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Thunder In Paradise #1

Many years ago (fifteen, ouch), the makers of Baywatch decided that there simply weren't enough opportunities to blow stuff up in a series about lifeguards, so they set out to make a new show. The result was some twenty episodes of a spectacularly silly comedy adventure series called Thunder In Paradise, a show that only ever had one viewer. Me. It's been a while since I last watched it, so I've decided it's time to dig out the DVDs again. And to the wonderment and joy (or tears) of anybody who happens to pass this way, I've decided to share the experience with the internet. No, really. There's no need to thank me. Thunder In Paradise, then. So, what's it all about?

Thunder In Paradise is about two ex-Navy SEALs who live together in a little cottage by the sea with their daughter. Because of this somewhat questionable set-up, the writers are at great pains to show us, at least half a dozen times every episode, that our heroes are Not Gay. This leads to vast amounts of seriously OTT macho behaviour, which really doesn't help in the slightest. But I digress. The two of them own a boat, bigger on the inside than the outside, that talks, goes at speeds roughly three times the speed of light, and is better armed than the entire American Navy. I don't think that it can travel in time, but had there been a second series, I wouldn't rule anything out. Anyways, ex-Navy SEAL #1 is RJ "Hurricane" Spencer, a man never called either RJ or Hurricane by anybody in the show, so why they keep saying that that's his name, I have no idea. Spence is ten feet tall, built like an ox, and possesses the remarkable ability of killing every line of dialogue stone dead. He's played by Hulk Hogan. Ex-Navy SEAL #2 is Martin Brubaker, a virtuoso piano-playing science geek, who's also a Martial Arts expert. Presumably this is all because Spencer has so little personality, that Bru has to make up for that by having more personality quirks than the rest of the cast put together. He's played by Chris Lemmon. This is a Good Thing, by the way, because Chris Lemmon has not only inherited his father's charisma by the bucketload, but also his acting ability. He needs it. Boy does he need it. Acting alongside Hulk Hogan is the acting equivalent of trying to run uphill. With heavy boots on. In quicksand. And it's not like the scripts help in the slightest.

I'm not being very complimentary here, am I. The truth is that Thunder In Paradise never set out to be brilliant drama. The people who made it always knew that what they were making was a mad adventure show starring Hulk Hogan. It was never going to be high art. What it is, though, is a very funny, highly enjoyable load of nonsense in which an awful lot of stuff explodes. Sometimes, depending on whether or not they think we'll notice, the same stuff explodes more than once. There's also a vast amount of wrestling, and a quite preposterous amount of scantily-clad women wandering around on beaches in slow motion. On a good day they manage to get all three things happening at once. There are also loads and loads of Very Big Guns, and some hysterically obvious Disney product placements. I love this show. No, really.

Sadly, however, I don't really love the pilot, and the pilot comes first. Still, we'll get through it. The problem with the pilot is (actually there's quite a lot of problems with the pilot, but we'll take the main one first) that it was originally a feature film. They cut it into two forty-five minute episodes to spearhead the series, but that meant cutting out about twenty minutes of action, which means that several bits of what's left don't actually make any sense. The twenty minutes that were cut out were eventually turned into an episode of the series, which as you can probably imagine was hardly the high point of the run. Mind you, I think it did still make more sense than the pilot. The other main problem is the acting - and for once, I'm not actually looking at Hulk Hogan here. The lead female is Felicity Waterman, a woman known to Babylon 5 fans for her stunningly awful performance as a member of the Psi Corp in season one. Trust me, she's worse in this. Her spectacular inability to inject even one line of dialogue with any personality tends to suck all the life out of every scene that she's in. Part two is a little better, but part one... ouch.

So, the pilot. Spence and his partner Bru have quit the SEALs to make a boat together, and are now trying to convince somebody that it's worth putting the thing into production. Sadly there are some kinks still, Thunder doesn't perform quite as well as they hope, and the deal fails to go through. All well and good, except that that bit got cut out when the film was edited down for TV. Meanwhile, Megan Whitaker, heiress to a huge hotel, has just discovered that she'll lose said hotel to her dastardly uncle if she doesn't get married. Therefore she decides to marry Spence, which he agrees to because... well I'm not entirely sure, but apparently it means that he won't lose his boat. That might have got explained better in the original edit, but it's been years since I saw that. Anyway, they get married. Nobody cares. It's all spectacularly irrelevant to everything, since Megan wasn't even in the TV series. Whilst they're off having their pointless wedding, though, trouble is afoot. There are Bad Guys on the horizon, and one of them is played by Sam Jones. Yep, Flash Gordon himself, no less wooden now than he was in 1980. The Bad Guys are brilliant, all hand-rubbing and cackling. One of them even waves a rocket launcher in the air, and shouts about how he'd love to go after a whale with it, just to prove how much of a Bad Guy he is. Our merry band of cackling evil doers are after a necklace that Spence has found inside a shark, and given to his daughter. Cue vast amounts of wrestling on the beach, whilst women in various stages of undress look on. Sam Jones and co are beaten off, but gosh! What's this?! There's a map on the necklace. Yes, it's the secret location of some buried treasure, hence the interest of Evil Sam Jones, which leads the entire cast to go on a treasure hunt, involving Not A Lot Of Clothing, and a lot of Very Big Guns. Also vast amounts of evil and some gloriously stupid behaviour. There's also a lovely moment where, in a fit of frustration, Bru takes off his baseball cap and throws it onto a rock. A hollow wooden rock, as it turns out, if the loud "thunk" is anything to go by. :D The best bit comes later, though. Spence sets out to make an attack on the enemy boat, and feels the need to paint himself up in full camouflage first. Green and black. For an attack on a boat. At sea. Bless him, it's quite clear who's the brains of that outfit. You've got to love him for painting his bald spot, though. Needless to say, the assault leads to vast amounts of wrestling, oddly enough with some scantily-clad women looking on. Evil Sam Jones then decides that he's going to throw everybody into the sea, because he's Evil. He even giggles and slaps his thigh, just to rub the point home a little. Bru, watching, sees Spencer and their little daughter dumped into the sea bound hand and foot, and immediately dashes to the rescue of? Spencer. Yep, he abandons the little girl completely, in order to go madly swimming to the aid of his partner. But they're Not Gay. This is proved by having Bru kiss a girl two minutes later. Twice.

Then they blow the bad guys' boat up, because it's there. The end.

Screencaps, then.

I've just noticed the fault with my screencapping.
There should of course be a title screen in there, so it says "Hulk Hogan in Thunder In Paradise"...

... Not "Hulk Hogan in Chris Lemmon". Sorry about that.

Yep, he's there too. As Evil Uncle Edward Who Randomly Ceases To Be Evil Halfway Through The Season.

Kelly the Barmaid, otherwise known as "Legs".
Otherwise known as Obligatory Love Interest To Help Prove On A Regular Basis That Our Leads Are Not Gay.

A bad guy, helpfully illustrating how Evil he is, by plotting to torpedo whales. Complete with evil giggle.

Flash Gordon.

Largely pointless screencap, but I like Chris Lemmon, so there.

Wrestling on the beach.

Buddy moments. They're rather a good double act, really. Genuinely.

Flash Gordon with Evil turned up to eleven.

Family treasure hunt!


Spencer's got laser-sighting! Wuss!

Included solely because I love the fact that Bru's pistol is about six feet long.

"My dad gets Walter Matthau. I get Hulk Hogan..." ;)

Fabulously nonsensical jungle-warfare-on-a-boat.

Flash Gordon jumped overboard, incidentally. He didn't get fricasséd.

Bru and Kelly in a hot tub. I have no idea who the other woman is.
She's just there randomly throughout the pilot, and then is never seen again.

I have a lot of episodes of this still to go. I can already feel the excitement radiating out of the internet. ;)


( 6 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )
Nov. 15th, 2009 08:15 am (UTC)
I was viewer number 2! It was such silly fun.

I saw all of them except the first part of the pilot. I'd forgotten the Patrick Macnee was it it.

I can't remember too many of the stories, but there was one about Voodoo, and one where the girl saved the day by using her rune stones to solve something in the ship's computer.

Then there was the whole script that was transplanted straight from 'Manimal', literally word for word, with only the wolf girl being turned into a wolf boy.
Nov. 15th, 2009 08:53 am (UTC)
You watched Manimal as well?! Crikey! Yes, I remember that episode well. I had a Manimal rewatch a few years back. Always did love that show. :)
Nov. 15th, 2009 10:41 am (UTC)
I watched all sorts of stuff when I was young.

Do you remember the one with the family that got stuck somehwere when they visited a pyramid? Every episode, they were in a different sector, trying to get home. Some evil guy was always chasing them, but never quite getting them.

One of the episodes had the children inventing rock and roll, another was a sector where the women owned the men, and one was a 'Beauty and the Beast' rewrite.
Nov. 15th, 2009 10:55 am (UTC)
Otherworld. :) ITV showed it on Saturday mornings back in the early eighties. The evil guy was a sort of policeman. The older son was in the Karate Kid movies, and also in Head Of The Class a few years later, but I don't recall seeing the rest of the cast since. It wasn't a hit, but I remember it being fun in its own sort of way.
Nov. 18th, 2009 10:15 am (UTC)
I totally remember this show. I thought the little daughter was a cutie. She also did a small guest stint on Baywatch as a little street orphan/thief Hobie takes in. Sam Jones, I had no idea, but recently found out that his son is Sam Jones III, aka, Pete Ross from Smallville (back when I sometimes watched it)..just did a check and it looks like little Jones is in some hot water for dealing drugs, work never came his way after they wrote him out Smallville I guess. That's rough.
Nov. 18th, 2009 11:46 pm (UTC)
That's a shame. Not that hard times is that much of an excuse.

Always did like Sam Jones Snr. He may not be the finest actor ever, but you've got to love Flash Gordon. :)
( 6 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )

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