Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past! On Wednesdays, I will be reviewing the original Love Boat, which aired on ABC from 1977 to 1986! The series can be streamed on Paramount Plus!
Today, we wrap up season one of The Love Boat! All aboard!
Episode 1.25 “Pacific Princess Overtures / Gopher, the Rebel / Cabin Fever”
(Dir by Alan Baron, originally aired on May 20th, 1978)
As I sat down to watch this episode on Paramount Plus, I was once again confronted with that weird commercial featuring P!nk and Michael Phelps tossing a big red COVID germ at each other. I’ve seen this commercial a few times. It’s popular not only on Paramount Plus but also on Hulu and Peacock. For a commercial that’s all about the terrors of COVID, I have to say that representing the risk by using a big rubber ball feels a bit …. well, counterproductive. (Actually, perhaps silly would be a better way to describe it.) To be honest, P!nk and Michael Phelps look like they’re almost having too much fun tossing COVID at each other. Someday, someone will actually take a serious look at how and why the combined efforts of the media and the advertising industry struggled to convince people to take the vaccine and this commercial will hopefully be remembered. Considering that it’s the elderly who are at the greatest risk when it comes to COVID, it’s interesting that almost all of the vaccination commercials that I’ve seen have been stylistically aimed at older millennials. Michael Phelps saying that his depression puts him at a greater risk of COVID is not the sort of thing that’s going to convince an 80 year-old to get a booster.
Speaking of commercials, the first season finale of The Love Boat featured Antonio Fargas as an advertising exec named Lee Graham. When we first see him, he’s saying goodbye to his wife as he boards the ship. He tells her that he’ll miss her and that the only reason he’s going to be on the boat is because he’s working on ad campaign for the cruise company. Of course, he’s lying. He’s actually taking the cruise so that he can spend some time with his mistress, Andrea (Jonelle Allen). Lee and Andrea are excited to finally have a few days where they can be with each other without feeling like they have to hide for everyone. However, Lee soon discovers that his nosy neighbors (played by Kaye Bass and Elias Jacob) are also on the boat! As a result, Lee doesn’t get a chance to cheat on his wife and, at the end of the cruise, he and Andrea realize that they don’t want to continue their adulterous ways. Fortunately, it turns out that Lee’s wife already knew about the affair and is incredibly forgiving. I’m not really sure why she’s so forgiving but hey, it was the 70s! It’s not like The Love Boat is going to end with a divorce. That’s more of a 90s thing.
While this is going, ruthless business tycoon Mr. Yamashiro (Pat Morita — yes, you read that correctly) is determined to convince Ruth Newman (Diane Baker) to sell him her late husband’s factory. Yamashiro even orders his assistant, Ken Davis (Gary Collins), to trick Ruth by pretending to fall in love with her. However, Ken really does fall in love with her and he loses his job as a result. Fear not, though. Ruth hires him and agrees to invest in a special, voice-activated word processor that he’s created. Yamashiro is so impressed that he agrees to invest as well. Yamashiro says that they can consider his investment to be a wedding present. Ruth and Ken have only known each other for a few days but sure, why shouldn’t they get married? I mean, it’s the 70s! People get married about knowing each other for a weekend and then they forgive each other for cheating. Love is all around, no need to waste it. They’re all going to make it, after all.
However, none of those stories can compare to what happens to Gopher. After starting the cruise in a bad mood because he feels that Captain Stubing doesn’t respect him, Gopher falls for a young communist named Vanessa! And Vanessa is played by Eve Plumb. That’s right! This episode features the original Jan Brady filling Gopher’s head with a bunch of Marxist nonsense! Vanessa is traveling on the boat with her wealthy father (Don Porter) and she sure does resent all of the money that’s being spent on the cruise. When she tells Gopher that he should stop taking orders from the Captain because, as “members of the Personhood,” no one has any right to order anyone else around, Gopher takes her words to heart and he ended up getting fired for insubordination! Fortunately, it doesn’t take long for both Vanessa and Gopher to see the errors of their ways and the Captain hires Gopher back, with the understanding that Gopher will never again bring a certain impractical economic theory. It’s a bit like that episode where the Captain told Isaac that he was spending too much time learning about black history. The Captain’s not going to let his purser go down the Marxist rabbit hole!
And so, the first season comes to a close. This was a good episode with which to end the season. Though his storyline was undeniably icky, Antonio Fargas proved himself to be a talented physical comedian as he tried to keep his neighbors from noticing his girlfriend. The second story was a bit bland but Pat Morita transcended his stereotypical role. And seriously, how can you not enjoy Eve Plumb radicalizing Gopher?
When The Love Boat began, the crew was unsure of how to react around Captain Stubing. As the first season comes to a close, they’ve learned that Stubing will always have their back, as long as they don’t talk about Black History or Marxism. What will the crew discover about their captain during season 2? We’ll find out soon!