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’s episode of The Love Boat is all about second chances!
Episode 2.17 “Second Chance / Don’t Push Me / Like Father, Like Son”
(Dir by Allen Baron, originally aired on January 27th, 1979)
As usual, this week’s episode presents us with three different stories involving people on the cruise. Two of them aren’t that interesting and I’m going to deal with them first.
Fred Beery (Roddy McDowall) is a nerdy guy who is sailing on The Love Boat to get away from his clingy, marriage-obsessed girlfriend, Christine (Tammy Grimes). However, Christine shows up at the last minute and boards the boat with Fred. Fred suddenly starts sneezing. When Christine asks Fred to marry her, he sneezes and, for some reason, she assumes that was his way of saying yes. Fred goes to Doc Bricker and wonders if he could be allergic to Christine. Doc says that people can be allergic to one another. Fred is excited because this gives him an excuse not to marry Christine. But then Fred changes his mind and discovers that he’s no longer allergic to Christine. However, Christine now finds Fred to be too clingy and doesn’t want to marry him and …. well, that’s pretty much the storyline.
This was a bit of an annoying storyline. Even with Roddy McDowall in the role, Fred was not particularly likable. Fred’s refusal to get married and his sudden “allergy” was played for laughs but, when seen today, it’s hard not to feel that Fred is basically deep in denial. If this episode were made today, it would end with Fred finding the courage to come out and Christine realizing the real reason why he didn’t want to marry her. But, since it was made in the 70s, it ends with Fred begging Christine to give him a second chance.
The second storyline featured Robert Mandan and Randolph Mantooth as a father and a son who were both in love with the same woman (Cathy Lee Crosby). Crosby, however, was far more attracted to the older Mandan than the younger (and, it seemed, alcoholic) Mantooth. In the end, Mantooth made peace with the idea of the woman he loved becoming his stepmother. It sounds like the premise of a Lifetime movie.
But enough about those stories. The story that actually worked featured Debbi Morgan as Stephanie Jackson, a recent parolee who Isaac convinced the Captain to hire to work in the gift shop. When some pearl earrings go missing, Stephanie is the number one suspect because she was previously arrested for shoplifting. Isaac has to figure out if Stephanie stole the jewelry or if she still deserves her second chance. Eventually, it is revealed that Stephanie did steal the earrings but she also returned them hours later, locking them up in the gift shop’s safe. Stephanie nearly returned to her criminal ways but had a change of heart. After hearing her confession, the Captain tells Stephanie that she did the right thing and that she will continue to work at the gift shop.
I actually liked this storyline. Some of that was because Debbi Morgan gave a good performance as Stephanie. But also I liked the fact that The Love Boat was highlighting the importance of helping out the formerly incarcerated. Too often, when people get out of prison, they find themselves without any opportunities. Most businesses and stores will always find an excuse not to hire someone with a criminal record and, as a result, those recently released are not left with many options beyond returning to a life of crime. If we’re going to insist that prison is about rehabilitation than we have to be willing to give the formerly incarcerated a chance to prove that they’ve been rehabilitated. The Love Boat may have been a rather silly show but, with this episode, it sailed with an important message.
Next week: The Love Boat hosts a high school reunion!