‘Baywatch’ turns South

Pearson redraws 'Baywatch' map; Playmate new lead

HOLLYWOOD — Pearson Television is plotting a new direction for the 11th season of “Baywatch” by heading South and picking up a Playmate along the way.

Veteran writer-producer Frank South, the mastermind behind Heather Locklear’s character on “Melrose Place,” is relocating from Los Angeles to Oahu to join “Baywatch Hawaii” as head writer and co-executive producer. He has assembled the largest writing staff in “Baywatch” history and will be involved with every aspect of the show, working closely with exec producer Greg Bonann.

And in her first TV role, Playboy’s April 2000 Playmate Brande Roderick is joining the show as the new female lead, Leigh Dyer. South said that Roderick originally auditioned for a smaller role that was expanded after she “hit it out of the park” during the screen test.

South explained that he plans to revitalize the show into one that’s “not only good to look at, but active emotionally and physically — not just a posing show,” he said. “We want people falling forward waiting to see what will happen next.”

Tone of the show is not likely to mirror that of the soapy “Melrose,” which South joined after the 12th episode.”The basic goal is to have stories that come from the characters, so we know who they’re rescuing, why they’re important and how it affects those people. We’ll also focus on their lives outside of being lifeguards and see what they care about at their heart, so people root for them,” South said, adding that the perils and personality of the Hawaiian setting will come into play as a sort of character of its own. South has hired George Kanahele, an author and expert on Hawaiian culture, to serve as a consultant on the production.

“We’re all excited about having Frank, with his success and track record and his ability to create storylines that appeal to 18-49 demos,” says Joe Scotti, president of domestic distribution and marketing for Pearson Television North America.

Roderick’s Leigh Dyer character is a lifeguard recruited by male lead character Sean Monroe (Jason Brooks) to join the Baywatch lifeguard service and school.Roderick is managed by Ed Goldstone of Goldstone Entertainment.

“Baywatch” has earned an average household rating of 3.1 this season, down 6% compared with a year ago. In the most recent week for which ratings were available, the show earned a 2.8.

“Baywatch Hawaii” is cleared on stations representing 98% of the country for next season. The Chris Craft United Station Group signed a two-year renewal deal for the show earlier this year.

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