In the annals of television history, Son of the Beach will not go down as a classic show — and I don’t mean that as an insult to comedian Tim Stack or the funny show that he created with David Morgasen and James R. Stein. And from listening to the audio commentaries throughout the Volume 2 DVD box set just released by Shout! Factory and Fox, you get the feeling that they’d be the first to admit the same thing. That said, Son of the Beach certainly was fun, in a juvenile, boys’ locker room way, which makes sense since it was co-produced by Howard Stern. Moreover, it was popular enough to warrant three seasons on FX between 2000 and 2002. The Volume 2 box collects 21 episodes, the last seven from season 2 and all of season 3.
Set in the coastal town of Malibu Adjacent, CA, Son of the Beach follows the exploits of Natch Johnson (Stack), lifeguard extraordinaire and leader of SPF 30, his team of lifeguards sworn to project the beaches. The crew includes B.J. Cummings (Jaime Bergman), the hot, airhead blonde, Chip Rommel (Roland Kickinger) a musclebound bodybuilder with a thick German accent, Jamaica St. Croix (Leila Arcieri), the sassy, no nonsense urban chick, and Kimberlee Clark (Kimberly Oja), the smart girl next door who feels her calling is in lifeguarding, not curing the world’s diseases. Together, they have outlandish adventures that would be pointless to describe because most of the episodes are merely making fun of plots from other television shows or movies. But no one watches Son of the Beach for deep thoughts; it’s essential viewing for the bikini-clad hot babes and the double entendres and gross-out jokes that fly by a mile a minute.
As with anything associated with Howard Stern, nothing is sacred. Race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, the handicapped — all are fair game. You may find yourself cringing at some of the off-color jokes, but in a way, the show is merely carrying on the tradition of All in the Family and Blazing Saddles, which used humor subversively to make the audience reflect on their own prejudices. Son of the Beach in no way reaches the stature of those two examples; however, you still may find yourself laughing hard then questioning yourself after the fact. Morgasen, Stack and Stein were after the quick laugh, no matter what, but they were clever enough to slip a little social commentary into a show or two.
If you’re going to buy or rent the series, I strongly suggest listening to the commentary provided by Morgasen, Stack and Stein. The three guys have a good time reflecting on the challenges they faced putting together a half-hour television comedy with limited funds and a shortened shooting schedule. Some of those challenges included having to replace series original Lisa Banes (who portrayed Mayor Anita Massengil in the first two seasons) because the network wanted to have more hot bods on the show. Also, at the beginning of season 3, they learned that Bergman was pregnant, requiring strategic camera work and prop placement until B.J. Cumming’s unexpected pregnancy could be written into the show (which in itself was a challenge, because one of the ongoing jokes was that B.J. is a virgin).
Then there is the fact that most of the episodes were shot in the cold winter months and on freezing soundstages.Â You’ll watch Oja and wonder “Was it cold on the set that day?” The answer is most likely “yes.” Son of the Beach was a low-budget production through and through, but the producers embraced the cheapness and made it a part of the show. And there was some real ingenuity involved, including the David Arquette Saturday Night Fever parody, “Saturday Night Queefer,” and the episode mocking the Tupac/Biggie feud with a touch of West Side Story thrown in (complete with big musical number).
In the end, Son of the Beach makes great communal viewing; the more people around, the better the jokes seem. That spirit of sharing the stupid humor with your friends that makes the jokes seem funnier and makes you want to watch the show again and again. Probably the best way to enjoy Son of the Beach would be hanging out with some of your buds over a pizza and a six pack of your favorite beverage. That may not make it classic television, but I bet you’ll spend most of the evening laughing your ass off and saying to each other, “that’s classic, dude.”