One of my favorite TV shows of the late 80’s was China Beach, a drama about a scrappy nurse stationed at My Khe beach (in Da Nang,Vietnam) during the Vietnam War. China Beach was full of strong female characters, even the fluffy Red Cross volunteer named Cherry White turned out to be a bit badass. I remembered this show when I was driving and “Reflections” by The Supremes came on the radio (yes, I am one of the few people to still use the car radio!) Check out the opening sequence:
I wish there was somewhere I could catch it in reruns; I watched it over and over when it had a second life on the Lifetime Channel. Captain Colleen McMurphy was a nurse at the evac hospital, Airman Wayloo Marie Holmes was a journalist, Major Lila Garreau ran the show, and Private Frankie Bunsen was assigned to the motorpool (she later became a DJ.) Early on the USO performer Laurette Barber befriended Colleen and helped her to loosen up a bit (that’s them in the opening sequence in the sparkly silver dresses.) I fell in love with the soldier turned lifeguard Boonie Lanier and was fascinated by the hooker with a heart of gold KC Koloski. There were other guys stationed there but Boonie was the only one that mattered to me. The stories were gripping and gritty, taken from the stories of actual veterans. Colleen had seen more than her share of tragedy and violence and the show did start to address her PTSD in Season 4, when they used flash forward scenes during some of the episodes, a novel way to tell a TV story at the time.
You know I am a sucker for sweetness and light, so anytime that Bonnie and KC had scenes together it was compelling because they seemed to bring out the best in each other, she was softer and so was he. When Boonie threw a prom for everyone, he really hooked me. I think it was my favorite episode. Another couple that was fun to watch was uptight Major Lila and Sarge Pepper (yes, I know, Sargeant Pepper.) This romance was a slow burn that lasted for almost the whole run of the show, but so worth it when they got together. And for some comic relief in Season 3 Ricki Lake joined the cast as Red Cross volunteer Holly Pelegrino. She spent a lot of energy trying to make the evac hospital a bit more fun, and her relationship with Boonie was another one that I loved to watch.
All of this research has me jonesing for another look at this great show. Maybe it’s on cable TV somewhere. Is cable TV still a thing? Lol.