Retro Television Review: Love Boat 1.21 “Taking Sides/Going By The Book/A Friendly Little Game”


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 time to once again experience the magic of The Love Boat!

Episode 1.21 “Taking Sides/Going By The Book/A Friendly Little Game”

(Dir by Richard Kinon, originally aired on February 18th, 1978)

This week’s episode begins with the extremely nerdy Howard Wilson (Harvey Jason) preparing to board the ship.  Before he does so, he’s approached by his best friend, Bernie (Paul Sylvan).  Bernie gives Howard a book on how to talk to women.  Apparently, this is something that Howard’s not good at but Bernie swears that the book will change his life.  There’s a Roy Lichtenstein-style picture of a man and a woman kissing on the cover of the book so Howard decides that Bernie knows what he’s talking about.

On the boat, Howard immediately notices Sheila Lawrence (Georgia Engel).  However, Sheila’s overprotective father (Herb Voland) has specifically asked Captain Stubing to make sure that no one seduces his daughter.  The captain assigns Doc Bricker (Bernie Kopell) to keep an eye on her, which makes absolutely no sense.  Over the course of the last twenty episodes, Doc has yet to meet a woman who he has not hit on.  Doc is a walking HR nightmare and quite frankly, I would be kind of uncomfortable going to him for a medical examination.  He seems like he would be a little bit handsy, if you get my drift.

Anyway, Doc turns out to be pretty bad at his job because Howard still manages to hit on Sheila.  Of course, Howard’s just doing what the book tells him to do.  Eventually, though, he realizes that he doesn’t need the book and Shelia realizes that she needs to spend more time on her own happiness and stop worry about what her father wants.  Yay!  It’s another Love Boat success story,

Meanwhile, Scott (Robert Urich) and Ellen (Diana Canova) are newlyweds who seem to be totally in love until they make the mistake of having dinner with an old married couple, Max (Robert Mandan) and Gladys (Audrey Meadows).  Listening to Max and Gladys bicker soon leads to Scott and Ellen bickering and it looks like their marriage might be over.  But again, the magic of The Love Boat leads to everyone realizing that bickering is a part of marriage and that you can still love someone even if you disagree with them.  Yay!  Robert Urich and Diana Canova were such a cute couple.  They just looked like they belonged together.

Finally, poor old Wendell Snead (Harry Morgan) is taking his wife on a cruise that he can’t really afford.  In fact, he secretly took out a mortgage on their house in order to buy the tickets.  Wendell has plan, though!  He has a set of marked playing cards and he beats Gopher at several games of gin rummy.  When the crew discovers that he’s been cheating, their initial reaction is to cheat back.  But when they learn why he’s been cheating, they give him all the money from the ship’s emergency fund.  Awwwwww!

This was a sweet episode.  Yes, the stuff with the book and the overprotective father was pretty stupid but the other two stories were entertaining.  Harry Morgan’s melancholy performance was the episode’s stand-out.  The fact that the crew gave him money instead of calling the cops brought tears to my mismatched eyes.  Nicely done, Love Boat.

What will happen next week?  We’ll find out in seven days!

Retro Television Reviews: Fantasy Island 2.1 “Homecoming/The Sheikh”


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, we begin season two of Fantasy Island!

Episode 2.1 “Homecoming/The Sheikh”

(Dir by Earl Bellamy, originally aired on September 16th, 1978)

The second season of Fantasy Island begins with a bizarre mishmash of tones.

As usual, there are two fantasies.  The first fantasy features David Birney as Alan Boardman.  As Mr. Roarke explains it, Alan served in Viet Nam.  He was horribly burned in battle and captured by the Viet Cong.  He spent years, as an amnesiac, in a POW camp.  In the United States, he was reported to have been killed in action.  Finally, he was released from the POW camp and he underwent extensive plastic surgery.  He now looks completely different than he did in his past life.  It was only after the plastic surgery that Alan remembered who he was.  He also remembered that he had a wife (Lynda Day George) and a son (Ronnie Scribner).  Alan comes to Fantasy Island, hoping to be reunited with his family.  However, there’s a complication.  Alan’s wife has remarried and she still believes Alan to be dead.  Alan meets his wife and his son but he has to pretend to be a stranger.  Alan must decide whether to reveal his true identity or to accept that his wife has moved on and now has a new life.

Wow, that’s really dark!  It’s an extremely serious story, one that ends on a bittersweet note that will leave no one truly satisfied.  David Birney and Lynda Day George both give intense performances as they struggle to come to terms with the horror of the Vietnam War….

Meanwhile, the other fantasy features Arte Johnson as Edgar, a meek school teacher who wants to be a sheikh with a harem.  Seriously, that’s his entire fantasy.  Of course, once he becomes a sheikh, he discovers that his servant (played by Sid Haig) is a part of a conspiracy to murder him.  It also turns out that a member of the harem is actually one of Edgar’s fellow teachers, Yasmine (Georgia Engel).  Yasmine’s fantasy was for Edgar to finally notice her so Roarke’s solution was to force her to be a member of a harem!  (Really, Mr. Roarke?)  This fantasy is played for laughs and the comedy is extremely broad.  It’s somewhat jarring to go from David Birney obsessing on the war to Arte Johnson grinning at the members of his harem.  It’s such a tonal mismatch that it makes it difficult to get invested in either fantasy.

While all of this is going on, Tattoo is feeling depressed and suffering from ennui.  Mr. Roarke solves this problem by giving Tattoo a tiny car that he can drive around.  In this episode, Mr. Roarke doesn’t seem to openly dislike Tattoo as much as he did during the first season so I’ll be interested to see if that trend continues.  Reportedly, Ricardo Montalban and Herve Villechaize did not have the best working relationship but, in this episode, Roarke and Tattoo actually seem to have a vague respect of one another.  It’s a change of pace.

Anyway, this episode doesn’t work because the fantasies don’t really mesh well.  However …. SID HAIG!

Retro Television Review: Fantasy Island 1.1 “Escape” / “Cinderella Girls”


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 1996.  The entire show is currently streaming on Tubi!

Smiles, smiles, everyone….

Episode 1.1 “Escape/Cinderalla Girls”

(Directed by Don Weis, originally aired on January 28th, 1978)

Last week, while reviewing the Fantasy Island pilot, I commented on the fact that Mr. Roarke seemed to be a bit sinister, almost as if he took delight in the idea of mortals discovering that their fantasies weren’t as wonderful as they were expecting.

In the first regular episode of Fantasy Island, it’s made clear that, while Mr. Roarke may occasionally act like he doesn’t care, it’s only to teach a lesson.

When internationally renowned stage musician Gregory Udall (Bert Convy) requests that he be allowed to perform the world’s greatest escape, Mr. Roarke doesn’t appear to be the least bit concerned when Udall is transported to Devil’s Island, the infamous French island prison.  Devil’s Island was known for being escape proof.  It was also known for being harsh even by the prison standards.  75% of the people sentenced to Devil’s Island died before their sentence ended.  When Udall reaches the island, he discovers that the Warden (Reggie Nadler, best-known for playing the vampire in Salem’s Lost) doesn’t care whether he lives or dies.  He’s also told, by another prisoner named Ipsy Dauphin (Robert Clary), that Mr. Roarke regularly abandons people at the prison!

After Udall’s first escape fails, he is visited in the island’s infirmary by Mr. Roarke himself.  Udall says that he’s ready to give up and opt out of the fantasy.  Mr. Roarke informs him that failure is not an option.  He also suggests that Udall enjoy his cigarette because….

Agck!

Fear not, though, Mr. Roarke is not evil.  Instead, he’s just giving Udall the extra push that he needs to not only successfully escape from the prison but to take Ipsy with him as well.  Udall not only gets his confidence back but he also saves another human being.  Mr. Roarke may have seemed harsh but it was only to make sure that everyone got something out of the fantasy.  As well, it’s revealed that Ipsy was not actually prisoner but was instead Fantasy Island’s head chef.

Mr. Roarke is far more cheerful in the episode’s other fantasy.  Georgia Engel and Diana Canova want to know what it’s like to be wealthy so they not only get makeovers but they also get a lot of new clothes.  Of course, being wealthy also means that they’ll be expected to bid at a charity auction that is being held on Fantasy Island.  (Apparently, Fantasy Island also doubles as a resort for people who don’t have fantasies but just want to spend the weekend hanging out by the pool.)  Georgia Engel ends up running away with a prince.  Diana Canova falls in love with an idealistic doctor who is played by John Saxon.  Does the doctor care that she doesn’t actually have any money?  Fortunately, it turns out that the doctor is poor himself.  Yay!

As you may have guessed, the first episode was a strange mismash of tones.  On the one hand, you had a silly but sweet story about two friends who wanted to pretend to be rich.  On the other hand, you’ve got a harsh prison story featuring Reggie Nadler as a desiccated villain and uber-70s actor Bert Convy as a stage musician.  It really shouldn’t work but it does, largely because the idea of the island is so appealing and Ricardo Montalban seems to be having fun in the role of Mr. Roarke.  Plus, who can resist John Saxon pretending to be from Texas?

The premiere episode got Fantasy Island off to a good start!  Would that continue next week?