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!
This week, the second season begins with a super-sized episode!
Episodes 2.1 & 2.2 “Marooned / The Search / Issac’s Holiday”
(Dir by Paul Stanley, originally aired on September 16th, 1978)
The second season of The Love Boat started with double-sized episode, promising twice the romance, twice the comedy, and twice the running time!
(Subsequently, this episode was split in two for syndication, hence the double numbering.)
Among the passengers on this cruise is none other than Isaac Washington (Ted Lange)! The Love Boat’s iconic bartender has decided to spend his vacation where he works and he’s bought a ticket to sail on the Pacific Princess. It might seem strange to want to spend your vacation at the office but in Isaac’s case, I can see the appeal. As we saw during the first season, no one works harder than Isaac. He somehow always manages to be behind every single bar on the ship and it often appears that he’s the only bartender on the boat! To top it off, he’s always on call. He’s earned a vacation and he’s earned the right to be served for once. From the minute Isaac boards the boat, he’s playfully asking the crew to do things for him and none of them mind because he’s their friend Isaac. One of the key reasons why The Love Boat worked was that the friendships between the members of the crew felt very real. As such, there’s never any doubt that Isaac would want to spend his vacation with Gopher, Doc, and Julie.
(Interestingly enough, the Captain doesn’t seem to realize that Isaac’s on the boat until Isaac takes his seat at the captain’s table.)
Of course, there are some problems with Isaac’s vacation. Isaac quickly notices that the substitute bartender, Wally (played by Norm Crosby), is a bit sullen and not very knowledgeable about his drinks. As well, Isaac has lied to a passenger named Mara (Lola Falana), telling her that he’s a wealthy race car driver. Bitter old Wally just can’t wait to tell Mara the truth.
Even worse, when Captain Stubing goes to visit a nearby island, Deputy Captain Cunningham (Dick Martin) is left in charge and he quickly proves himself to be thoroughly incompetent. (The show makes a point of assuring viewers that Cunningham actually works for a different cruise line and is just training on the Pacific Princess.) Cunningham ignores the news that a hurricane is on the way. When the hurricane hits, it’s falls on Isaac to take charge and make sure the passengers are safe. Of course, to do this, he has to admit that he’s not a race car driver. He’s just a bartender who, in a just world, would probably be a captain.
Meanwhile, Stubing, Doc, Gopher, Julie, and a group of passengers (Avery Schreiber, Barbi Benton, Edie Adams, and Audra Lindley) are all being held captive on that nearby island. Their captor is an eccentric hermit named David Crothers (played by John Astin, who was often cast as eccentric hermits). David has a gun, one that later turns out to be full of not bullets but dirt. Unfortunately, the hurricane that threatens the Pacific Princess also maroons everyone else on the island and they have to wait for someone to rescue them. Injured by a falling tree, Gopher spends his time deliriously speaking to imaginary women in foreign accents. Doc, for once, actually gets to do some medical stuff and assures everyone that Gopher will be fine. Interestingly enough, no one seems to be that worried about being captured by a crazed hermit. Perhaps that’s because John Astin is just too naturally friendly to be viewed as a threat.
Finally, Jeannie Carter (Donna Mills) is on the boat because she’s been told that one of the passengers is her long-lost mother. Soap opera actor Mike Adler (David Birney) offers Jeannie the moral and emotional (and romantic) support to confront the woman but the woman (Laraine Day) turns out to be Mike’s mother as well! Agck!
The 2nd season premiers, with its mix of melodrama, broad comedy, romance, and hurricane-strength winds, is pretty much exactly what most viewers would want out of a show like The Love Boat. Isaac gets to save the day while John Astin hams it up and David Birney, Donna Milles, and Laraine Day wring every emotion that they can out of their soap opera-style storyline. It’s a fun and undemanding show, one that gets by on its breezy style and the likable chemistry between the cast.
This episode is also important because it was the second episode (after the first season’s supersized episode) in which the opening credits featured video images of the guest stars as well as their names. This would continue in every subsequent episode and eventually become of the show’s trademarks.
Next week: Julie’s parents board the boat!