I can't believe I used to watch this...
Originally broadcast as part of CBS's (pre-Letterman) Crime Time After Prime Time series back in the nineties, Sweating Bullets featured enough cleavage in its opening credits to (almost) pass itself off as an Aaron Spelling Production. But it didn't quite make it. That pretty much sets the tone for this teasy, cheesy late night series.
Hunky Rob Stewart hams it up as NICK SLAUGHTER (really!), a pony-tailed, open Hawaiian-shirted, ex-Mountie and ex-DEA agent (huh?) turned reluctant private eye in Key Mariah in, allegedly, the Florida Keys.
Thing is, Nick'd really rather do anything but work. Especially if it involved women. Only his long-suffering, common-sense secretary and office manager (and later, business partner) Sylvie Girard kept him from bankruptcy. Aiding and abetting Nick in his interuptions (ooops! investigations) was his bleached-blonde beach bimbo and former Aussie rock star Ian.
It certainly had an international flavor. Originally backed by Canadian and Mexican money, and filmed in Mexico, it became a Canadian/Israeli production in the second season, and was filmed in Eilat, Israel. Season three was at least partially shot in South Africa. Which might explain the mountains occasionally glimpsed in the background of what was supposedly still the Florida Keys.
A guilty pleasure? A relatively harmless piece of fluff, in the Hawaiian Eye vein? A cynical attempt to cash in on the then just recently cancelled Moonlighting? A tax write-off by a bunch of international money men hoping to cash in? Or was it, perhaps, the shape of things to come, a predecessor to shows like Baywatch, which in retrospect seem almost Shakespearean in comparison.
At the time, I enjoyed it. I must have -- I tuned in every week. But a recent viewing of a 1996 straight-to-disk movie, Crisscross, possibly cobbled together from a couple of the later episodes, was like being doused with a bucket if ice water.
I couldn't believe how awkward and ill conceived it all seemed, or how utterly mismatched the two leads seemed, possessing all the sizzle and chemistry of wet cardboard. The plot made little sense, motivations came and went, the only consistency was a sort of ineptitude alternately horrifying and hilarious to watch. For me, this cheese had finally reached its expiration date.
Was Crisscross a poor representation of a show I used to watch faithfully, or an accurate sample of how I used to waste my time. If the latter, then I have to ask myself:
What the hell was I thinking?
* * * * *
And that was that. Or at least so I thought.
In the strange world of syndication, anything can happen. In the mid-nineties, the now renamed Tropical Heat began to be sold internationally and proved to be a huge, inexplicable hit in war-torn Serbia. Its simple, cheesy escapism provided a welcome respite from the daily atrocities of authoritarian rule under Slobodan Miloöevi, a crumbling economy and mass arrests. And then it took an even weirder hop, and the simple escapism became something more -- a symbol of rebellion. Graffiti began to appear on walls, suggesting "Nick Slaughter for President," and Serbian punk band Atheist Rap penned a song about "Nik Sloter." The show's popularity soared.
All this occurred unbeknownst to Canadian actor Rob Stewart, who had moved from Los Angeles back to the Toronto suburb of Brampton, Ontario, and was still toiling in obscurity, paying the bills, raising a son.
His discovery that he was a star -- at least in Serbia -- prompted an engaging little 2012 documentary, Slaughter Nick for President, that traced his trip to Serbia where he was mobbed by adoring crowds.
As the good-natured, Stewart puts it right at the beginning, "Andy Warhol said we'd all be famous for fifteen minutes. I was famous for fifteen years, and didn't even know it."
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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