Retro Television Reviews: The Love Boat 1.12 “The Old Man and the Runaway / The Painters / A Fine Romance”


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!

Welcome aboard!  We’re expecting you.

Episode 1.12 “The Old Man and the Runaway / The Painters / A Fine Romance”

(Directed by Stuart Margolin and James Sheldon, originally aired on December 24th, 1977)

Hey, this episode of The Love Boat aired on Christmas Eve!  Oddly enough, unlike last week’s episode, it was not a holiday-themed episode.  You really do have to wonder if there was some sort of scheduling snafu at ABC and perhaps the episodes were shown out-of-order.  Then again, it could be that ABC realized that everyone would be busy getting ready for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve so they decided to burn off a lesser episode while no one was watching.

(Doesn’t everyone spend Christmas Eve getting ready for Midnight Mass while their aunt tells them to dress more like the Virgin and less like the Magdalene?  Or was that just my experience?)

Yes, this is a lesser episode of The Love Boat.  It’s not a terrible episode but, at the same time, it’s not all the memorable.  A big problem is that there’s not really much romance on this cruise.  The show was called The Love Boat for a reason and, when there’s no love, it just doesn’t feel right.

For instance, one subplot dealt with two incompetent painters (played by Arte Johnson and Pat Morita) painting the captain’s office during the cruise.  They kept screwing up the job, which led to Captain Stubing getting progressively more and more annoyed.  From the start, I guessed that the punchline would be that the painters were screwing up on purpose so that they could stay on the boat and get a free cruise and …. yep, that’s exactly what it was.  Johnson and Morita were a good comedy team but the story itself felt like filler.

Meanwhile, a grumpy old widower (Will Geer) discovered that he was sharing his cabin with a teenage runaway (Bayn Johnson), who had stowed away on the ship and who was planning on meeting up with her boyfriend in Mexico.  Once he got over complaining about her being young and irresponsible, Geer convinced her to return to her parents.  Again, it wasn’t terrible and Bayn Johnson did a good job of keeping her character from getting annoying but it felt a bit out of place on The Love Boat.  Obviously, the 75 year-old man and the 16 year-old runaway weren’t going to fall in love and leave the ship arm-in-arm while the crew smiled knowingly.  Instead, this was a typical generation gap story.  The most interesting thing about this story is that this was the second time that a runaway managed to stowaway on the Love Boat.  Does that boat not have a security team?  Don’t you actually have to show your tickets to board the boat?  How does these people keep sneaking aboard?

Finally, the third storyline felt a bit more like a Love Boat story.  Cruise director Julie (Lauren Tewes) is super-excited when she sees that Sean McGlynn (Anson Williams) is a passenger on the cruise.  Julie and Sean grew up together and Julie always had a crush on him.  At first, Julie and Sean have fun hanging out but, whenever Julie tries to flirt, Sean panics and runs off.  Julie worries that there’s something wrong with her (oh, Julie!) but …. nope, Sean’s a priest.  Apparently, he was having a crisis of faith when he boarded the boat, which is why he didn’t tell anyone he was a priest.  But, when his roommate (Tom Poston) has a heart attack, Sean delivers the last rites and his faith is restored.  (Don’t worry.  His roommate survives and has a surprisingly quick recovery.  Doc Bricker is a miracle worker!)  Anyway, Sean leaves the boat wearing his collar and Julie stays on the boat, no doubt waiting for someone else from her past to buy a ticket.  It’s a bit of a shame, as Lauren Tewes and Anson Williams did make a cute couple.  Then again, we all know that Julie and Gopher belong together.

Like I said, this was not a terrible episode.  It just wasn’t particularly memorable.  It needed just a bit more romance.  After all, love is life’s sweetest reward.

Cannonball Run II (1984, directed by Hal Needham)


In 1981, director Hal Needham and star Burt Reynolds had a surprise hit with The Cannonball Run.  Critics hated the film about a race from one end of America to the other but audiences flocked to watch Burt and a group of familiar faces ham it up while cars crashed all around them.  The original Cannonball Run is a goofy and gloriously stupid movie and it can still be fun to watch.  The sequel, on the other hand…

When the sequel begins, the Cannonball Run has been discontinued.  The film never explains why the race is no longer being run but then again, there’s a lot that the sequel doesn’t explain.  King Abdul ben Falafel (Ricardo Montalban, following up The Wrath of Khan with this) wants his son, The Sheik (Jamie Farr, returning from the first film) to win the Cannonball so he puts up a million dollars and announces that the race is back on.  Problem solved.

With the notable exceptions of Farrah Fawcett, Roger Moore, and Adrienne Barbeau, almost everyone from the first film returns to take another shot at the race.  Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise are back.  Jack Elam returns as the crazy doctor, though he’s riding with the Sheik this time.  Jackie Chan returns, riding with Richard “Jaws” Kiel.  Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. return, playing barely disguised versions of themselves.  They’re joined by the surviving members of the Rat Pack.  Yes, Frank Sinatra is in this thing.  He plays himself and, from the way his scenes are shot, it’s obvious they were all filmed in a day and all the shots of people reacting to his presence were shot on another day.  Shirley MacClaine also shows up, fresh from having won an Oscar.  She plays a fake nun who rides with Burt and Dom.  Burt, of course, had a previous chance to co-star with Shirley but he turned down Terms of Endearment so he could star in Stroker AceCannonball Run II finally gave the two a chance to act opposite each other, though no one would be winning any Oscars for appearing in this film.

Say what you will about Hal Needham as a director, he was obviously someone who cultivated a lot of friendships in Hollywood because this film is jam-packed with people who I guess didn’t have anything better to do that weekend.  Telly Savalas, Michael V. Gazzo, Henry Silva, Abe Vigoda, and Henry Silva all play gangsters.  Jim Nabors plays Homer Lyle, a country-fried soldier who is still only a private despite being in his 50s.  Catherine Bach and Susan Anton replace Adrienne Barbeau and Tara Buckman as the two racers who break traffic laws and hearts with impunity.  Tim Conway, Don Knotts, Foster Brooks, Sid Caesar, Arte Johnson, Mel Tillis, Doug McClure, George “Goober” Lindsey, and more; Needham found room for all of them in this movie.  He even found roles for Tony Danza and an orangutan.  (Marilu Henner is also in the movie so I guess Needham was watching both Taxi and Every Which Way But Loose while casting the film.)  Needham also came up with a role for Charles Nelson Reilly, who is cast as a mafia don in Cannonball Run II.  His name is also Don so everyone refers to him as being “Don Don.”  That’s just a typical example of the humor that runs throughout Cannonball Run II.  If you thought the humor of It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World was too subtle and cerebral, Cannonball Run II might be right up your alley.

The main problem with Cannonball Run II is that there’s not much time spent on the race, which is strange because that’s the main reason why anyone would want to watch this movie.  The race itself doesn’t start until 45 minutes into this 108 minute film and all the racers are quickly distracted by a subplot about the Mafia trying to kidnap the Sheik.  Everyone stops racing so that Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. can disguise themselves as belly dancers to help rescue the Sheik.  By the time that’s all been taken care of, there’s only 10 minutes left for everyone to race across the country.  After a montage of driving scenes and a cartoon of an arrow stretching across the nation (the cartoon was animated by Ralph Bakshi!), we discover who won the Cannonball and then it’s time for a montage of Burt and Dom blowing their lines and giggling.  Needham always ended his films with a montage of everyone screwing up a take and it’s probably one of his most lasting cinematic contributions.  Every blooper reel that’s ever been included as a DVD or Blu-ray extra owes a debt of gratitude to Hal Needham.  Watching people blow their lines can be fun if you’ve just watched a fun movie but watching Burt and Dom amuse themselves after sitting through Cannonball Run II is just adding insult to injury.  It feels less like they’re laughing at themselves and more like they’re laughing at you for being stupid enough to sit through a movie featuring Tony Danza and an orangutan.

The dumb charm of the first Cannonball Run is nowhere to be found in this sequel and, though the film made a profit, the box office numbers were still considered to be a disappointment when compared to the other films that Reynolds and Needham collaborated on.  Along with Stroker Ace, this is considered to be one of the films that ended Reynolds’s reign as a top box office attraction.  Cannonball Run II was also the final feature film to feature Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.  This could be considered the final Rat Pack film, though I wouldn’t say that too loudly.

Cannonball Run II is a disappointment on so many levels.  It’s hard to believe that the same director who did Smokey and the Bandit and Hooper could be responsible for the anemic stunts and chases found in this movie.  The cast may have had a good time but the audience is left bored.  Stick with the first Cannonball Run.

 

Shattered Politics #25: The President’s Analyst (dir by Theodore J. Flicker)


Presidents_movieposter “If I was a psychiatrist, which I am, I would say that I was turning into some sort of paranoid personality, which I am!” — Dr. Sidney Schaefer (James Coburn) in The President’s Analyst (1967)

Let’s just be absolutely honest about something.  Judging from what they regularly get caught saying and from some of the policies that they support, a good deal of politicians could probably use some sort of professional help.  That’s probably especially true of the men who sit in the Oval Office.  It can’t be easy to have to hide so many secrets, tell so many lies, and be constantly aware of how close the government is to actually collapsing.  We’ve had 44 Presidents and I imagine all of them probably could have used someone to talk to.

But here’s the thing.  We spend so much time worrying about the well-being of the President that we often don’t stop to think about the people who have to listen to them speak on a daily basis.  I imagine that being the President’s therapist must be a thankless job.  Not only do you have to spend hours listening to someone who you may not have voted for but, at the same time, you can’t share any of the information that you’ve learned.

That would certainly seem to be what’s happening with Dr. Sidney Schaefer (James Coburn), the title character of the wonderfully psychedelic 1967 satire, The President’s Analyst.  At the start of the film, Sidney is a supremely confident psychiatrist.  He can calmly and rationally deal with all of his patients problems and, in order to keep from getting overwhelmed, he has his own analyst (Will Geer).

One of his patients is Don Masters (Godfrey Cambridge), an agent for the Central Enquiries Agency (CEA) who is first seen casually murdering a man on the streets of New York.  (When Sidney discovers that Don is an assassin, he’s thrilled and impressed to discover that Don has managed to channel all of his hostility into his job.)  What Sidney doesn’t realize is that Don is testing him to see if he’s up to the job of serving as the President’s analyst.

At first, Sidney is thrilled with his new position but he soon discovers that being the closest confidante of the leader of the free world has its downside.  For one thing, Sidney is viewed by suspicion by Henry Lux (Walter Burke), the head of the Federal Bureau of Regulation (which, in this film, is exclusively staffed by people who are less than 5 feet tall).  Even beyond being targeted by the FBR, Sidney struggles with not being able to see his own therapist and discuss what he’s been told by the President.  Soon, Sidney is becoming paranoid and is even convinced that his girlfriend is a spy.

(And, of course, she is.)

So, Walter does what any sensible and paranoid person would do.  He makes a run for it.  Pursued by the FBR, the CEA, and a Russian assassin (a funny performance from Severn Darden, who also played Kolp, the sadistic torturer in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes), Sidney hides out with everyone from a group of hippies to a family of heavily armed, karate-trained, middle class “militant liberals.”

(The father of the militant liberal family is played by William Daniels, who decades later would play Mr. Feeney in Boy Meets World.)

Of course, there’s an even bigger conspiracy at work than even Sidney realizes.  The real threat is the TPC and I’m not going to tell you what that stands for.  You need to see the movie.

And really, The President’s Analyst is a film that you really should see.  What makes this film truly special — beyond the clever dialogue and the excellent performances and the great direction — is that it’s both a product of when it was made and a timeless portrait of power and paranoia.  It’s a time capsule that still feels incredibly relevant.