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, we begin season two of Fantasy Island!
Episode 2.1 “Homecoming/The Sheikh”
(Dir by Earl Bellamy, originally aired on September 16th, 1978)
The second season of Fantasy Island begins with a bizarre mishmash of tones.
As usual, there are two fantasies. The first fantasy features David Birney as Alan Boardman. As Mr. Roarke explains it, Alan served in Viet Nam. He was horribly burned in battle and captured by the Viet Cong. He spent years, as an amnesiac, in a POW camp. In the United States, he was reported to have been killed in action. Finally, he was released from the POW camp and he underwent extensive plastic surgery. He now looks completely different than he did in his past life. It was only after the plastic surgery that Alan remembered who he was. He also remembered that he had a wife (Lynda Day George) and a son (Ronnie Scribner). Alan comes to Fantasy Island, hoping to be reunited with his family. However, there’s a complication. Alan’s wife has remarried and she still believes Alan to be dead. Alan meets his wife and his son but he has to pretend to be a stranger. Alan must decide whether to reveal his true identity or to accept that his wife has moved on and now has a new life.
Wow, that’s really dark! It’s an extremely serious story, one that ends on a bittersweet note that will leave no one truly satisfied. David Birney and Lynda Day George both give intense performances as they struggle to come to terms with the horror of the Vietnam War….
Meanwhile, the other fantasy features Arte Johnson as Edgar, a meek school teacher who wants to be a sheikh with a harem. Seriously, that’s his entire fantasy. Of course, once he becomes a sheikh, he discovers that his servant (played by Sid Haig) is a part of a conspiracy to murder him. It also turns out that a member of the harem is actually one of Edgar’s fellow teachers, Yasmine (Georgia Engel). Yasmine’s fantasy was for Edgar to finally notice her so Roarke’s solution was to force her to be a member of a harem! (Really, Mr. Roarke?) This fantasy is played for laughs and the comedy is extremely broad. It’s somewhat jarring to go from David Birney obsessing on the war to Arte Johnson grinning at the members of his harem. It’s such a tonal mismatch that it makes it difficult to get invested in either fantasy.
While all of this is going on, Tattoo is feeling depressed and suffering from ennui. Mr. Roarke solves this problem by giving Tattoo a tiny car that he can drive around. In this episode, Mr. Roarke doesn’t seem to openly dislike Tattoo as much as he did during the first season so I’ll be interested to see if that trend continues. Reportedly, Ricardo Montalban and Herve Villechaize did not have the best working relationship but, in this episode, Roarke and Tattoo actually seem to have a vague respect of one another. It’s a change of pace.
Anyway, this episode doesn’t work because the fantasies don’t really mesh well. However …. SID HAIG!