'Malibu U.' was a mindlessly enjoyable summer replacement series, featuring lots of bronzed young Californians (of both sexes) with impressive physiques in revealing beachwear. Each episode featured guest performances by mid-level musical acts, and a case could be made that the elaborately-staged musical numbers on this series were forerunners of today's music videos. For instance, an act called The Fifth Estate showed up and performed their cover version of 'Ding, Dong, the Witch Is Dead'. Instead of straightforward visuals of the band performing the song, viewers were shown weird visuals of squeaky-clean bikers in mod beachwear riding motorcycles on sand dunes.
The running conceit of 'Malibu U', as confirmed by its title and in the lyric of its very catchy theme song, was that there was some beachfront university that gave courses in surfing and sunbathing and all that fun stuff. This idea didn't work very well. Between the musical numbers, there were unfunny and painfully slow (but brief) skits on this theme. Some musclebound blond guy would be conducting a 'class' in how to climb onto a surfboard, only to get distracted and make a fool of himself when some beach girl in a skimpy bikini wiggled past. As attractive as the bikini girls were on this show, the skits were terrible. The blame for this goes to scripter Bob Lauher, who had distinguished himself on screen ten years earlier as a stooge for Ernie Kovacs, but who lacked Kovacs's inventive ability.
The female surfers on 'Malibu U' included one Oriental and one light-skinned black girl, but all the male surfers were (of course) white, although heavily tanned. The kids made attempts at 'groovy' slang to show us how 'hip' they were, but this was intentionally a very non-threatening TV series: the counterculture were nowhere to be seen.
This entire series had a Beach Boys mentality without ever actually giving us the Beach Boys nor their music. The musical guests on 'Malibu U' were consistently well-known acts whose songs actually got airplay, but they were never first-rank names. One episode guest-starred Mrs Miller. Anybody here remember Mrs Miller? She was a novelty act, briefly popular at about the same time as Tiny Tim (remember him?) and with similar appeal (if that's the proper word). Mrs Miller was a tone-deaf granny who screeched pop songs in a monotone voice. (She actually had a couple of hit records before her 'camp' appeal wore off.) On 'Malibu U', Mrs Miller screeched her musical number while staggering along the beach ... I guess a moving target is harder to hit. I kept wishing a convenient tsunami would grab this warbling yenta and wash her out into the Pacific.
The weirdest episode of 'Malibu U' was the one guest-starring Leonard Nimoy. 'Star Trek' was on the brink of cancellation, and Nimoy was eager to prove he could do something besides impersonating pointy-eared aliens. On 'Malibu U', Nimoy croaked his way through a wretched song called 'The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins', backed by a chorus of tone-deaf bikini girls. This song recapped the plot line of 'The Hobbit' to a discotheque beat. Nimoy's dancing ability is about as nonexistent as his singing ability, so I leave the choreography to your imagination. The bikini girls wear badges with 'groovy' slogans like "Hobbits Unite!" and fake pointed ears ... which supposedly refer to Bilbo, but also remind us of a certain Vulcan. When Nimoy got to the part about the magic Ring, he threw a quoit at the camera. Beam me up, Scotty. Nimoy is a better singer than William Shatner, I'll admit that much.
'Malibu U' retains some nostalgia value, and some of the musical guest acts deserve to be remembered. Although this series isn't good enough to be revived in its entirety, a 'best of Malibu U' compilation video would definitely be worth viewing. Leonard Nimoy's big number deserves to be included on one of those compilation albums featuring musical performances by celebrities who can't sing, but who tried anyway.
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