon of penis jokes and pervading ‘perviness’, it ends up playing it safe, never really adding anything new to the legend and genuflecting in the aura of the original series.
Which is to say that you’ll often see a ship in the harbour, but they never really push the boat out, if you know what I mean.
With Dwayne Johnson in the lead as Mitch Buchannon (just like The Hoff), there’s a touch more aggression in the air, with meatier, explosive action sequences.
Mitch heads up the Baywatch team as if it were a calling, serving up platitudes on duty, and convening meetings Fast and Furious style over meals.
He suspects ice princess property mogul Victoria Leeds (Chopra) of something nefarious, but before he can really get all pumped up about the intrigue, he is saddled with disgraced Olympic swimmer Matt Brody (Efron), who joins his crew.
Buff and game, the arrogant Brody is the prime target for the film’s cheapest shots (not least, an errr extended examination of a dead man’s scrotum), but at least he has company in chubby recruit Ronnie (Bass), who has the hots for the new CJ Parker (Rohrbach).
Once all and sundry have come to learn the value of self-esteem and teamwork, Leeds’ plan of using drugs to drive down the property value comes unstuck and it all ties together very nicely, like the string on those little red lifesaver shorts.
But a lifesaver’s work is never done and, this week, Johnson was braving the waves in defence of a movie many critics were panning, diving into a sea of hate to prevent it from sinking without a trace.
It is true that Baywatch probably won’t be the best film you see this year, but it wasn’t trying to be that in the first place. It’s silly, over-the-top, cheesy on a high-cholesterol level, and deliberately so. A lot like all the faux outrage.