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!
This week, the first season of Fantasy Island comes to a close!
Episode 1.14 “Call Me Lucky/Torch Song”
(Dir by Cliff Bole, originally aired on May 20th, 1978)
As always, this week’s episode of Fantasy Island brings us a collection of guest stars who have all flown to the island to have their fantasies granted. However, none of these fantasies are quite as interesting as the rather bizarre relationship of Mr. Roarke and Tattoo.
I’ve often commented on the fact that, during the first season of this show, Mr. Roarke and Tattoo seemed to harbor a strong dislike for each other. Tattoo was always complaining that Mr. Roarke wasn’t charging enough for the fantasies. Mr. Roarke often chastised Tattoo for his attempts to hit on the guests. Even though they were supposed to be good friends and business partners, nearly every episode seemed to end with Mr. Roarke getting rather exasperated with Tattoo. Reportedly, Ricardo Montalban and Herve Villechaize did not get along off-screen and, as I’ve said before, it often seems like that dislike bled into their performances on the show.
This episode begins with Tattoo smoking a pipe and wearing a monocle. As he explains to Mr. Roarke, he’s trying to be appear sophisticated so he can “get all the broads.” He also says that he’s specifically trying to act like Mr. Roarke. Now, I know enough about passive-aggressive behavior that I immediately realized that Tattoo’s compliment was basically his way of accusing Mr. Roarke of being a pompous jackass. Mr. Roarke obviously figured it out as well because, a few scenes later, he takes a twenty dollar bill away from Tattoo and gives it to a guest on the island. When Tattoo objects, Mr. Roarke suavely replies, “Finders keepers, losers weepers.” At the end of the episode, when Tattoo gets his twenty back, Roarke promptly snatches it away from him. It’s hard not to notice that, even with two fantasies to keep an eye on, Mr. Roarke’s main concern seems to be making sure that Tattoo doesn’t get anything that he wants.
As for the fantasies, the first one deals with Harry Beamish (Richard Dawson), a degenerate gambler who has lost his family due to his need to make bets and risk his cash. Harry’s fantasy to be the luckiest guy in the world and, for a day or so, he is. Every bet that he makes pays off. Tattoo even starts to follow Harry around at the race track so that he can too can make money. (Fantasy Island has a racetrack?) But then Harry’s ten year-old son, Joey (Brad Savage), shows up. It turns out that Joey’s fantasy is for his father and his mother to get back together. (Mr, Roarke mentions that he only charged Joey $5 for the fantasy so Tattoo does have a point about Roarke not charging enough.) When Harry realizes that Joey idolizes him and is planning on following in his footsteps, Harry realizes that it’s time to stop gambling and be a father. Awwwwww!
The other fantasy deals with Edith Garvey (Kathryn Holcomb), whose fantasy is to go back to the 20s and become a torch singer. Under the name of Kitty Abilene, she finds a good deal of success. She also falls in love with her piano player, Neil (Edd Byrnes). Unfortunately, two rival gangsters go to war over who owns her contract. Edith’s fantasy ends at the exact moment that the local speakeasy is attacked by crime boss Big Al. Fortunately, it turns out that Neil is also a guest on the island and that he was having a fantasy of his own. Edith and Neil leave the island together. Awwwwww!
The fantasies weren’t bad and, being the 20s loving history nerd that I am, I enjoyed the gangster action. But, ultimately, it was the passive aggressive hostility between Mr. Roarke and Tattoo that made this episode memorable. The first season ended with Roarke rolling his eyes at Tattoo. Will their relationship improve during the second season? We’ll find out next week!