Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past! On Tuesdays, I will be reviewing the original Fantasy Island, which ran on ABC from 1977 to 1996. The entire show is currently streaming on Tubi!
Welcome to Fantasy Island! Is everyone smiling?
Episode 1.3 “The Prince/The Sheriff”
(Directed by Phil Bontelli, originally aired on February 11th, 1978)
The third episode of Fantasy Island is about two men searching for a simpler way of life.
Peter D’Antonoli (Dack Rambo) is the prince of the nation of Andoli. As Mr. Roarke explains it, Peter is on the verge of becoming one of the last true monarchs, someone who not only wears a crown but who sets governmental policy. Peter has never known what it’s like to be one of the common people and he feels that he should give it a try before he takes power.
Mr. Roarke arranges for Peter to get a job on a fishing boat. Apparently, there’s a small fishing village located near the Fantasy Island resort. I’m just three episodes into the original series and I have to admit that I’m already confused about about how Fantasy Island operates. The pilot and the first two episodes suggested that Fantasy Island was a magical resort that belonged exclusively to Mr. Roarke. But, with this episode, it is revealed that there is a fishing village near the resort and that the blue collar fisherman resent all of the people who hang out at the resort. So, is Fantasy Island actually a nation, one that has many different village and an economic class system? Is Mr. Roarke the president? Has Fantasy Island been invited to join the United Nations? And why is the Fantasy Island fishing village full of people who look like they belong in a second remake of The Fog? Is Fantasy Island near New England? Is it off the coast of Maine? Seriously, this is a confusing place.
Anyway, Mr. Roarke arranges for Peter to get a job on a fishing boat, where he befriends a fisherman named Jamie (Ed Begley, Jr.). Jamie immediately notes that Peter must be new to the fishing industry because his hands don’t have any callouses. Jamie explains that he’s been a fisherman his entire life. (So, did Jamie grow up on the island?) Peter learns about generosity from Jamie and about rejection from Chris Malone (Lisa Hartman). Peter falls in love with Chris as soon as he meets her but Chris has lived a tough life and she doesn’t want to marry someone who is just a fisherman. Peter struggles to explain that he’s actually a prince. Chris doesn’t believe him. Peter says that there are things more important than money. It leads to a big argument but fear not! Things work out for everyone. Chis becomes a princess. Peter learns humility. And Jamie gets a new boat and remains trapped on the island….well, okay. Things worked out for almost everyone.
Meanwhile, John Burke (Harry Guardino) is a tough New York cop who wants to go back to a time when there weren’t any liberal DA’s letting criminals out of the street. He wants to be an old west marshal! Mr. Roarke mentions that “the old west fantasy” is Fantasy Island’s top seller. He takes Burke to a western town. Burke asks about the people who live there. “They’re not robots, like in that movie, are they?” No, Mr. Burke, it’s not Westworld! It’s Fantasy Island!
It turns out that the two men who Burke believes murdered his partner had a similar fantasy and they’re living in the town as well! Marshal Burke sets out for revenge but, with the help of saloon owner Julie (Sheree North), he learns that upholding the law with mercy is more rewarding than seeking blind vengeance. Burke and Julie leave the island but fear not. Mr. Roarke is sure that someone else will show up and request the old west fantasy. It’s their biggest seller, after all.
(So, Fantasy Island really was just like Westworld….)
The prince storyline was silly. The old west storyline was also silly but Harry Guardino gave a pretty entertaining performance as John Burke. This episode also featured a visit to the Fantasy Island disco, which I appreciated. Why go to the old west when you can dance?
Next week …. more fantasies!