Of all our beloved ’90s shows, it’s pretty surprising that Baywatch is getting the most attention these days. A new remake hit theaters this summer, while a musical inspired by the show debuts in London next year.
They can never measure up to the cheesy goodness of the original show, but we can’t blame them for trying. Here are 15 facts about the original hit series:
1. Breast implants caused continuity errors
Yes, it’s the kind of problem that would only come up on the set of Baywatch. According to producers, actress Nicole Eggert (who played Summer Quinn) was very “competitive” with co-star Pamela Anderson. Midway through season seven, the star arrived on set with breast enhancements.
This wouldn’t normally be a problem, but the crew had already filmed part of the episode with Eggert’s original bust size. To hide the change, the director had to “put things in front of her and hide her for the rest of the episode.”
2. A blind man directed 40 episodes of the show
Douglas Schwartz, one of Baywatch’s producers, is also the only legally blind person in the Director’s Guild of America. A condition called retinitis pigmentosa left him with just 10% of his vision, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Schwartz.
“Everything I could see was in-camera,” he explains. Schwartz managed to direct four or five episodes each season.
3. The spin-off was so bad, they paid networks to air it
A lot of ideas from the set of Baywatch rose from the question “How can David Hasselhoff make more money?” The spin-off show Baywatch Nights was no exception. The show followed his character, Mitch Buchannon, moonlighting as a private detective when he wasn’t on the beach.
The series was a real stinker, but producers worried canceling it after one season would hurt the Baywatch brand. To keep the show alive until the second season ended, the production company actually bought airtime for the show, like it was an expensive commercial.
4. One of the stars was a real lifeguard
If you guessed that it was David Hasselhoff, thanks for playing. Michael Newman’s character on the show was also named Michael Newman. That’s because Newman was a real Los Angeles County lifeguard and competitive swimmer with 20 years of experience keeping the public safe. He taped most of his own stunts, and his stories of actual rescues inspired a number of Baywatch episodes.
5. Leonardo DiCaprio almost joined the cast
Producers chose the actor to play Hobie, the son of David Hasselhoff’s character, when he was just 15. They blame Hasselhoff for forcing him off the show. Reportedly, the star worried he would look “too old” with DiCaprio playing his son. The part went to 9-year-old Jeremy Jackson instead.
Now, here’s a surprising fact about the show’s iconic wardrobe…
6. Those swimsuits were a real pain
The memorable one-piece bathing suits worn by the show’s female leads were designed by a sport swimsuit company, and inspired by actual competitive swimming gear. But that doesn’t mean the clingy Lycra ensemble was any fun to wear.
Alexandra Paul even revealed that – once each cast member was fitted for their suit – no one on the show was allowed to gain weight. At least this grueling rule also applied to both the guys and girls.
7. The show almost killed Aquaman’s career
Long before he played Khal Drogo on Game of Thrones, or Aquaman in Justice League, Jason Momoa was a Baywatch lifeguard. The fresh-faced 19-year-old joined the show when production moved to Hawaii for the final seasons.
But it wasn’t exactly the “big break” he hoped for. “I couldn’t find an agent for four years after Baywatch,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “They don’t take you seriously. They think you’re a pretty boy, this and that … It’s hard—no one really makes it off that show.”
8. The show broke a lot of records
Baywatch was reallly, really popular when it aired, drawing more than 1.1 billion viewers in 158 countries for each new episode. That made star David Hasselhoff the “Most Watched Actor In TV History” during its run. He also set a record for the highest reverse bungee jump while filming an episode.
But the show also set another, less impressive record. It ran from 1989 to 2001, setting a Guinness World Record for the longest-running American show to never win an Emmy Award. Ouch!
9. Hasselhoff tried to get Pamela Anderson off the show
The Hoff was both the star and the executive producer of Baywatch (more on that later) and he tried to use his influence to keep Pamela Anderson from joining the show. His reason? “I don’t want a girl that’s been in Playboy,” he reportedly said, “Children watch this show.”
Meanwhile, fellow producer Doug Schwartz thinks Hasselhoff was worried that Anderson would upstage him, which is pretty much what happened when she joined the show as C.J. Parker in season three.
10. The cast used 40 bottles of sunscreen a month
In case you can’t tell, that’s a lot of sunscreen. But it was necessary, since the actors spent so much time outdoors and getting skin cancer was a serious concern.
11. The stars weren’t paid very much
Baywatch used an innovative new model: the production company covered the costs, while selling the show directly to TV stations and networks for first-run syndication. That basically means the show made a lot of money, as long as costs stayed low.
Sadly, the cast’s salaries were cut too, with Pamela Anderson making just “$5,000 to $7,500” at first and $40,000 later on. For context, the cast of Friends were making $1 million per episode. Hasselhoff was the exception: he took a pay cut in exchange for royalties and a producer credit, which proved to be a smart investment.
12. Baywatch was a truly global phenomenon
The schlocky drama wasn’t actually a hit in America until season two, but it stayed alive because of very promising numbers in countries like the UK and Germany. Eventually, it was being syndicated around the world.
The Shah of Iran’s wife once told David Hasselhoff that Iranian families with satellite dishes would sell tickets to watch new episodes of Baywatch in their homes. How’s that for TV diplomacy?
13. One of the stars had to be hypnotized to film her scenes
When Pamela Anderson left the show, the producers went looking for another blonde bombshell to replace her. They eventually settled on Price is Right model Gena Lee Nolin. The only problem was that Nolin wasn’t an actress. In fact she had terrible stage fright.
To help her relax, the show’s producers signed her up for hypnotherapy, which helped her calm down enough to film her scenes without panicking.
14. The show was very serious about saving money
How serious were they? All of the sets pulled double duty. For example: the lifeguard kitchen also served as the crew’s break room (it had running water and a real fridge). Cast members even worked out in the gym set between takes.
15. The inspiration for the classic slow motion scenes was…
The Olympics. Yes, really. Producer Michael Berk was inspired by slow motion footage one of his co-workers shot of the 100-meter dash at the 1988 Olympics. Then again, David Hasselhoff claimed that the gratuitous scenes were used to help pad out short episodes without filming extra scenes. Crafty!
Share this list if you remember watching Baywatch!