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! How silly can things get this week?
Episode 2.2 “The Big Dipper/The Pirate”
(Dir by Earl Bellamy, originally aired on September 23rd, 1978)
Pete Raymond (Dan Rowan) and his daughter, Harmony (Jill Whelan), are professional pickpockets who are hiding out from a determined NYPD Detective named Broylan (Cameron Mitchell). What better place to hide than Fantasy Island? After stealing a ticket to the island from a reverend, Pete discovers that “his” fantasy is to work on a farm. Of course, as you probably already guessed, the fantasy is actually Harmony’s. She wants her father to calm down and live a normal life, away from committing crimes and fleeing the police. At first, farmwork seems to agree with Pete but then Broylan shows up on the island.
I’ve often wondered about the legal status of Fantasy Island. Is it an independent nation or is it territory of the United States or a member of the Commonwealth? Some of the episodes during the first season suggested that Fantasy Island was a territory of the United States. However, in this episode, Roarke reminds Broylan that the NYPD has no jurisdiction in Fantasy Island and that the island is not required to turn anyone over to America. Pete is eventually arrested but Mr. Roarke explains that the Fantasy Island magistrate has ruled that Pete and Harmony can stay on the island and work on the farm. When Broylan demands to know who the magistrate is, Mr. Roarke replies that he is. So, apparently, we are now back to Fantasy Island being a separate nation where Mr. Roarke makes and interprets all of the laws.
The legal status of Fantasy Island was probably the most interesting thing about this fantasy. It’s always fun to see Cameron Mitchell playing an obsessed cop but Dan Rowan gives a lousy performance as Pete and it’s never really clear how Harmony was able to set up the fantasy in the first place. I mean, it obviously took a lot of planning on her part. Did Mr. Roarke charge her the full price or is she another one of the freeloaders that Tattoo is always complaining about?
The show’s other fantasy is even more ridiculous and, not coincidentally, it’s also a lot more fun. Painter Ted Cavanaugh (Sonny Bono) is upset that his ex-wife Mary (Diana Canova) is going to be marrying some stuffy rich guy so he asks to be transformed into an 18th century pirate so that he can kidnap Mary and convince her that she’s still in love with him. WHAT!? It’s totally completely ludicrous but …. I don’t know. Sonny Bono is kind of funny as a pirate. If you’re going to have a silly fantasy, you might as well go out and make it as silly as humanly possible and that’s definitely what happens here. Fortunately, it all works out in the end. Who can resist a pirate?