Retro Television Reviews: The Love Boat 2.1 and 2.2 Marooned / The Search / Issac’s Holiday: Parts 1 & 2

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, the second season begins with a super-sized episode!

Episodes 2.1 & 2.2 “Marooned / The Search / Issac’s Holiday”

(Dir by Paul Stanley, originally aired on September 16th, 1978)

The second season of The Love Boat started with double-sized episode, promising twice the romance, twice the comedy, and twice the running time!

(Subsequently, this episode was split in two for syndication, hence the double numbering.)

Among the passengers on this cruise is none other than Isaac Washington (Ted Lange)!  The Love Boat’s iconic bartender has decided to spend his vacation where he works and he’s bought a ticket to sail on the Pacific Princess.  It might seem strange to want to spend your vacation at the office but in Isaac’s case, I can see the appeal.  As we saw during the first season, no one works harder than Isaac.  He somehow always manages to be behind every single bar on the ship and it often appears that he’s the only bartender on the boat!  To top it off, he’s always on call.  He’s earned a vacation and he’s earned the right to be served for once.  From the minute Isaac boards the boat, he’s playfully asking the crew to do things for him and none of them mind because he’s their friend Isaac.  One of the key reasons why The Love Boat worked was that the friendships between the members of the crew felt very real.  As such, there’s never any doubt that Isaac would want to spend his vacation with Gopher, Doc, and Julie.

(Interestingly enough, the Captain doesn’t seem to realize that Isaac’s on the boat until Isaac takes his seat at the captain’s table.)

Of course, there are some problems with Isaac’s vacation.  Isaac quickly notices that the substitute bartender, Wally (played by Norm Crosby), is a bit sullen and not very knowledgeable about his drinks.  As well, Isaac has lied to a passenger named Mara (Lola Falana), telling her that he’s a wealthy race car driver.  Bitter old Wally just can’t wait to tell Mara the truth.

Even worse, when Captain Stubing goes to visit a nearby island, Deputy Captain Cunningham (Dick Martin) is left in charge and he quickly proves himself to be thoroughly incompetent.  (The show makes a point of assuring viewers that Cunningham actually works for a different cruise line and is just training on the Pacific Princess.)  Cunningham ignores the news that a hurricane is on the way.  When the hurricane hits, it’s falls on Isaac to take charge and make sure the passengers are safe.  Of course, to do this, he has to admit that he’s not a race car driver.  He’s just a bartender who, in a just world, would probably be a captain.

Meanwhile, Stubing, Doc, Gopher, Julie, and a group of passengers (Avery Schreiber, Barbi Benton, Edie Adams, and Audra Lindley) are all being held captive on that nearby island.  Their captor is an eccentric hermit named David Crothers (played by John Astin, who was often cast as eccentric hermits).  David has a gun, one that later turns out to be full of not bullets but dirt.  Unfortunately, the hurricane that threatens the Pacific Princess also maroons everyone else on the island and they have to wait for someone to rescue them.  Injured by a falling tree, Gopher spends his time deliriously speaking to imaginary women in foreign accents.  Doc, for once, actually gets to do some medical stuff and assures everyone that Gopher will be fine.  Interestingly enough, no one seems to be that worried about being captured by a crazed hermit.  Perhaps that’s because John Astin is just too naturally friendly to be viewed as a threat.

Finally, Jeannie Carter (Donna Mills) is on the boat because she’s been told that one of the passengers is her long-lost mother.  Soap opera actor Mike Adler (David Birney) offers Jeannie the moral and emotional (and romantic) support to confront the woman but the woman (Laraine Day) turns out to be Mike’s mother as well!  Agck!

The 2nd season premiers, with its mix of melodrama, broad comedy, romance, and hurricane-strength winds, is pretty much exactly what most viewers would want out of a show like The Love Boat.  Isaac gets to save the day while John Astin hams it up and David Birney, Donna Milles, and Laraine Day wring every emotion that they can out of their soap opera-style storyline.  It’s a fun and undemanding show, one that gets by on its breezy style and the likable chemistry between the cast.

This episode is also important because it was the second episode (after the first season’s supersized episode) in which the opening credits featured video images of the guest stars as well as their names.  This would continue in every subsequent episode and eventually become of the show’s trademarks.

Next week: Julie’s parents board the boat!

Retro Television Review: Fantasy Island 2.9 “The Appointment/Mr. Tattoo”

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, Tattoo finally gets his chance to be in charge!

Episode 2.10 “The Appointment/Mr. Tattoo”

(Dir by Cliff Bole, originally aired on November 18th, 1978)

This week’s episode opens with Tattoo in a very good mood.  Apparently, Mr. Roarke has promised Tattoo that Tattoo will someday get a chance to be in charge of a guest’s fantasy and Tattoo has decided that he is now ready to take on that responsibility!  As is typical of this show, Roarke responds to Tattoo’s enthusiasm by pretending to not remember what Tattoo is talking about.  Tattoo not only has to explain their deal but he literally has to beg Roarke to uphold his part of the bargain.  Roarke smiles at Tattoo’s excitement and says, in a tone that suggests the opposite, “I can hardly wait.”

(In many ways, Tattoo has the same relationship with Roarke that Nick Nack had with Scaramanga in The Man With The Golden Gun.  There’s a lot of passive-aggressive resentment to be found in every exchange between the two.)

Tattoo is in charge of granting the fantasies of Dee Dee (Barbi Benton) and near-sighted Evelyn Kastenbaum (Connie Stevens).  Dee Dee and Evelyn are Vegas showgirls who want to marry millionaires.  Tattoo hires two lounge singers, Jack (Troy Donahue) and Bernie (Fred Grandy), and instructs them to write a Broadway musical that will star Dee Dee and Evelyn.  Investors will come to the Island to see about investing in the show and surely, two of them will fall in love with Dee Dee and Evelyn!

It sounds like a great plan!  Way to go, Tattoo!

The only problem is that Dee Dee and Evelyn end up falling in love with Jack and Bernie.  In fact, during the musical’s big wedding number, the four of them are married by a minister who, Roarke explains, has always had a fantasy about appearing in a musical.  Tattoo is upset.  He says that he failed to grant the girls their fantasies.  But then Roarke explains that Bernie and Jack are actually millionaire playwrights who came to the island to fulfill their fantasy of writing a musical.  It all works out, even if it does appear that Tattoo was actually never really in charge of the fantasy.

While this is going on, Dr. John Carlson (Bert Convy) has a fantasy about meeting with a big financial backer and getting the money to build a hospital that will be named after himself.  However, while trying to drive to the meeting, John comes across a Fantasy Islander (Nancy Kwan) who is in the middle of a very difficult labor.  It turns out that her village only has one doctor and he’s away.  To save her life, Dr. Carlson will not only have to miss his meeting but he will also have to rediscover the joy of taking care of patients on a one-on-one basis.

(Why did all of the native Fantasy Islanders live in remote villages with so few modern resources?  Did Mr. Roarke just not care about them?)

Oh no, Dr. Carlson didn’t get his fantasy!  But don’t worry.  It turns out that Dr. Carlson’s wife (Tasha Noble) had a fantasy that the doctor would finally rediscover his love for medicine and that their marriage would improve.  So, at least someone got what they wanted!

Dr. Carlson’s fantasy was fairly predictable but the stuff with the showgirls, the playwrights, and the Broadway show was actually pretty cute.  It was definitely silly but Fantasy Island is at its best when its silly.  Plus, Mr. Tattoo finally got his fantasy.  Yay!

It was a fun episode.

Retro Television Reviews: The Love Boat 1.20 “Memories of You / Computerman / Parlez Vous?”

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 Valentine’s Day on The Love Boat!

Episode 1.20 “Memories of You / Computerman / Parlez Vous?”

(Dir by Richard Kinon, originally aired on February 13th, 1978)

It’s time for the annual Valentine’s Day cruise!  On Valentine’s Day, only singles are allowed to board the Love Boat.  Everyone, even the members of the crew, wears a heart-shaped nametag.  Julie has decided to liven things up by hiring Nick Heider (Frankie Avalon), who claims that his computer can decide who is compatible and who isn’t.  Captain Stubing is hoping that the computer will set him up with someone because apparently, Stubing is tired of being single.  To be honest, that really doesn’t make much sense.  When you’re the captain of the ship, you’re going to get laid on Valentine’s Day.  It doesn’t matter if you’re bald, middle-aged, and take yourself a little bit too seriously.  A captain has power and power is an aphrodisiac.

Nick turns out to be kind of sleazy, with his wide collars and his unbuttoned shirts.  Nick also has a crush on Julie and he wants her to take part in his compatibility survey.  Julie says that she doesn’t believe that computer can decide who is compatible.  If Julie doesn’t believe in Nick and his computer, why did she hire him for the cruise?

As you can probably guess, Nick fills out a survey for Julie anyway.  The computer pairs them together and Julie and Nick actually do fall in love, though I have a feeling we will never again see or hear about Nick after this episode.  Meanwhile, Captain Stubing is told that the computer can’t find any matches for him.  The Captain is pretty depressed until all of the computer-selected couples start fighting.  I would think that people taking a dislike to each other would be a problem on Valentine’s Day cruise but whatever.  The computer fails and Stubing smiles smugly.

While this is going on, Gopher is recruited to act as a translator for two French women (Barbi Benton, Susan Silo) who are on the cruise.  Gopher’s French turns out to be really bad but fear not.  It turns out that the French women are actually Americans and they speak perfect English.  They’re just pretending to be French in order to attract wealthy men.  Jamie Farr and Danny Dayton nearly fall for the scam but then Gopher hears the women speaking English and he exposes them.  Of course, despite ruining their scam, Gopher still gets a (temporary) girlfriend out of it when Brigitte (played by Barbi Benton) turns out to be very forgiving.

Finally, Doc thinks that he’s found his soulmate for the cruise when he spots jingle writer Lilly Mackin (Patty Duke).  However, Lilly can’t stop looking at another passenger named Ted (Ricky Nelson).  Lilly swears that Ted looks just like Alex, her former partner who mysteriously vanished.  Doc suggests that Ted might be suffering from stress-related amnesia.  Fortunately, Ted falls in love with Lilly and, after she kisses him, he starts to slowly remember bits of his past life as Alex.  That’s the power of Valentine’s Day on The Love Boat!

I loved this episode.  I took French in high school and college and I used to be really pretentious about it so I definitely related to Brigitte and Yvonne.  And the amnesia story was just intriguing enough to hold my attention.  Finally, I could help but laugh at how impressed everyone was with Nick and his match-making computer.  There was nothing that Nick said that sounded different from what we currently hear in and EHarmony commercials.  That said, I agree with Julie.  Romance should be spontaneous and unpredictable, not pre-programmed.

The Valentine’s Day cruise was success!  Will the success continue?  We’ll find out next week!

Retro Television Reviews: Fantasy Island 1.10 “The Over-The-Hill-Gang/Poof, You’re A Movie Star!”

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 1.10 “The Over-The-Hill-Gang/Poof, You’re A Movie Star!”

(Dir by Earl Bellamy, originally aired on April 15th, 1978)

Uh-oh, Tattoo has a new money-making scheme!  It involves a parrot.  While the exact details of Tattoo’s schemes are a bit vague, it all involves teaching the parrot how to speak.  Again, I’m not sure how exactly that’s going to make Tattoo a lot of money but whatever.  I like parrots.

Still, it’s hard not to notice that Tattoo seems to spend a lot of time trying to figure out ways to make extra money.  Tattoo is the second-in-command at the world’s most prestigious resort so you have to wonder why he always seems to be so desperate to bring in some extra cash.  It’s not like Tattoo is paying rent or even buying his own food.  That’s all provided by Mr. Roarke and the island.  Add to that, it has been implied that Tattoo is in charge of the island’s finances and that’s not a job that you give to someone who can’t handle his own money.  Maybe Tattoo isn’t looking to make money for himself.  Maybe Fantasy Island is on the verge of bankruptcy due to Roarke’s habit of giving people free fantasies.  Maybe the talking parrot is Tattoo’s latest scheme to save the Island.  If that’s the case, then Tattoo really is the secret hero of this series.

I actually wish this episode has spent more time with the parrot because that little throw-away story was still more interesting than the two main stories.  Don’t get me wrong.  This isn’t a bad episode.  It’s just a bit bland.

Shirley Russell (Barbi Benton) comes to the Island with dreams of becoming a movie star.  Mr. Roarke simply snaps his fingers and suddenly, Shirley has not only an agent but also hundreds of fans following her everywhere that she goes.  She also has a role in a big movie that will be filming on the Island!  When the film’s producer (played by a veteran sleazy guy Herb Edelman) tells Shirley that she’ll have to film a nude scene for the movie, Shirley abandons her fantasy and happily reunites with her earnest fiancé.  Barbi Benton was likable as Shirley but the fantasy itself was predictable and on the blah side.  Shirley’s shock over the proposed nude scene made me wonder if she had actually watched any movies other than The Sound of Music.

The other fantasy dealt with Spencer Randolph (Ray Bolger), an aging bank robber who wanted to pull off one last job with his old gang before marrying a wealthy businesswoman.  Bolger’s old gang was made up of familiar Hollywood character actors like Tom Ewell, Foster Brooks, and Phil Foster.  Along with getting the old gang back together again, Spencer was also able to foil a blackmail scheme.  Again, the storyline was a bit bland but the chemistry between all of the Hollywood veterans was enjoyable.  Ray Bolger was just as spry and likable here as he was when he played the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.  Interestingly enough, 39 years passed between The Wizard of Oz and this episode of Fantasy Island and Bolger was still younger than Joe Biden is today when he played Spencer Randolph, the leader of the over-the-hill gang.