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!
This week, The Love Boat becomes …. THE DIVORCE BOAT!
Episode 2.15 “My Sister, Irene / The ‘Now’ Marriage / Second Time Around”
(Dir by Roger Duchowny, originally aired on January 13th, 1979)
Dr. Todd Gardiner (Peter Marshall) is the author of a best-selling book that advocates for open marriage but he’s never had one himself. He’s determined to finally have an affair while sailing on The Love Boat and, just to prove that he’s not a hypocrite, he’s brought along his wife, Eleanor (Barbara Rush), and he’s encouraging her to have an affair as well! Initially, Eleanor is not particularly enthusiastic about the idea of cheating on her husband, with or without his permission. But then she meets Captain Stubing!
The Captain and Eleanor have a very chaste shipboard romance. He gives her a tour of Puerto Vallarta but that’s it. As the Captain explains it, he’s a traditionalist at heart and, even though he’s fallen in love with Eleaonor, he’s not the type to take part in an adulterous affair. Eleanor realizes that the same is true for her. And, of course, Todd realizes that he doesn’t want an open marriage either!
However, it’s too late for Todd. Both Eleanor and Todd’s cruise girlfriend, Nancy Bishop (Phyllis Davis), reject him. Eleanor announces that she’s going to file for divorce. Since that was The Love Boat, I was expecting Eleanor to suddenly change her mind but the episode ended with Todd alone and Eleanor promising that she would see the Captain again in the future.
I believe this is the first episode of The Love Boat to end with a breakup instead of a romance. This episode also came out very much against open marriage, which isn’t surprising. For all the innuendos and the jokes about people hooking up during each cruise, The Love Boat was a pretty conservative show at heart. If you hooked up on the boat, you were expected to get married on shore.
Speaking of marriage and divorce, another passenger on this cruise was Doc Bricker’s ex-wife, Betty (Tina Louise). Doc Bricker found himself falling once again for Betty, which was a problem as Betty was traveling with her fiancé, Lance (Lyle Waggoner). Except, of course, Lance was just an actor that Betty hired to make Doc jealous. But then Lance and Betty fell in love for real and decided to get married. It was incredibly silly but Lyle Waggoner’s dumb-but-earnest actor schtick did make me laugh.
Finally, Irene Austin (Martha Raye) boarded the ship with plans to reunite with her old college classmate, Andy (Ray Bolger). However, upon discovering that Andy was still as spry and funny as he was in college, Irene panicked and introduced herself as being her own sister. Andy saw through the ruse and he and Irene left the ship as a couple, which was sweet. I mean, it was another silly story but the old school, showbiz veteran charm of Raye and Bolger carried the story.
All in all, it was a good cruise this week.