The pilot episode opens with three friends, Marshall Fisher (Adam Arkin), Richie Lamonica (Patrick Breen) and Dave Bell (David Morse) sitting in a bar during a Chicago blizzard. Marshall has just lost his job at a law firm his father started, Dave is divorcing his wife, and Richie is unsatisfied with his life as a typing teacher. Dave has always had the dream of starting a surf shop in Hawaii called Big Wave Dave's, and the whole club starts dreaming about it. Dave suggests to really do it; the rest of the guys are a bit doubtful, but the eventually decide to go in. But than they think about Marshall's wife, and they have to convince her. That same night the three guys go over to Marshall's house to convince Marshall's wife Karen (Jane Kaczmarek). Out of the blue, Karen decides to go along with them.
The creators of the series, Ken Levine and David Issacs, were Emmy-winning writers from their previous work on M*A*S*H and Cheers. After the show ended, they would be nominated for another Emmy for their later work on Frasier. Although it appears the show was only designed to be a short-term series, Levine remembers it fondly at his blog as one of his favorite jobs, due to the complete absence of ExecutiveMeddling.
The pilot is available for viewing at Ken Levine's blog here.
Big Wave Dave's contains examples of:
- Babies Make Everything Better: Karen convinces Marshall to stay in Hawaii by revealing she's pregnant.
- Big Word Shout: In the episode "Him" the guys all go marlin fishing with a tour Captain who has it in for a particular marlin (a la Moby-Dick). Just before a commercial break Marshall hooks what looks to be that marlin.Captain: It's HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII-Captain: IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIMMMMMMMMM!
- Crowd Chant: To psych themselves up to abandon their current lives, Dave, Marshall and Richie chant "Big Wave Dave's! Big Wave Dave's!"
- Then when Marshall says he only has to do one thing - convince his wife - Dave and Richie have another chant: "We're not going! We're not going!"
- The Danza: David Morse as Dave
- Fake Interactivity: In an in-universe example, Richie gets an audio course on learning how to speak Hawaiian in order to score points (and just plain score) with his girlfriend. The tape gives a phrase to say, pauses for the learner to repeat, then gives some generic supportive words like "Very good!"
- Fish out of Water: Marshall, Dave and Richie are all out of water in Hawaii. Especially ironic for Dave - he can't surf even though it's his name on the shop. Karen is the only one of the four that really settles in.
- Godwin's Law: After a Rant-Inducing Slight (a parking ticket), Marshall compares parking laws to Nazi Germany.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: a threeway. In the Backstory Marshall brought Dave & Richie along when he proposed to Karen - in bed.
- Hypocritical Humor: Jack Lordnote criticizes the group for being white men who moved to Hawaii without any knowlege about Hawaii, which is exactly what he did 25 years previously.
- On the Rebound: Dave has a short relationship with a 19-year-old to try to get over his divorce.
- Name's the Same: Invoked by Jack Lord, who changed his name in honor of the actor from Hawaii Five-O
- Never Lend to a Friend: Marshall loans Dave the money he needs for his third of the store. They argue about it in a later episode.
- Non-Indicative Title: You'd think that Dave would be the central character of a show called Big Wave Dave's; but no, it's Marshall.
- Noodle Incident: Jack Lord legally changed his name. His birth name was Ernest Hemingway. "But that's a whole other story."
- Richie's girlfriend only eats bacon. Why this is is never explained but Marshall briefly obsesses over it. "What would cause a person to decide to only eat bacon?"
- Only Sane Man: Marshall thinks it's him.
- Pursue the Dream Job: Dave is from Chicago and he has always had the dream of starting a surf shop in Hawaii called Big Wave Dave's. The pilot opens with him and his two friends who are not satisfied with their lives. Dave suggests to really do it; the rest of the guys are a bit doubtful, but the eventually decide to go in.
- Running Gag: Marshall & Karen have to move several times because there's always something next door which disturbs their sleep - nightly luaus in the hotel next door, midnight helicopter tours of the island, etc.
- Six Stages of Marshall: Whenever something goes wrong for Marshall he goes through six very specific stages, all very quickly. His wife & friends narrate as he does so, and he's so obsessed with himself he doesn't even notice.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Periodically the three guys have a big blowup, then get together for dinner to make up.
- Women Are Wiser: The only one of the four who is competent to do anything with the store besides hang out there is Karen. She appoints herself manager.
- Yiddish as a Second Language: After being railed at by Marshall for a parking ticket, a native Hawaiian cop says, "This is what we in Hawaii call a Big Megillah."