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!
It’s time for another cruise!
Episode 2.9 “Till Death Do Us Part–Maybe / Locked Away / Chubs”
(Dir by Allen Baron, originally aired on November 11th, 1978)
The Love Boat is haunted!
Well, no, not really. Instead, one of the passengers is haunted. Ellen Garner (Vernee Watson) is having a difficult time getting over the death of her husband, Mickey (Jimmie Walker, who also appeared on the very first episode of The Love Boat, though as a different character). It’s been two years since Mickey died and Ellen still has not been able to move on. Some of that might be because Mickey’s ghost is still following Ellen around. Only Ellen can see and hear Mickey. This leads to a lot of scenes of her arguing with Mickey while everyone standing around her assumes that she’s talking to herself.
(To be honest, I think most people would be made nervous by a woman who spent the entire cruise loudly arguing with herself but the passengers and the crew of The Love Boat are oddly unconcerned. It was the 70s so I assume everyone just assumed it was due to the cocaine.)
Mickey wants Ellen to move on and he pressures her to find a new husband on the cruise. In fact, Mickey thinks that Ellen should spend some time with Greg Elkins (Greg Morris), who is handsome, polite and wealthy. At first, Ellen resists Mickey’s attempts to push them together but finally, she gives in. Suddenly, Mickey starts to get jealous. By the end of the cruise, though, Mickey is at peace with Ellen moving on and Ellen accepts Greg’s marriage proposal. Mickey tries to congratulate Ellen, just to discover that she can no longer see or hear him. Mickey vanishes into thin air, giving this otherwise frothy story a somewhat bittersweet aftertaste.
Whether you were being haunted or not, would you get married after only knowing someone for a week? I know that there are reality shows built around this very idea but still, I have to wonder how many of these spontaneous Love Boat marriages ended in divorce. Speaking of divorce….
Also on the cruise is a young married couple, Linda (a young Jamie Lee Curtis, looking relieved to not have to deal with Michael Myers or any other knife-wielding madmen) and Wayne (Peter Coffield). Linda and Wayne are on the verge of divorce. Ever since her parents, Les and Gail (Conrad Bain and Curtis’s real-life mother, Janet Leigh), acrimoniously split up, Linda hasn’t believed in love. Linda and Wayne spend most of the cruise fighting, though it’s never quite clear what they’re fighting about. What they don’t know is that Les and Gail are on the cruise as well. Les and Gail came to the ship to see their daughter off and then, as they tried to exit, they accidentally got locked in an unused cabin. Trapped together and subsisting only on peanuts, water, and stowaway sex, Les and Gail discover that they are still in love and they agree to get married for a second time. At the end of the cruise, everyone is reunited and, seeing that her parents are going to give marriage another shot, Linda agrees to give Wayne another shot. Awwwww!
(Again, it should be kept in mind that Les and Gail fell back in love because they literally didn’t have anything else to do. They were trapped in cabin for several days! Will their rekindled love continue once they have to deal with each other in the real world? Considering how much they hated each other before getting trapped, it’s easy to be pessimistic. Can you imagine how Linda will feel if her parents get married a second time just to then get a second divorce? Then again, this is The Love Boat. Perhaps the whole point is not to give it too much thought….)
Finally, Gopher is super excited that his sister will be celebrating her 18th birthday on the cruise! However, Gopher is shocked and horrified to discover that Jennifer (Melissa Sue Anderson) has grown up and now has every guy on the ship hitting on her. Gopher asks Doc Bricker to look after her, which is an odd request given that Doc is a walking HR nightmare. That said, for once, Doc tries to do the right thing. However, Jennifer is eager to lose her virginity and she’s decided that Doc would be the perfect man to which to lose it….
Really? Out of all the guys on that cruise, you’re going to pick Doc?
Stories in which Doc is portrayed as being a legendary lover are always a bit strange because Doc was played be Bernie Kopell, a likable actor who gave off suburban Dad vibes as opposed to international playboy vibes. Kopell, Anderson, and the usually underused Fred Grandy all give likable performances in this storyline but it’s still just odd to think that Jennifer has apparently spent years dreaming about Doc Bricker.
It’s also strange that Captain Stubing mentions that it’s been years since he last saw Gopher’s sister. The previous season established that Captain Stubing had just recently been assigned to the boat and that he was still getting to know the crew. So, either several years passed between the first and the second season or someone in the writer’s room wasn’t paying attention to continuity. Then again, I imagine that continuity wasn’t as big a concern in the days before the Internet. Even if someone did notice the mistake, who would they tell?
This episode was a fairly entertaining one. Janet Leigh and Conrad Bain were definitely the highlight of this episode and it was fun to watch Leigh and Curtis acting opposite of each other. (That said, you just know the show’s producers probably tried to convince Tony Curtis to play Janet Leigh’s ex-husband before they asked Bain.) The ghost subplot had a few funny moments and Gopher finally got to do something. All in all, it was a pleasant cruise on the Love Boat.
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