Sunday, January 17, 2016

Nostalgia Theater: Giving a Rip About Riptide

Perry King, Joe Penny, and Thom Bray
I've spent a lot of time cataloguing the various "gimmick" detective shows that the 1980s served up an inordinate supply of, and here's one more to add to the roster. Riptide is another creation of Frank Lupo and the late Stephen J. Cannell, and the only thing that surprises me is that it didn't last longer given how comfortably it fits in with the kind of stuff audiences embraced during that decade.

The show, which premiered as a two-hour movie in January of 1984 before sequeing into a weekly skein, starred Perry King and Joe Penny Cody Allen and Nick Ryder, two army buddies who decide to try their hand at the P.I. game. With that in mind, they call their shingle the "Pier 56 Detective Agency," set up an office in Allen's boat, the Riptide, and various exciting adequate adventures ensue:


As you can see from the intro above, it's pretty standard issue for the '80s. Heck, even the weird decision to include a robot -- and scientist guy (Thom Bray) -- sort of mark it as an artifact of the era. I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing, but there's nothing that particularly distinguishes Riptide from the ebb-and-flow of similar cop-shows-with-gimmicks (right down to the title theme from the ever-dependable Mike Post).

It was basically an assembly-line product that was happy to coast on the charisma and repartee of its admittedly likable leads. (FYI, King's biggest claim to fame before that for my readers may be as the voice of Han Solo in NPR's radio adaptations of the first two Star Wars flicks, having auditioned to play the role in the films.) Riptide lasted for a total of three seasons and fifty-six episodes (including the pilot movie). That's a good, but not great run.

After the cancellation, the two leads worked steadily, but neither really recaptured that magic Riptide moment. Penny (who logged several seasons opposite William Conrad on Jake and the Fatman) actually played up this typecasting in an episode of the gone-too-soon Boomtown (also on NBC), as a washed up actor who's biggest claim to fame was an '80s detective show Insured by Smith & Wesson (with Boomtown repurposing footage from Riptide for the "show within-a-show").

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