The overwhelmingly positive response to the new documentary Pamela, A Love Story has been a pleasant reminder that people really do love Pamela Anderson. For years, decades even, she’s been reduced to a punchline in the media, thanks to everyone’s obsession in the nineties with a leaked, intimate tape featuring her and then-husband Tommy Lee. It’s heartening to see that thoughtful fans and critics value her for so much more than that media-juiced “scandal.”
After all, Anderson is no slouch. At the height of her powers she made one of the more criminally underrated cult movies of our time, Barb Wire (1996). To me, it’s as much fun as celebrated cult classics like Barbarella (1968), Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970), and Showgirls (1995). A few years ago, I told you why. Prior to that she rose to fame as a Playboy model, Tim Allen’s “Tool Time Girl” on the sitcom Home Improvement, and then her most famous role as CJ Parker on the syndicated TV smash-hit Baywatch.
One year after leaving the Baywatch juggernaut, Pamela got her own show, a wonderfully quirky action-comedy called V.I.P. As a hot dog vendor (yup, you read that correctly) named Vallery Irons, Anderson unwittingly saves a celebrity and is hired to be the figurehead leader of a bodyguard agency. Together with a team full of highly trained specialists, the unqualified Vallery stumbles her way through cases, somehow defeating the bad guys through pure chutzpah and good luck.
Over four seasons, the campy syndicated series offered Anderson a showcase for her excellent comic timing, proving again (as she had in Barb Wire) that she has talent. She seemed to relish poking fun at her tabloid celebrity in V.I.P. She really shined in this meta context. Anderson was just plain funny, and she sure looked fabulous in the nineties hair, makeup, and wardrobe.
Like other nineties syndicated television series—Silk Stalkings and Nightstand, for example—V.I.P. kept me company on many a night back then. Like those shows, watching V. I. P. today is like taking a step back in time to the land of baggie pants, pixie cuts, and thongs. If you don’t laugh at the millennium fashions, you’ll cry. Of course, Anderson and her costars Tasha Dexter, Quick Williams, and Nikki Franco never look anything less than marvelous. Beyond being a show full of gorgeous eye candy—including Leah Lail, who played the team’s adorably geeky tech wiz—I think the biggest compliment I can pay V.I.P. is that, episode after episode, it never failed to put a smile on my face. It’s also a testament to what makes Pamela Anderson a compelling leading actor: she has a real gift for comedy and possesses that it factor—when she’s onscreen, she commands our attention.
I don’t think all four seasons of V.I.P. have made it to DVD, let along Blu-ray, which is very disappointing. Someday, you know I’ll be throwing cash at Mill Creek or some other boutique company for a complete series set. I hope that’s not just a wish, but an inevitability. Pamela Anderson’s legacy, not just a celebrity but also a talented entertainer, certainly deserves as much.
You can stream the first season of V.I.P. for free on Crackle.
One thought on “Lost and Found: V.I.P.”
I going from Grade School to High School when VIP came out, it was a pretty cool show from what I remember. Had no idea Pamela Anderson’s character was a female version of Remington Steele, that’s very interesting. Believe it or not, I had a dual crush on Pam and the red head bodyguard.
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