Case Number 14396: Small Claims Court

SUNSET TAN: SEASON ONE

Lionsgate // 2008 // 250 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ian Visser (Retired) // August 28th, 2008

The Charge

Heidi: So what's it like working here?

Nick: It's like being in high school.

The Case

It seems there is hardly a job these days that doesn't warrant its own reality show. After exhausting the cooking and fashion professions, networks have gone on to create shows about such marginal career choices as tattooing, motorcycle construction, bounty hunting, cake decorating, and now, tanning. Sunset Tan: Season One chronicles the lives of employees working at a series of Sunset Tan salons in Los Angeles. We watch as they compete for seniority, balance their work and personal lives, and struggle to meet their bosses' expectations.

The main thrust of this first season is the competition between employees for the manager slot at the new Las Vegas location (it's pretty telling of the nature of the people involved that their biggest goal is to run a tanning salon in Las Vegas). There is plenty of back-biting, conniving, and smack-talking as a quartet of managers and workers jostle for favor with the owners in order to get the lucrative position. The owners, in turn, decide the best way to choose a manager is to fly the whole group to Las Vegas and have them publicly belittle each other, then act surprised when the whole thing goes into the toilet.

Our sympathies in this quest are supposed to lie with two employees: Nick, the manager of the West Hollywood location that is trying to advance as quickly as possible within the company, and Erin, a naïve Oklahoma girl who is learning the ropes and trying to adjust to life in L.A. Nick starts out the show as the only employee bothering to act professionally, but by the end of the season is revealed to be just as insecure and mean-spirited as everyone else. Erin initially resists indoctrination into the L.A. lifestyle, but eventually concedes and ends up as zombie-fied like every other woman in the cast. Everyone else is around to act as obnoxiously as possible as they sabotage each other's careers -- and often their own -- in the process.

Then we have the "Olly Girls," Holly and Molly. This pair of bleached-blonde bimbos has been hired for four specific reasons (try to guess what they are). The Sunset Tan duo of dunces is the biggest giveaway that this show is as fake as a spray-on tan; they are portrayed as dumb as hammers, but still manage to come up with incredibly clever and insightful comments. Even if the pair managed to get a clue, they are so impossibly bad as employees that there is no way that even the people who run this company would allow them to stay on, even as eye candy. Look for this pair to do a Maxim spread and a guest spot on a Two and a Half Men as Charlie Sheen conquests before they fade away into obscurity.

Who exactly is show made for, I ask myself? Has the tanning industry felt slighted by being left out of the reality show genre up to this point? Do tanning salon owners feel that their profession isn't getting the respect it deserves? Well, Sunset Tan: Season One won't do much to improve the image of the industry. Loaded with vain, unprofessional twenty-something's with no concept on how business (or even life) actually works, this show does for the tanning business what "Fast Food Nation" did for McDonalds.

The show tries to spice up the proceedings with a parade of celebrities coming into the salons for tanning treatments. We start out on a high note with a Britney Spears cameo, but the celebrity client list quickly descends to D-list status. Is Chris Kattan really that big of a deal? How about professional houseguest Kato Kaelin? Pauly Shore? Porn star Jenna Jameson? How about the ex-wife of steroid fan Jose Cansenco? If anything, this selection of bottom-run clients makes Sunset Tan look much more low-rent than it is supposed to be.

It's hard to believe that any company that appears to be as badly managed as Sunset Tan could continue to attract customers, let alone remain profitable. Employees and managers do little besides gossip and betray each other's confidences, and the two owners seem to spend most of their time dressing themselves in the most ridiculous and inappropriate outfits possible. Even if most of the shenanigans on display are generated for the camera, what kind of businessmen are willing to allow their company to assume the appearance of an out-of-control circus run by half-retarded monkeys? If Sunset Tan ever goes public, take my advice and short the hell out of it.

It was tough for me to tell at first glance if the color was off for this release, or if everyone featured was just too tanned and orange. Turns out it was mostly the release; the full-screen image possesses an intensity of the red color palette that causes flaring in several episodes. The only other shortcoming is some graininess present in the evening or night scenes. The audio is the standard 2-channel Dolby Digital, which is acceptable for this kind of fare.

The special features on Sunset Tan: Season One are pretty slim, even for a television release. In addition to three deleted scenes, we get a couple of minutes of cast interviews from a red carpet event. The bulk of the extras are twelve segments in which the Olly Girls demonstrate important tasks such as washing cars, building sand castles, and (I kid you not) how to perform CPR. This is soft-core cheesecake stuff, and isn't good for much more than some low-grade titillation. In short, don't count on what you learn helping to save someone's life if they have a heart attack.

This show isn't even a guilty pleasure; it's just plain guilty. Absent even of the "so bad its good" element that can redeem other reality shows, Sunset Tan: Season One is just bad, lazy entertainment in a field that is already too crowded with mediocre offerings.

Burn this one to a crisp.

Review content copyright © 2008 Ian Visser; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 68

Perp Profile
Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

Subtitles:
* None

Running Time: 250 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Deleted Scenes
* Red Carpet Interviews
* Olly Girls Guides

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt1024814/combined

* Official E! Site
http://www.eonline.com/on/shows/sunsettan/index.jsp

* SunsetTan.com
http://www.sunsettan.com