Review: ‘Sunset Beach’

Sunset Beach (Mon.-Fri. (6-10), 2-3 p.m.; NBC) Taped in Burbank and on location in Southern California by Spelling Entertainment Inc. in association with NBC Studios. Executive producers, Aaron Spelling, E. Duke Vincent, Gary Tomlin; co-creators, Robert Guza, Charles Pratt, Josh Griffith; supervising producer, Hope Harmel Smith producer, Lisa Hesser; coordinating producer, Susan Silkiss; directors, Rick Bennewitz, Scott Riggs, Tony Morina; head writer, Robert Guza; production designer, George Becket; sound, Zoli Osace; music, Dominic Messinger, Teri Smith, Michael Licari; casting, Melinda Gartzman. Cast: Kathleen Noone, Jason George, Kelly Hu, Peter Barton, Susan Ward, Sarah Buxton, Clive Robertson, Sherri Saum, Priscilla Garita, Timothy Adams, Vanessa Dorman, Sam Behrens, Lesley-Anne Down, Randy Spelling, Ashley Hamilton, Leigh Taylor-Young, Laura Harring, Adrienne Frantz, Hank Cheyne, Dax Griffin, Nick Stabile. Aaron Spelling aims, perhaps inadvertently, at a young demographic in the first new daytime drama to be unspooled in nearly a decade. A land-locked adolescent's view of what a soap opera should be, "Sunset Beach" inhabits the tacky side of sultry, with sophistication and glamour a faint mirage on the orange horizon. Soaps by definition require time to hit a stride, yet the NBC promo department generated high, and highly titillating, expectations. Directing and acting should settle down, but the emphasis on twentysomething characters seems risky after viewing the first week's worth of shows. Daytime viewers might fantasize about being in a young lifeguard's arms but be reluctant to identify with a runaway teen named Tiffany. The glamour machine is sand-clogged from frame one. Show began with the defining journey of postwar America, at least from Hollywood's perspective: A Midwestern girl (Susan Ward) leaves her cheating fiance at the altar and heads for the Southern California coast. An e-mail romance with a mysterious, brooding widower (Clive Robertson) leads her to the seaside community of Sunset Beach. She proceeds to fall off the pier after her knapsack is stolen by the aforementioned runaway, and is plucked from the sea by a hunky lifeguard (Timothy Adams). He promptly falls for a doctor at the hospital (Kelly Hu). The "afternoon special" feel is partially dissolved by a series of marginally more adult characters and familiar soap situations. Spoiled little rich girl (Sarah Buxton) butts heads with her wealthy father while bedding men indiscriminately. Two cops try to make love work despite the male partner's (Hank Cheyne) Don Juan reputation. The award for best entrance goes to Peter Barton playing another cop who we first see shackled in his own handcuffs and stripped to the waist. Winner of a nationwide talent search, Jason George plays a lifeguard who's sweet on a crusading young journalist (Sherri Saum). More male chests are on display than in an exhibition of Bruce Weber photographs. A blond bombshell is missing from the cast list and while everyone is attractive, no raging female beauties have been discovered. The tense, over-eager acting is understandable, but it's fair to say that the troupe is better suited to body shots than soliloquies. Representing the older generation (and the majority of viewers?), Lesley-Anne Down and Kathleen Noone camp it up with spirited perfs, while Leigh Taylor-Young limns a worrywart who owns the local waffle shop. "Charlie's Angel" handler David Doyle has a cameo as a cynical man on an airplane. Carol Potter of "Beverly Hills, 90210" gets a recurring role as a Kansas mother. After the gentle, even quaint beginning, more facile dialogue and predictable plotting follow. "The wild thing" as a euphemism for sex will quickly lose any cache it may have had. The thorny question, morally and legally, of being unfaithful on the Internet (cyber infidelity) is raised. An explicit sex scene between underwear-clad law enforcement officers pushes the daytime envelope. And by Friday there was some momentum as the week ended with a graphic gunshot murder. In general, there isn't enough menace or mendaciousness to give "Sunset Beach" an edge. No matter how shallow the material, the format doesn't allow for many tongues-in-cheek. That may be a lot to ask of the actors given the thematic premise the legend of a European aristocrat, Armando Deschanel, who found love on the beach at dusk. Sunsets as the ultimate aphrodisiac. Turning the locale into Shangri-La could backfire and undermine the drama; to be unhappy in this carefree environment might seem churlish. "Sunset Beach" marks the first daytime drama to use extensive location shots. At first, switching back and forth was jarring, with outdoor shots showing up the interior sets. But it's a definite plus when we can see a lifeguard do a swan dive off a tower. Exposition is rarely graceful, and the directors gamely cram it all in. Many scenes are clumsily blocked and erratically paced the camera lingers too long on trivialities and cuts too quickly when a close-up needs to be held. Title sequence featuring cast in come-hither poses does nothing to add class or break new ground, although the title music hits its mark. Incidental score relies too heavily on electric guitar riffs, trying to give them far more meaning than they can sustain. Jingley background music adds to the juvenile tone. This litany of weaknesses does not preordain a disaster. A foundation has been laid and it will take a lot of erosion for Spelling and NBC to abandon "Sunset Beach." John P. McCarthy Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach (Mon.-Fri. (6-10), 2-3 p.m.; NBC) Taped in Burbank and on location in Southern California by Spelling Entertainment Inc. in association with NBC Studios. Executive producers, Aaron Spelling, E. Duke Vincent, Gary Tomlin; co-creators, Robert Guza, Charles Pratt, Josh Griffith; supervising producer, Hope Harmel Smith producer, Lisa Hesser; coordinating producer, Susan Silkiss; directors, Rick Bennewitz, Scott Riggs, Tony Morina; head writer, Robert Guza; production designer, George Becket; sound, Zoli Osace; music, Dominic Messinger, Teri Smith, Michael Licari; casting, Melinda Gartzman. Cast: Kathleen Noone, Jason George, Kelly Hu, Peter Barton, Susan Ward, Sarah Buxton, Clive Robertson, Sherri Saum, Priscilla Garita, Timothy Adams, Vanessa Dorman, Sam Behrens, Lesley-Anne Down, Randy Spelling, Ashley Hamilton, Leigh Taylor-Young, Laura Harring, Adrienne Frantz, Hank Cheyne, Dax Griffin, Nick Stabile. Aaron Spelling aims, perhaps inadvertently, at a young demographic in the first new daytime drama to be unspooled in nearly a decade. A land-locked adolescent’s view of what a soap opera should be, “Sunset Beach” inhabits the tacky side of sultry, with sophistication and glamour a faint mirage on the orange horizon. Soaps by definition require time to hit a stride, yet the NBC promo department generated high, and highly titillating, expectations. Directing and acting should settle down, but the emphasis on twentysomething characters seems risky after viewing the first week’s worth of shows. Daytime viewers might fantasize about being in a young lifeguard’s arms but be reluctant to identify with a runaway teen named Tiffany. The glamour machine is sand-clogged from frame one. Show began with the defining journey of postwar America, at least from Hollywood’s perspective: A Midwestern girl (Susan Ward) leaves her cheating fiance at the altar and heads for the Southern California coast. An e-mail romance with a mysterious, brooding widower (Clive Robertson) leads her to the seaside community of Sunset Beach. She proceeds to fall off the pier after her knapsack is stolen by the aforementioned runaway, and is plucked from the sea by a hunky lifeguard (Timothy Adams). He promptly falls for a doctor at the hospital (Kelly Hu). The “afternoon special” feel is partially dissolved by a series of marginally more adult characters and familiar soap situations. Spoiled little rich girl (Sarah Buxton) butts heads with her wealthy father while bedding men indiscriminately. Two cops try to make love work despite the male partner’s (Hank Cheyne) Don Juan reputation. The award for best entrance goes to Peter Barton playing another cop who we first see shackled in his own handcuffs and stripped to the waist. Winner of a nationwide talent search, Jason George plays a lifeguard who’s sweet on a crusading young journalist (Sherri Saum). More male chests are on display than in an exhibition of Bruce Weber photographs. A blond bombshell is missing from the cast list and while everyone is attractive, no raging female beauties have been discovered. The tense, over-eager acting is understandable, but it’s fair to say that the troupe is better suited to body shots than soliloquies. Representing the older generation (and the majority of viewers?), Lesley-Anne Down and Kathleen Noone camp it up with spirited perfs, while Leigh Taylor-Young limns a worrywart who owns the local waffle shop. “Charlie’s Angel” handler David Doyle has a cameo as a cynical man on an airplane. Carol Potter of “Beverly Hills, 90210” gets a recurring role as a Kansas mother. After the gentle, even quaint beginning, more facile dialogue and predictable plotting follow. “The wild thing” as a euphemism for sex will quickly lose any cache it may have had. The thorny question, morally and legally, of being unfaithful on the Internet (cyber infidelity) is raised. An explicit sex scene between underwear-clad law enforcement officers pushes the daytime envelope. And by Friday there was some momentum as the week ended with a graphic gunshot murder. In general, there isn’t enough menace or mendaciousness to give “Sunset Beach” an edge. No matter how shallow the material, the format doesn’t allow for many tongues-in-cheek. That may be a lot to ask of the actors given the thematic premise the legend of a European aristocrat, Armando Deschanel, who found love on the beach at dusk. Sunsets as the ultimate aphrodisiac. Turning the locale into Shangri-La could backfire and undermine the drama; to be unhappy in this carefree environment might seem churlish. “Sunset Beach” marks the first daytime drama to use extensive location shots. At first, switching back and forth was jarring, with outdoor shots showing up the interior sets. But it’s a definite plus when we can see a lifeguard do a swan dive off a tower. Exposition is rarely graceful, and the directors gamely cram it all in. Many scenes are clumsily blocked and erratically paced the camera lingers too long on trivialities and cuts too quickly when a close-up needs to be held. Title sequence featuring cast in come-hither poses does nothing to add class or break new ground, although the title music hits its mark. Incidental score relies too heavily on electric guitar riffs, trying to give them far more meaning than they can sustain. Jingley background music adds to the juvenile tone. This litany of weaknesses does not preordain a disaster. A foundation has been laid and it will take a lot of erosion for Spelling and NBC to abandon “Sunset Beach.” John P. McCarthy Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach

Mon.-Fri. (6-10), 2-3 p.m.; NBC

Production

Taped in Burbank and on location in Southern California by Spelling Entertainment Inc. in association with NBC Studios. Executive producers, Aaron Spelling, E. Duke Vincent, Gary Tomlin; co-creators, Robert Guza, Charles Pratt, Josh Griffith; supervising producer, Hope Harmel Smith producer, Lisa Hesser; coordinating producer, Susan Silkiss; directors, Rick Bennewitz, Scott Riggs, Tony Morina; head writer, Robert Guza;

Crew

Production designer, George Becket; sound, Zoli Osace; music, Dominic Messinger, Teri Smith, Michael Licari; casting, Melinda Gartzman.

Cast

Cast: Kathleen Noone, Jason George, Kelly Hu, Peter Barton, Susan Ward, Sarah Buxton, Clive Robertson, Sherri Saum, Priscilla Garita, Timothy Adams, Vanessa Dorman, Sam Behrens, Lesley-Anne Down, Randy Spelling, Ashley Hamilton, Leigh Taylor-Young, Laura Harring, Adrienne Frantz, Hank Cheyne, Dax Griffin, Nick Stabile.
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