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 1.10 “The Over-The-Hill-Gang/Poof, You’re A Movie Star!”
(Dir by Earl Bellamy, originally aired on April 15th, 1978)
Uh-oh, Tattoo has a new money-making scheme! It involves a parrot. While the exact details of Tattoo’s schemes are a bit vague, it all involves teaching the parrot how to speak. Again, I’m not sure how exactly that’s going to make Tattoo a lot of money but whatever. I like parrots.
Still, it’s hard not to notice that Tattoo seems to spend a lot of time trying to figure out ways to make extra money. Tattoo is the second-in-command at the world’s most prestigious resort so you have to wonder why he always seems to be so desperate to bring in some extra cash. It’s not like Tattoo is paying rent or even buying his own food. That’s all provided by Mr. Roarke and the island. Add to that, it has been implied that Tattoo is in charge of the island’s finances and that’s not a job that you give to someone who can’t handle his own money. Maybe Tattoo isn’t looking to make money for himself. Maybe Fantasy Island is on the verge of bankruptcy due to Roarke’s habit of giving people free fantasies. Maybe the talking parrot is Tattoo’s latest scheme to save the Island. If that’s the case, then Tattoo really is the secret hero of this series.
I actually wish this episode has spent more time with the parrot because that little throw-away story was still more interesting than the two main stories. Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a bad episode. It’s just a bit bland.
Shirley Russell (Barbi Benton) comes to the Island with dreams of becoming a movie star. Mr. Roarke simply snaps his fingers and suddenly, Shirley has not only an agent but also hundreds of fans following her everywhere that she goes. She also has a role in a big movie that will be filming on the Island! When the film’s producer (played by a veteran sleazy guy Herb Edelman) tells Shirley that she’ll have to film a nude scene for the movie, Shirley abandons her fantasy and happily reunites with her earnest fiancé. Barbi Benton was likable as Shirley but the fantasy itself was predictable and on the blah side. Shirley’s shock over the proposed nude scene made me wonder if she had actually watched any movies other than The Sound of Music.
The other fantasy dealt with Spencer Randolph (Ray Bolger), an aging bank robber who wanted to pull off one last job with his old gang before marrying a wealthy businesswoman. Bolger’s old gang was made up of familiar Hollywood character actors like Tom Ewell, Foster Brooks, and Phil Foster. Along with getting the old gang back together again, Spencer was also able to foil a blackmail scheme. Again, the storyline was a bit bland but the chemistry between all of the Hollywood veterans was enjoyable. Ray Bolger was just as spry and likable here as he was when he played the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. Interestingly enough, 39 years passed between The Wizard of Oz and this episode of Fantasy Island and Bolger was still younger than Joe Biden is today when he played Spencer Randolph, the leader of the over-the-hill gang.