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 have a special, super-sized episode of Fantasy Island!
Episode 2.18 “Casting Director/Pentagram/A Little Ball”
(Dir by George McCowan and Michael Vejar, originally aired on February 17th, 1979)
This week, we get three fantasies, instead of the usual two!
Sister Mary Theresa (Lisa Hartman) is a nun who has been struggling with her faith even since the death of her mentor. Her fantasy is a chance to meet the only mortal man that her mentor ever loved. Colin McArthur (John Saxon) is tall, dark, handsome, and he loves animals! Not only does he seem like the perfect guy but he’s also played by John Saxon. Today, Saxon is best-known for appearing in horror movies and for playing B-movie villains and it’s easy to forget that he could also be quite a charming actor when given the chance. That said, as charming as he is, Colin just can’t compete with God and Sister Mary Theresa once again dons her habit before leaving the Island.
Meanwhile, Felix Birdsong (Don Knotts) has spent his life fantasizing about being a big time Hollywood casting agent and he gets his chance when he comes to the Island and is put in charge of selecting the woman who will star in a film called The Most Beautiful Girl In The World. Felix soon discovers that Hollywood isn’t as glamorous as he thought. (Uh, yeah, no doubt.) The film’s producer (Abe Vigoda) is a sleaze. The film is being funded by a combination of gangsters and oil sheikhs (one of whom is played by Cesar Romero) and all of them expect Felix to select their girlfriends for the role. Felix ends up very disillusioned, though you have to wonder what type of sheltered existence he experienced before coming to the island. I mean, he’s shocked to discover that Hollywood can be a heartless place and that rich men have mistresses! In the end, Felix announces that all 20 of the women will be cast as The Most Beautiful Girl In The World and that every single one of them will get the prize money. Yay! Of course, now the production is probably out of money so it’s not as if the film will ever actually be made. Actually, if I was a contestant in a beauty pageant and the judge just declared a 20-girl tie instead of giving me the prize, I would probably think he was the biggest jerk in the world. Boooo! Felix, you jerk!
Finally, Jane Garwood (Florence Henderson, continuing the tradition of Brady Bunch cast members showing up on the island) is a television news reporter who recently gained a lot of attention for a report she filed on Satanic cults. As a result of the report, a Satanic priest put a curse on Jane. Jane laughed it off until all of the men in her life started dying. Jane’s fantasy is to learn whether the curse is real. Mr. Roarke’s solution is to become the new man in Jane’s life. When he doesn’t die, Jane will see that the curse is not real….
Except, the curse is real! The cult has followed Jane to the Island and now they’re not only trying to kill her but Mr. Roarke as well! I have to admit that I’ve always assumed that Mr. Roarke was meant to be a supernatural being and I also assumed that he was immortal. Apparently, that’s not completely true. Still, despite the cult leader kidnapping Jane and dancing around with a cobra, Roarke is able to reveal that the cult leader is not only not a supernatural being but that he’s also Jane’s ex-boyfriend!
This episode was a fun mix of cartoonish comedy, sincere romance, and ludicrous melodrama. It was entertainingly silly in the way that only Fantasy Island could be at its best. I mean, with the exception of The Brady Bunch Hour, how many other shows would have the guts to give us Florence Henderson being menaced by a Satanic cult? For that, you have to go to Fantasy Island!