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The Age

Sub-Baywatch beaches

Date: 06/04/1997
Words: 400
          Publication: The Age
Section: Metro
Page: 1
A ROMANTIC legend attaches to Sunset Beach (Ten, noon). "When the sun drops out of sight, whoever you meet on the far side of the pier is the one you're destined to be with." For Meg Cummings (Susan Ward), she's hoping that person will be the mysterious "SB", her hot date on the Internet. "We got involved in this cyber thing," she explains to a fellow passenger on her flight to Sunset Beach, "romance, I guess you'd call it."

Her inarticulateness, we soon discover, is part - indeed, the whole - of Meg's charm. A Kansas gal (Dorothy is her Internet name), she's fled the cornfields for a better life. "It's just that I can't stop thinking about the things I've never done, what I'd never do," she confides to her mother on the eve of her wedding day. "You know," returns Mom who, thanks to the plastic surgeon and his ersatz accomplice, the make-up artist, is barely distinguishable in age from her offspring, "I always wanted to ride through Paris in a red convertible with the wind blowing in my hair." For daytime television, we'll accept this as a literary allusion.

As things quickly transpire (this is the establishing episode after all), Meg learns that her intended has been dancing the boogaloo with her maid of (dis)honor. So it's off to see the wizard for Kansas Meg and that one particular friend of "Dorothy", whose real name is Ben Evans (Clive Robertson), "a mysterious and wealthy British entrepreneur".

But even if Meg does encounter the man of her rural dreams at sunset "on the far side of the pier", she's got some stiff competition in Annie Douglas (Sarah Buxton). Annie's the very sort of liberated femme to spice her small talk with salty entendres. "I haven't breathed that hard since last night," she informs Ben breathily.

Like every other bod in Sunset Beach, Ben has just been for his morning run. It helps explain the distinct absence of fatties in this coastal Shangri-la. "I won't beg, Ben," Annie continues in a voice close to supplication. "You could have any woman you want. Hauled up here at the beach like a mullet." At least, I am almost sure that is what she said. The way she pouted it certainly seemed someone should be removing the hook from her mouth.

Meanwhile, Meg made her way to Elaine's Waffle House, an entirely appropriate venue for the kind of dialogue that was to ensue ("When the sun drops out of sight, etc"). This is where the country mouse first encounters her city cousin in Tiff (Adrienne Frantz), a young lass of few redeeming features. And, the cruel might suggest, even less acting skills. To be sure, that wooden ship's figurehead in the near background is looking suspiciously like a co-star.

Tiff, if you like, is the nagging conscience of Sunset Beach's unthinking hedonism. No wonder we don't warm to her. Better that we focus our sympathies on those boofheads in red, the lifeguards, who must have missed the cut in Baywatch. They speak the lines like Cro-Magnon men discovering language for the first time.

It must also be a clause in their contracts that they never appear entirely clothed. A toddler could learn to count numbering off those six-pack abs. The owners of the six-packs themselves might find the task more challenging. Their expertise is strictly limited to swimming Weissmuller-fashion through the ocean blue and acting on their hormonal impulses in the way that nature intended. Which is a lot of fiddle faddle, of course, since there is nothing natural about Sunset Beach. On the far side of the pier it is all art.

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