The creator of the world’s most popular TV series Baywatch wants Queenstown to be the star of a sizzling new drama.
American producer/director Greg Bonnan turned Pamela Anderson and David Hasselhoff into household names when he invented the smash-hit show about a group of sexy Los Angeles lifeguards.
Now he aims to make Queenstown world-famous – and already has plans for an ambitious TV pilot.
Bonnan’s business partner – the former Wakatipu tourism operator and marketer Walter Brown – believes a series based here would “rocket” the resort’s international profile.
“If Greg Bonnan could do it for the beaches of Southern California with Baywatch just imagine what we can do for the spectacular, magical and exciting place that’s Queenstown,” Brown says.
At its 1996 peak, Baywatch attracted a weekly audience of more than 1.1 billion.
It’s been seen in 148 countries, translated into 44 languages and has hauled in more than $US1 billion in revenue.
Media hotshot Brown is a partner in California-based company SmokinOno Productions.
He and Bonnan are seeking backing from Queenstown-based businesses and organisations for a 90-minute pilot of the proposed new fictional series, which would then be sold worldwide.
It’s tentatively titled Southern Lakes and would have Bonnan at the helm as director.
The show is pencilled to be written by Hollywood heavyweights Jim and John Thomas, whose previous credits include global movie hits Predator, Behind Enemy Lines and Mission to Mars.
Brown created and ran his own luxury lodge and film location company in Queenstown in the early 1980s before shifting to Australia then the United States.
He was instrumental in bringing the Baywatch Downunder TV movie to Sydney in 1999.
And the Kiwi producer believes it’s time Queenstown was the actual set of a TV drama series and not just used as a general film location – which he claims could result in increased tourist numbers.
Speaking from Newport Beach in California, Brown says: “The resort now has the population, exotic flavour and depth of character to credibly generate dramatic stories which would entertain viewers, engage them throughout a series and compel them to visit.”
He adds: “The local tourism industry could promote their services and brands through the series, as well as using the actors and the local stories as powerful promotional tools in all the key markets.”
One storyline already being drafted features the ongoing adventures of three beautiful, intelligent and high-spirited sisters who come to the rescue of their grandfather’s embattled floatplane charter service – called Queenstown Air.
Trouble and adventure comes their way every week as they fight to save the family business.
Brown insists the cast would consist of a mix of New Zealand and American actors and local production crews would also be hired for filming.
Tracy Cameron, boss of Queenstown-based casting agency Ican Models & Talent, reckons local showbiz wannabes would be “queuing round the block” to land a part in the series.
“It sounds fantastic – bring it on,” she says. “We have no shortage of gorgeous girls and guys on our books with all the right assets for something like this.
“And they’d look perfect if being filmed running down a beach by the lake in slow motion, just like in Baywatch.”
Cameron adds: “I expect there’ll now be a big demand in Queenstown for tiny red swimsuits like the ones Pamela Anderson wore in the TV show.”
Queenstown showbiz stalwart Simon Green has appeared in major productions all over NZ, including the musicals Evita and Blood Brothers.
He welcomes the news about the TV series – but worries the resort is too cold for any scantily-clad beach scenes.
“I don’t know how they’d get as much flesh into the show as there is in Baywatch,” he says. “Most people here wear polar fleeces and thermals. It wouldn’t have quite the same sex appeal.”
Casting call: the boss, the blonde and the hunk
In Baywatch, the show’s father figure Mitch Buchannon was played by heart-throb David Hasselhoff.
The man with the best credentials to be the boss in a Wakatipu drama would surely be Queenstown Lakes District Council head honcho Duncan Field.
Field may not have quite the same pecs-appeal as the lifeguard hunk made famous by “The Hoff”, but he’s the man entrusted with giving the resort the kiss of life on a daily basis.
Gorgeous Pamela Anderson first shot to fame as Baywatch beauty CJ Parker.
And Queenstowner Michelle Hopkirk ticks a few boxes if she were to tackle a similar role in the new show.
For starters, part-time model and singer Hopkirk is blonde and originally from California herself.
The local interior designer also has a keen interest in showbiz and recently appeared as rocker
Bonnie Tyler on TV One’s Stars in Their Eyes.
Racy lifeguard Matt Brody, played by handsome David Charvet, provided eye candy for younger, female viewers of Baywatch.
As a past winner of Queenstown’s Top Bloke contest, local actor, model and male stripper Regan Pearce would be a stick-on to step into Brody’s trunks.
Pearce is no stranger to the cameras. He’s appeared in various TV commercials, including a Rugby World Cup advert for Heineken beer – and he’s competing for Queenstown in the new Top Town TV show.