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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Comedy > Riptide – The Complete First Season (Sony DVDs)

Riptide – The Complete First Season


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: D     Episodes: C+



Was John Badham’s Blue Thunder (1983) so big that it could inspire a bunch of TV imitators?  Airwolf is the best known and a TV version of Blue Thunder (reviewed elsewhere on this site) was also launched with only limited success.  Well, the film did business, but was not the huge success Columbia Pictures had rightly hoped for, but it did have still-box-office-hot Roy Scheider and anyone or anything even remotely connected to the then-huge success of Steven Spielberg was being embraced.  Also being embraced was the issue of Vietnam and too many projects in the 1980s were concerned with negating what really happened.  Following Magnum, P.I. and the Badham film, Riptide was a series that tried to ride these waves.


The series was about three Vietnam vets played by would-be leading man Perry King, later lead Joe Penny and Thom Bray as a techno-geek who is the third banana here, but ironically is the least dated character (stereotypes notwithstanding) of the three.  Like Blue Thunder and Magnum, they too have a helicopter to fly around in, to which some of my friends would mockingly say “oooooooooooooooooooooo”.  For the first season, they also were lucky enough to have Anne Francis as a sort of “female Higgins” and the show constantly treats Vietnam as just another conflict that can be brushed off.


Stephen J. Cannell was a producer, but it seems he was not quite as active as he would be on later shows as he moved on to producing his own hit shows.  This new Complete First Season set covers all 13 hour-long shows from the early 1984 debut season when it was a mid-season replacement.  The scripts are surprisingly juvenile, then when you add the silly humor, mandatory Star Wars/Gil Gerard-era Buck Rogers robot (you have to see it to believe it) and how the show shamelessly looks like every such film and TV show in the field at the time (think of this as Miami Vice-lite, very lite), you realize how a show that hardly caused a ripple was on for three seasons.  It was safe, revisionist propaganda for young males and going along with the “rules” of reactionary 1980s action programming.  In content, it is like a time capsule, made more obvious when you see the yacht they lived on.


The 1.33 X 1 image looks very good for its age, with good color, some good detail and overall solid image from film prints that are in very good shape.  Ron Vargas’ cinematography might not have been the most memorable for an action show, but looking back, his work here is more competent than he was getting credit for.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is also good and clear, which is not always the case for TV shows even this relatively recent. There are no extras, but playback is impressive, so if you are a fan or just curious, this set will not disappoint upon playback.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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