Fall '98: "Wind on Water"
"Cattle! It'll have cattle! In Hawaii! Hawaiian cattle! And... surfers! Gotta have surfers! With the cattle! And Bo Derek! Surfing Bo Derek! No, no. Surfing cattle! And a love triangle! Involving cattle! No. Involving generic attractive people! And horses! Where there's generic attractive people, there's horses! And where there's horses, there's Bo Derek! If you know what I mean! Horses and... Horsley! Lee Horsley! And... And... Extreme sports! Extreme cattle! Extreme cattle sports! Extreme Lee Horsley!"
The cast -- with the mustachioed exception of Lee Horsley -- is composed entirely of these generic attractive people, whose main function appears to be doing insanely stupid things in slow motion, looking intense and getting wet. Since stunt men do the stupid things, and looking intense pretty much involves a clenched jaw and a squint, the folks behind Wind on Water have chosen to focus their energies on "wet."
People end up damp in this show for almost any reason at all: "We've got to win the surfing competition!" "Let's dig a well!" "Hey! There's an ocean!" I can't say that I never hoped to watch Bo Derek ride a horse out of the ocean while wearing a swim suit (Bo, not the horse), but for dramatic purposes it probably should have had some sort of vague relevance to, gosh, anything whatsoever.
Wind on Water is so enamored with general moistness that the funeral of the family's patriarch was held on the water, the mourners straddling surfboards. I wish to God I was making that up. At the wake -- water joke! -- people were required to towel off.
In fact, "wet" -- three good letters -- seems to be about the limit of Wind's attention span, because the rest of it is a jumbled, incoherent nightmare. What's most startling about the show isn't how it manages to pack all that extreme sports/cattle ranch/Lee Horsley crap in, but how little sense any of it makes, not only from scene to scene but actually within scenes. The threadbare plot exists solely to allow these generic attractive people to do their insanely stupid things, but the focus of whoever edited those stupid things together -- and here uppers rear their head again -- seems to max out at about fifteen seconds. You could cut the pilot into half-minute-long pieces, throw them in the air and reassemble them in whatever order they landed, and you'd have something at least as coherent as what went on the air.
To call Wind on Water witless is to give it too much credit. It would presume that there's a space where wit might conceivably go. Wit has never breathed the same air as this show, never been introduced. Maybe wit was considered and a typo left "wet" in its place.
Wind on Water is ESPN2, MTV and USA taken to their logical conclusion, all thrills and visuals, with nothing underneath -- but the thrills aren't thrilling and the visuals don't look good. The nothing underneath is an excellent nothing underneath, though, a perfect nothing underneath. It's a void, a vacuum. It sucks quality out of the surrounding commercials and your living room furniture. It just sucks.
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