Retro Television Reviews: The Love Boat 1.3 “Ex Plus Y / Golden Agers / Graham and Kelly”


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!

Love!  Was it exciting and new this week?

Episode 1.3 “Ex Plus Y / Golden Agers / Graham and Kelly”

(Directed by  Adam Rafkin and Stuart Margolin, originally aired on October 8th, 1977)

The third episode of The Love Boat is all about age differences, growing together, and growing apart.

For instance, it’s love at first sight when Julie spots Jim Wright (Charles Frank).  I mean, hey, his name is even “Mr. Wright!”  And it turns out that, even though he looks like he’s 40, Mr. Wright is actually only 30!  And he likes Julie too!  The problem, however, is that Jim has been hired to serve as a tour guide for a group of elderly tourists.  And those tourists (led by Edward Andrews) simply will not leave Mr. Wright alone!  Every time Mr. Wright tries to spend some time alone with Julie, the old people show up.  Obviously, the show means for us to sympathize with Julie and Jim but I think I’m actually on the side of the old people as far as this is concerned.  I mean, they didn’t pay money so that Jim could have a vacation.  They paid Jim to be their tour guide and, unless he’s going to refund their money, that’s what he needs to concentrate on.  He and Julie can fall in love once Jim is off the clock.

While Julie pursues Jim, 12 year-olds Kelly (Kristy McNichol) and Graham (a very young Scott Baio) pursue their own romance.  Or actually, it’s Kelly who pursues the romance.  Graham likes Kelly but he’s also immature and not sure how to talk to girls so he always ends up doing or saying something silly or stupid whenever he and Kelly are on the verge of having a “real” moment.  On the one hand, this was actually a fairly realistic storyline, at least by Love Boat standards.  On the other hand, Baio and McNichol looked so much alike that any scene featuring the two of them was like that picture of the two Spider-Men pointing at each other.  Graham also ended up with a very convoluted backstory to explain why he was traveling with a British grandmother (played by Hermoine Baddeley) despite being a kid from Brooklyn.  It was one of those overly complicated and distracting things that could have been solved by simply not casting a British stage actress as Baio’s grandmother or not casting a very American actor as Baddeley’s grandson.

Finally, Robert Reed and Loretta Swit played a divorced couple who found themselves on the same cruise.  At first, they dreaded seeing each other but then, eventually, they agreed that they still had feelings for each other.  Surprisingly enough, the story did not end with Reed and Swit getting back together.  Instead, they just grew as people and were now ready to let go of the bitterness that was holding them back in their new relationships.  That was actually a pretty good story and I appreciated the realistic resolution.  However, before making peace with his ex-wife, Robert Reed came across as being so angry and so bitter that it was actually kind of scary to watch.  It turns out that the Love Boat has skeet shooting.  If you don’t think the sight of Robert “Mr. Brady” Reed with a rifle wouldn’t be terrifying, this episode is here to prove you wrong!

I have to give this episode a mixed review.  Two of the stories worked better than I was expecting but this episode suffered from the miscasting of some of the passengers.  Still, the ship and the ocean looked as lovely as ever and really, that’s the important thing.

Film Review: The End (1978, directed by Burt Reynolds)


What if you were dying and no one cared?

That is the theme of The End, which is probably the darkest film that Burt Reynolds ever starred in, let alone directed. Burt plays Sonny Lawson, a shallow real estate developer who is told that he has a fatal blood disease and that, over the next six months, he is going to die a slow and painful death. After seeking and failing to find comfort with both religion and sex, Sonny decides to kill himself. The only problem is that every time he tries, he fails. He can’t even successfully end things. When he meets an mental patient named Marlon Borunki (Dom DeLuise), he hires the man to murder him. Marlon is determined to get the job done, even if Sonny himself later changes his mind.

Yes, it’s a comedy.

The script for The End was written by Jerry Belson in 1971. Though Belson also worked on the scripts for Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Always, he was best-known for his work on sitcoms. (Belson was an early collaborator of Garry Marshall’s.) The End was originally written with Woody Allen in mind but when Allen passed on it to concentrate on directing his own movies about death, the script spent five years in limbo. Reynolds later said that, when he eventually came across The End, he knew he had to do it because it was the only script that reflected “my strange sense of comedy.” United Artists was uncertain whether there was much box office potential in a film about a self-centered man dying and they required Reynolds to first make the commercially successful Hooper before they would produce The End.

The End was made for 3 million dollars and it went on to gross 40 million. That the film was a box office success is a testament to the late 70s starpower of Burt Reynolds because it’s hard to think of any other mainstream comedy that goes as much out of its way to alienate the audience as The End does. While watching The End for the first time, most viewers will probably expect two things to happen. First off, Sonny will learn to appreciate life and be a better person. Secondly, it will turn out that his fatal diagnosis was incorrect. Instead, neither of those happen. Sonny is going to die no matter what and he never becomes a better person. What’s more is that he never even shows any real interest in becoming a better person. The film’s signature scene comes when Sonny prays to God and offers to give up all of his money if he survives, just to immediately start backtracking on the amount. It’s funny but it’s also a sign that if you’re looking for traditional Hollywood sentiment, you’re not going to find it here.

Burt not only stared in The End but he also directed it and, as was usually the case whenever he directed a film, the cast is a mix of friends and Hollywood veterans. Sally Field plays Sonny’s flakey, hippie girlfriend while Robby Benson is cast as a young priest who fails to provide Sonny with any spiritual comfort. Joanne Woodward plays his estranged wife and Kristy McNichol plays his daughter. Myrna Loy and Pat O’Brien play his parents. Norman Fell, Carl Reiner, and Strother Martin play various doctors. The movie is stolen by Dom DeLuise, playing the only person who seems to care that Sonny’s dying, if just because it offers him an excuse to kill Sonny before the disease does. DeLuise was a brilliant comedic actor whose talents were often underused in films. The End sets DeLuise free and he gives a totally uninhibited performance.

Despite DeLuise’s performance, The End doesn’t always work as well as it seems like it should. Though Reynolds always said that this film perfectly captured his sense of humor, his direction often seems to be struggling to strike the right balance between comedy and tragedy and, until DeLuise shows up, the movie frequently drags. As a character, the only interesting thing about Sonny is that he’s being played by Burt Reynolds. That is both the film’s main flaw and the film’s biggest strength. Sonny may not be interesting but, because we’re not used to seeing Burt cast as such a self-loathing, self-pitying character, it is interesting to watch a major star so thoroughly reveal all of his fears and insecurities.

If you’re a Burt Reynolds fan, The End is an interesting film, despite all of its flaws. Burt often described this as being one of his favorite and most personal films. It’s a side of Burt Reynolds that few of his other films had the courage to show.