Near the end of his iconic run with the then-World Wrestling Federation, Hulk Hogan took time off to make another movie. No, not the silly "Mr. Nanny", but rather a pilot for his first TV series.
Thunder in Paradise's pilot was shot in Florida in April 1993, and went straight to video before being included as the two-part series premiere when the show launched in syndication nearly a year later. Most of us know that TNT picked up the series after Hogan signed with World Championship Wrestling, in order to cash in. Hogan would subsequently make a TV-movie or two for the network before leaving WCW in 2000.
In Thunder, Hogan was cast as R. J. "Hurricane" Spencer, who piloted a high tech speedboat, which is the Thunder in the title. At his side was his best pal, Bru (Chris Lemmon, ex-Duet), who'd served in the Navy SEALS with Spencer. Hogan's real-life wrestling compadres, including Jim Neidhart, Ed Leslie (aka Brutus Beefcake), & Jimmy Hart made frequent appearances. Hart had been managing against Hogan in the then-WWF, but the two were in real life best pals. However, they were never part of any of the plots.
The supporting cast included supermodel-turned-actress Carol Alt and 60's icon Patrick Macnee (ex-The Avengers, Super Force). What hurt Thunder was the fact that few stations picked up the show during its syndicated run, and it didn't air in my area until it was picked up by TNT.
You might recognize the open:
That it came from the creators of Baywatch meant it was supposed to attract fans of that series, but, as TNT found out, Hogan's mainstream appeal was waning. This came a few years after an unsold pilot he made aired on ABC (Goldie & The Bears), with little or no support from Vince McMahon & company. Oh, TNT & WCW pushed the show as heavy as they could, but Thunder wasn't exactly Knight Rider on water. Not even close.