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!
Fantasy Island has a desert? Read on to find out more.
Episode 2.4 “Best Seller/The Tomb”
(Dir by George McCowan, originally aired on October 14th, 1978)
Fantasy Island can be a strange place.
Just consider the fantasy of Neville Marlowe (Barry Sullivan). Marlowe is an archeologist who has devoted his life to seeking the tomb of a lost Egyptian pharaoh who is believed to have been King Tut’s twin brother. His fantasy is to finally find the tomb and to explore it with his wife (Shelley Fabares) and his associate (David Opatoshu). He wants to do this even though the tomb, if it does exist, is said to be cursed.
Mr. Roarke informs Marlowe that he’s in luck. There’s an archeological dig currently taking place on the island and there’s a good chance that it might finally lead to the discovery of the tomb….
Now, this brings up some interesting issues. First off, the dig is taking place in the desert. Since when has Fantasy Island, a tropical paradise, had a desert? Secondly, even if you accept that idea that Fantasy Island is home to a large desert, why exactly would it also be home to the tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh? Though the show always kept it a bit vague as to just where exactly the island was located, it’s always been suggested that it’s near Hawaii. The actual natives of the island (as opposed to Mr. Roarke and Tattoo) all appear to be Polynesian. When the guests get off the plane at the start of each episode, they’re given a lei and a tropical drink. My point is that there’s never been anything about the show that would suggest that Fantasy Island is anywhere near Egypt. Certainly, it’s possible that an Egyptian ship may have landed at Fantasy Island at some point in the past, just as it’s possible that ancient Egyptians also landed in South America. But still, there’s no reason why a pharaoh would be buried on Fantasy Island as opposed to along the banks of the Nile.
It makes no sense but, for whatever reason, the tomb is indeed on Fantasy Island. Entering the tomb leads to Marlowe’s wife having several nightmares about being wrapped up like a mummy. It’s nicely creepy but it doesn’t lead to anything. Because Marlowe decides to send the artifacts to Egypt as opposed to sending them to a British museum. he is spared the curse.
Meanwhile, Barney Hunter (Desi Arnaz, Jr.) is a bookstore clerk who suffers from crippling shyness. His fantasy is to be a best selling author so Mr. Roarke informs him that he is now the author of the world’s most popular book about sex and, as a result, hundreds of his fans are coming to the island to meet him. The problem with that, of course, is that Barney is a virgin. So, you have to wonder why Mr. Roarke would make Barney the world’s leading expert on sex when he doesn’t know anything about it. My guess is that Mr. Roarke thought it would be funny but it’s actually kind of mean-spirited. Anyway, Barney meets Angela (Maureen McCormick), who is also a virgin. They fall in love but Angela’s mother (Gloria DeHaven) refuses to allow Angela to see a man who has written a “filthy book.” Again, it’s hard not to feel that Roarke is having a little fun at Barney’s expense. Fortunately, things work out in the end and that’s good. Arnaz and McCormick were a cute couple.
Finally, Tattoo entered a jingle contest and won! Unfortunately, it turned out that first prize was a trip to Fantasy Island. Mr. Roarke had a good laugh about that one and I have to admit that I did too. Fantasy Island just has a way of sweeping you up in all of its silliness.