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!
This week, Fantasy Island brings us a mix of crime and comedy!
Episode 2.22 “The Comic/The Golden Hour”
(Dir by Earl Bellamy, originally aired May 5th, 1979)
Since this series began, I’ve been wondering what the legal status of Fantasy Island is. Is it a territory of the United States? Is it a part of the British Commonwealth? Is it an independent nation? Finally, in this episode, the question is answered. Fantasy Island is an independent nation, though one that appears to be closely aligned to the United States. And Mr. Roarke is the sole legal authority. In short, Mr. Roarke is a bit of a dictator and the Island’s laws are pretty much determined by his whims.
This becomes apparent when a plane is forced to make an emergency landing on the island. The plane is carrying a prisoner named Mike Banning (Michael Parks) to the United States. When Federal Marshall Victor Grennan (Morgan Woodward) announces that there is no way he’s going to let Mike out of his handcuffs, Mr. Roarke announces that he’s in charge of the Island and, on the Island, no one is handcuffed. Reluctantly, Grennan sets Mike free.
It also turns out that Mr. Roarke had a specific reason for wanting Mike on the island. While in prison, he developed a pen pal relationship with a woman named Sandy Larson (Toni Tennille). Mike’s letters provided a lot of comfort to Sandy after an auto accident left her in a wheelchair. In fact, Sandy is in love with Mike and she’s on the Island! Roarke arranges for Mike and Sandy to finally meet face-to-face. Unfortunately, Sandy is self-conscious about her wheelchair and Mike feels like he’s a loser with no future. Mike even tries to escape at one point, running through the jungle until he’s eventually captured by the Marshal. Still, despite all of that, Mike and Sandy realize that they really do love each other. Mike is willing to finish out his three years in prison if it means that Sandy will be waiting for him on the outside. Fortunately, a bit Deus ex Machina comes into play as evidence is miraculously found that proves that Mike wrongfully convicted. Yay!
While all of that’s going on, joke writer Jerry Burton (Fred Grandy) fantasizes about quitting his job working for comedic legend Danny Baker (Jack Carter) and instead pursuing a stand-up career of his own. Mr. Roarke arranges for Jerry to perform at a bar on the northside of the Island. Roarke explains that the bar is popular with the workers at the local pineapple plantation. (See? We’re learning even more about the Island!) However, when the bar is shut down due to a brawl, Jerry instead finds himself performing at the big Fantasy Island talent show. In fact, he’ll even be substituting for Danny, who was scheduled to host but has been held up on another part of the Island.
At first, Jerry bombs. He has no confidence. But then Danny joins him on stage and they bring down the house. Jerry and Danny arrived on the Island as employee and employer but now, they’re leaving a comedy team. Yay! Plus. Jerry reconnects with his old high school girlfriend (Pat Klous). Yay again!
The comedy stuff was fun, largely because Fred Grandy was as likable and goofy here as he was as Gopher on the The Love Boat. However, what really made this episode memorable was the method intensity that Michael Parks brought to the role of Mike Banning. While all the other guest stars goof around and enjoy the scenery, Parks plays his role with a seething rage. It’s unexpected but it works.
All in all, this was a good episode. The combination of Fred Grandy and Michael Parks turned out to be just what Fantasy Island needed.
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