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 1986. The entire show is currently streaming on Tubi!
Smiles, everyone, smiles!
Episode 1.9 “Trouble, My Lovely/The Common Man”
(Directed by Cliff Bole, originally aired on April 1st, 1978)
This week’s episode of Fantasy Island opens, as most of them do, with Mr. Roarke sharing a few words with Tattoo before they leave to meet the plane. This week, Roarke is surprised to find that Tattoo wearing a turban. Tattoo has decided that there is money to be made in being a phony mind reader.
Roarke shakes his head dismissively and then it’s off to meet the latest visitors to Fantasy Island. Unfortunately, the fantasies that follow are so boring that you’ll find yourself wishing that Roarke had spent more time talking to Tattoo.
Don Knotts plays a Stanley Schecktler, a claims adjustor who dreams of being a hard-boiled private investigator. He gets his wish and soon finds himself in a noirish version of Los Angeles. Stanley is hired by Ivy Chandler (Lynda Day George) to investigate the man who is blackmailing her daughter, Peggy (Pamela Jean Bryant). Like all good detectives, Stanley narrates the story.
Eventually, Stanley finds himself investigating an actual murder! Mr. Roarke and Tattoo shows up to inform Stanley that his fantasy is potentially deadly. They offer to refund his money. (Tattoo says that he rarely ever refunds money so I guess Tattoo is the Island’s business manager. I know that’s been mentioned in a few previous episodes but I still find it hard to believe, considering how little respect Roarke seems to have for Tattoo.) Stanley, however, is determined to solve the murder. This leads to Tattoo, who has switched his turban for a fedora, giving Stanley one important piece of advice:
This fantasy had potential. What film lover hasn’t fantasized about being a character in a film noir? Unfortunately, the execution was lacking, with the majority of the comedic lines falling flat. Don Knotts has a few funny moments as the detective but the story itself never finds the right balance between comedy and noir.
That said, at least there was an unexpected twist to the detective fantasy. The show’s other fantasy was not only lame but also kind of annoying. Bernie Kopell, who was so likable as Doc Bricker on The Love Boat, is far less likable as a wimpy family man who comes to Fantasy Island with one request. He wants Mr. Roarke to be a terrible host so that he can stand up to him and win the respect of his family. Seriously, that’s the entire fantasy!
Sorry, dude, but you deserve to get treated like a schmo for having pay thousands of dollar just to get your family to look up to you. This guy spent a lot of money to have a fantasy on Fantasy Island that he could get for free just by taking his family out to Denny’s and demanding to see the manager. Seriously, this whole fantasy was a bit pointless but at least Tattoo got to try out his mind reading tricks when he and Mr. Roarke came across the Kopell sitting at the bar.
Oh well! Not every fantasy can be a winner. Hopefully, next week will be better.