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, it’s love!
Episode 1.4 “Message for Maureen / Gotcha / Acapulco Connection”
(Directed by Stuart Margolin, Richard Kinon, and Peter Baldwin, originally aired on October 15th, 1977)
Oh no! It’s a stowaway! I guess any television show that took place on a cruise ship would have to feature at least one storyline featuring a stowaway. It’s a bit disconcerting that The Love Boat couldn’t make it for more than four episodes before using the most obvious plotline but then again, the show ended up running for 9 seasons and a movie. So, apparently, audiences didn’t mind and I have a feeling that there will probably be many more stowaway stories to come.
The stowaway in this episode is April Lopez (played by Charo). Apparently, April became a recurring character, one who appeared in almost every season. In this, her first appearance, she sneaks onto the boat in Acapulco. The captain is not happy when she’s discovered hiding in a laundry hamper but everyone else is charmed by just how loud and talkative she is. Because there’s no available rooms, April is housed with Doc Bricker until she can be dropped off at the next port. Of course, Doc falls in love because Doc fell in love with everyone who came into his exam room. Seriously, Doc was an HR nightmare waiting to happen.
Of course, April is not the only exhausting person to be on the ship. There’s also Cyril Wolfe (Milton Berle), a nonstop practical joker whose wife (Audra Lindley) is getting sick of dealing with him and really, who can blame her? Cyril greets a total stranger with a joy buzzer. He carries around a fake, detachable hand so that he can freak people out. Cyril can’t even give it a rest during their vacation! Pretty soon, not only his wife but the crew are pretty sick of him. (Most of the people watching the show will be sick of him, too.) Do they conspire to toss Cyril overboard? They could probably get away with it, seeing as how all of the ship’s nominal authority figures are busy dealing with a stowaway who loves to sing. Somehow, Cyril survives his trip and he and his wife end up more in love than ever.
Finally, Maureen Mitchell (Brenda Benet) is a former tennis player who is now in a wheelchair. All she wants is a few days of vacation before she meets with a surgeon who might be able to help her walk again. Unfortunately, she discovers that an arrogant sportswriter named John (Bill Bixby) is also on the cruise! At first, she wants nothing to do with him but when John injures his knee and has to use a wheelchair for the rest of the cruise, the two of them fall in love….
Hold on. You know what just occurred to me? Last week’s episode featured Robert Reed and Loretta Swit as two people who don’t like each other but just happen to end up on the same cruise. This episode featured Brenda Benet and Bill Bixby as two people who don’t like each other but just happen to end up on the same cruise …. how long did The Love Boat writers last before they said, “Okay, we’re out of stories. Let’s start repeating ourselves?”
Anyway, this episode was a mixed bag. Charo and Milton Berle were not particularly subtle performers and their storylines felt as if they were designed to invite them to indulge in their worst impulses as performers. But Bill Bixby and Brenda Benet had a lot of chemistry as John and Maureen and their story actually worked as a result. (Bixby and Benet were married at the time they appeared in this episode.) Plus, the ship looked lovely. So did the ocean. That’s what really matters.