Riptide: The Complete First Season (DVD)

No case is too hot to solve!

Whenever ’80s nostalgia fans talk about the work of TV maestro Steven J. Cannell, they usually speak about the big hit shows he produced, such as The Rockford Files, The A-Team, or Hunter, and somewhere in there Riptide usually gets a mention. Although it wasn’t as enormous of a hit as some of Cannell’s other series, it’s still fondly remembered by fans for the lighthearted adventure tone that Cannell’s best work is known for. And now, the guys from the Riptide Detective Agency are storming onto DVD in this three-disc set. Let’s fly!

Nick Ryder (Joe Penny, Jake and the Fatman) and Cody Allen (Perry Wilson, The Day After Tomorrow) are former members of the military police who now reside in scenic King Harbor, California. But taking tourists on boat rides and helicopter rides over the ocean just doesn’t have the excitement of the old days, so the guys start their own detective agency, named after their houseboat, the Riptide. Before long, their cases usually involve murder, danger, gunfire, explosions, and lovely ladies galore.

To help out on the technical side of things, Nick and Cody bring aboard their old pal Murray “Boz” Bozinsky (Thom Bray, DeepStar Six). Murray would never have survived being in the military without Nick and Cody looking out for him, and now he uses his unending scientific and computer genius to help them solve cases. And wherever Murray goes, so goes his orange robot, the “Roboz,” who, although klutzy, also becomes a valued member of the team.

This episode list just washed up on the beach, and after there were all those unexplained explosions at sea the night before…

* “Riptide a.k.a. Pier 56”
It’s the guys’ first big case, as they try to prove a young woman innocent of piracy charges, protecting her while also hoping to find what really destroyed her boat. Along the way, they help Murray escape from some corporate espionage, and start his new life as a detective.

* “Conflict of Interest”
An old flame asks protection from Nick and Cody, just as her vicious mobster husband hires them to find her.

* “Somebody’s Killing the Great Geeks of America”
A woman in Murray’s “High Q Club” is a target of a murderer, and she also has ties to Nick’s past.

* “Hatchet Job”
After a grisly murder is committed, the suspect, who isn’t altogether right in the head, hires the guys to find out whether she really did it.

* “The Mean Green Love Machine”
It’s off to Mexico, where our heroes are looking for a suspected gold digger, who might be ripping off her new husband for the mob. A hidden microphone scam might be the trick to solving this one.

* “Diamonds are for Never”
The Riptide boys help out an airline stewardess who is a witness to a murder. Unfortunately, the body has disappeared, and a mysterious diamond is found.

* “The Hardcase”
A new boat moves into the harbor, with some obnoxious residents. But when the boat’s owner is found dead and a prowler breaks into the Riptide, the guys find themselves with a new case close to home.

* “Four-eyes”
Nick and Cody aren’t thrilled to have to take a divorce case, but things quickly get interesting when a murder is committed, and some rival detectives are also on the case.

* “#1 With a Bullet”
Some music fans hire Riptide to locate a rock star’s hiding place, so they can deliver some flowers to him. Seems simple enough, except that someone’s out to murder this rocker.

* “Long Distance Daddy”
We learn Nick has a softer side, when his “sponsor children” show up asking for money for an operation. But it’s a case of bad timing, because an old enemy is out of prison and looking for the guys.

* “Double Your Pleasure”
Cody meets a woman at Murray’s “singles’ dance” who enlists Riptide’s help in finding her missing sister. It turns out sis is in serious trouble, and needs protection from some mobsters.

* “Raiders of the Lost Sub”
Murray is reunited with his sister (special guest star Geena Davis!), a historian who takes the Riptide boys along on her search for a long-lost WWII submarine. But can they get to it before unscrupulous treasure hunters do?

* “Something Fishy”
Nick and Murray both for fall for a beautiful dolphin trainer while investigating a theft from her office. Can they set aside their differences to track down some sinister drug runners?

This is a show about men. Big, strong, manly men. Men with huge, protruding muscles, bodily hair in the appropriately manly places, and gallons upon gallons of raw testosterone constantly flowing forth out of every possible orifice. For detectives, Nick and Cody don’t do a whole lot of actual detecting, usually stumbling onto clues rather than seeking them out, but they can punch out thugs and fire machine guns from a helicopter with no problem. And the ladies are all over them, of course. In fact, this series is so manly you could view this first season as…

The Riptide Guide to Being a MAN:

* Step One: The Chest Hair

When you’re going around shirtless as often as these guys do, it’s important to have a layer of chest hair as thick as Nick’s, not just to keep you warm from those chilly ocean breezes, but also to deflect bullets fired at you by evil diamond smugglers.

* Step Two: The Moustache

You know Cody is a rugged tough guy once you get a glimpse of his facial hair. This isn’t just any moustache; it’s a moustache that means business. Criminals quake at the sight of it, and women’s hearts melt when in its presence.

* Step Three: The Hot Car

Although it doesn’t get a lot of screen time, the guys’ red convertible, complete with yellow flames, deserves note. It’s a symbol of the flashy, ultra-cool, live-on-the-beach non-stop-party lifestyle heralded throughout the series.

* Step Four: The Bright Pink Helicopter

A real man doesn’t care what others think of him, so flying around in a bright pink helicopter with a Mick Jagger mouth painted on the front of it is no big deal. It’s called the “Screaming Mimi,” and it’s one of Riptide‘s signature visuals. Yes, a lot of the footage of the Mimi flying is the same few shots recycled over and over (even in the opening credits, shamelessly enough), but it’s pretty cool nonetheless. It might not have Airwolf or Blue Thunder’s firepower, but we all know those copters wouldn’t last five minutes if you painted them bright pink.

All kidding aside, Riptide is an action series with a lot of flashy visuals, big action, some hearty laughs, and a robot sidekick. What it’s lacking is character development. Nick and Cody are essentially the same guy. If the actors decided to switch roles for an episode, I doubt many viewers would have noticed. They’re both easy-going guys who love to party and who can kick ass when they need to. I don’t see much distinction between them. Giving each guy his own specific personality traits would have gone a long way in making the series much more interesting.

When the two leads are pretty much a pair of muscle-heads, it’s up to Murray, the comic relief, to carry the load as far as characterization is concerned. He gives up a lucrative life at a computer mega-corporation to join Nick and Cody in their detective business, and he’s actually happier there than he was as a proto-Bill Gates. Murray is socially inept, but working with Nick and Cody builds his self esteem. There are plenty of times where he’s the one who saves the day and gets the girl, even.

Following Murray is the fourth main character, the Roboz. This waist-high bright orange R2-D2 wannabe is one of the odder elements of the series. Sometimes it’s wandering around the boat, cluelessly knocking things over. But at other times it shows some glimmer of a personality, such as reacting with fear when it sees a bad guy punch Murray out. Once in a while, the Roboz is the key to saving the day, such as sending signals to Murray’s gigantic mid-’80s laptop, or using its tech to secretly listen in on and record private conversations. The Roboz never fully takes over the spotlight, though, so the series isn’t in danger of becoming “that robot detective show.” Instead, it’s like the Roboz wandered in from the set of a cheesy sci-fi movie and decided to hang out for a while.

With a pink helicopter and an orange robot, the tone of the series is expectedly light, but it does make with some nice action here and there. A lot of outdoor scenes and set pieces on the water and on the beaches make Riptide bright and colorful throughout. At times it feels a little too slowly paced when the characters have to run through all the exposition of their case, especially during the two-hour pilot episode, in which there’s twice as much plot as usual. There’s also a sense of sameness to the episodes, in which the plots and settings feel interchangeable. One of the strengths of a detective series is that the detectives can find themselves in different environments and interacting different kinds of characters each week, based on whatever that week’s case is. The creators of Riptide, however, didn’t seem to eager to stray from the show’s beachfront property, so the cases and the guys’ adventures start to feel a little repetitious as the series progresses.

The picture quality here is excellent. Although there’s some softness to the full screen image, it’s free any flecks or scratches. The 2.0 sound is good, but not entirely booming. What a disappointment that there are no extras. It would have been great to hear about the creation of the series, and what went on behind the scenes. I learned from a fan site that the current owners of the Riptide boat restored it to its original condition in 2002, so that it looks now exactly like it did in the series. Wouldn’t that have made a great featurette? Oh, well.

So…uh…this might come across as insensitive, but it still deserves to be asked: Is there a gay thing going on in this show? I mean, here are two buff guys who live together on a boat and who go around shirtless all the time. It’s my personal feeling that if there’s a homoerotic subtext to Riptide, then it’s not intentional. To me, Nick and Cody’s friendship has more of a “partying frat boy” mentality to it. If other viewers choose to view their relationship in another way, though, I can certainly understand that point of view. Especially after that scene in which the guys chase after a burglar in the middle of the night while wearing nothing but matching tiny white underpants.

Although there are some serious flaws with this series, I’ll admit I had a lot of fun watching Riptide. Nostalgia fans will love it, action fans will be amused by it, but serious fans of the detective/mystery genre might walk away disappointed. It’s lighthearted fluff, so if that’s what you’re in the mood for, give Riptide a try.

The Verdict

Not guilty. (Because if I find them guilty, Nick and Cody are going to come over here and bash my skull in.)

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