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!
Episode 2.11 “Carnival/The Vaudevillians”
(Dir by Georg Stanford Brown, Originally aired on December 2nd, 1978)
Tattoo has come up with a new way to become a millionaire! He’s invented a sleeping bag that he claims can hold two people. Mr. Roarke is a bit skeptical that the small roll of material that Tattoo is holding could possibly be big enough to hold two people. Tattoo tells him that all he has to do is remove a key and the material will inflate. Roarke removes the key and several feathers explode into the air. Tattoo shrugs and says that he obviously has to get back to the drawing board.
“Inventor indeed,” Mr. Roarke says, in a tone that suggests that the only he reason he’s not physically killing Tattoo is because it’s time for them to greet their guests.
(Why is Tattoo always trying to make extra money? Does Fantasy Island not pay well?)
This week, the fantasies are all about reliving the past. Charlie Parks (Phil Silvers) and Will Fields (Phil Harris) used to be stars on Vaudeville but, like so many of the old time entertainers, they’ve now found themselves forgotten. Charlie’s even been put in a nursing home. Still, he manages to make the trip to Fantasy Island, where his fantasy is to be reunited with Will so that they can try to bring Vaudeville back to life.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work. Tattoo loves their corny old jokes but when they perform for a larger audience, they only get a few pity chuckles. Dejected, Charlie plans to return to his retirement home when he and Will are approached by a man who claims that he works for the city of Baltimore. (Oh no! Run!) The man explains that he wants to hire Charlie and Will to perform at nursing homes, where their old-fashioned routines will enliven the golden years of people who don’t like loud music and R-rated movies. Charlie and Will agree. Yay!
Meanwhile, Dorothy Weller (Carol Lynley) is a woman who has spent the past few months in a coma. Now, she’s not sure if the man she thought she loved really existed or if he was just someone she dreamed up while she was in the hospital. Mr. Roarke arranges for her to travel to a recreation of the same Mexican town where she met the mystery man. She finds her former lover, Tom Parnell (Stuart Whitman), on the beach. Tom explains that he is real and he is in love with her. He’s also a spy and there’s an international assassin (an appropriately sinister Luke Askew) after him!
This episode was kind of a mixed bag. The Vaudeville fantasy featured charming performances from Phil Silvers and Phil Harris but their jokes were never quite as funny as Tattoo seemed to think that they were. The spy fantasy was not helped by the casting of the reliably dull Stuart Whitman but the story itself was intriguing and Carol Lynley gave a believable and emotional performance as Dorothy. The end result was a thoroughly pleasant but not altogether memorable trip to Fantasy Island. But really, when it comes to Fantasy Island, hasn’t the appeal always been just how pleasant everything is?
Well, except for the relationship between Tattoo and Mr. Roarke, of course. I still suspect Tattoo is secretly plotting to kill Mr. Roarke and take over the island. Who knows? Maybe that’ll be a future episode. We’ll find out soon!
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