Family drama plays the cleavage card; Television: "Hyperion Bay" tries again, this time with the likes of Carmen Electra.


Granted, it never was that great to begin with. But wait until you see tonight what the WB has done to "Hyperion Bay."

The drama about a dying seaside town that's both rejuvenated and ripped apart when a computer company arrives is being re-launched under the guidance of Frank South, who most recently served as executive producer for "Melrose Place."

"Hyperion" started as a family drama last fall under the care of Joseph Daugherty ("thirtysomething"). At the time, there was lots of talk about "quality" from the WB. But the series never found an audience, and quality is no longer Job One in Hyperion Bay.

Carmen Electra, the former "Baywatch" star who married Dennis Rodman, joins the cast in tonight's episode titled "Young and on Fire." She plays Sarah Hicks, the new vice president of operations at her father's Muse software company.

"I just want to work underneath you," she says, looking deeply into the eyes of Dennis Sweeny (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), the wunderkind chief operation officer of Muse.

But Dennis is no fool. He knows an Amanda Woodward when he sees one. If he didn't, the long slinky skirt and stiletto heels might give him a hint.

South says the re-launch and the addition of Electra are about "bringing the show to life" and the "empowerment of women."

As he put it in an interview here two weeks ago, "In a way, Carmen symbolizes the rise of women in this show. As it was before, we had more of a traditional situation of a small town where we had active men with women supporting them. Now we have women very much just as powerful as the men. Carmen's character comes in with an MBA and a lot of intelligence and power.

"The rest of the women in the cast rise up as well. And, yes, there's also an air of sexuality about Carmen, of course, which can only help. But I really think it's about women becoming as dominant as men in the storytelling."

Who can argue with such progressive thinking? I'm sure the scene on the river with Jennifer (Sydney Penny) and Amy (Christina Moore) in bikinis is really about empowerment if you read it correctly. That's probably why the camera moves from the cleavage of one character to the other as the two women sit in their inner tubes and drink beer. In fact, the camera seems so tightly focused on their breasts that I think South may have invented a new form of TV technology: Cleavage-Cam.

And the scene with Trudy (Cassidy Rae) and Dennis on his new yacht, that's got to be empowerment, too.

"You think I'm shallow, Dennis. But I'm not. I feel things deeply," Trudy says, standing on the deck and dropping her dress.

"We are the rest of each other's fantasies, and I think it's time we fulfill them," she adds, moving toward Dennis in the moonlight.

All I can say is that I am so glad to have lived to see women empowered this way in the media.

Revived series

What: "Hyperion Bay"

When: 9 to 10 tonight

Where: WB (WNUV, Channel 54)

Pub Date: 1/25/99

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