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Tia Carrere in 'The Relic Hunter'

COLUMBIA/TRISTAR
TOP GUN: Pamela Anderson Lee flaunts her stuff on her hit show, V.I.P.

The problem is the rescues. If Baywatch would just stick to the slow-motion running and random bikini contests and bring the thonged extras into the foreground, guys wouldn't need other television shows. Yet Baywatch insists, week after week, on these tedious lifesaving rescue missions. Let the fools drown, people. Prioritize.

Luckily, a bevy of syndicated hour-long action series is filling the need--Baywatch without the plot. The best among them is Pamela Anderson Lee's V.I.P. And with that show's ratings success last season and the continued popularity of the trend-setting Xena: Warrior Princess, syndicated television has created five more female action shows, many of which involve very little action but a whole lot of show.

Tuning in regularly are legions of hot-blooded men. "Young males traditionally like to watch two things--action and females," notes Gil Grant, executive consultant for newcomer Relic Hunter, who is paid for such astute observations. "Put them together, and you have a hot ticket." A hot ticket that translates easily into most languages. American outlets for these shows are shrinking as local channels that once filled airtime with this kind of cheesy programming have become network affiliates for the WB or UPN, which have expanded to six and five nights of programming, respectively. But the international market can't seem to get enough of buxom women in bikinis who enjoy a little kickboxing on the side. Following the lucrative example set by Baywatch, which airs in 144 countries, these action shows have gone global, and many of the new arrivals are joint productions of American and overseas companies. "The international market is what makes these shows work," says Jeff Dellin, vice president of research and program strategy for Studios USA, which produces and distributes Xena. "Domestic is the gravy." V.I.P., for instance, is already translated into 10 languages, all of which, somehow, are able to provide an approximation of "omigod."

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