Retro Television Reviews: Fantasy Island 1.11 “Reunion/Anniversary”


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, Fantasy Island is all about confronting the mistakes of the past.

Episode 1.11 “Reunion/Anniversary”

(Dir by Allen Baron and John Newland, originally aired on April 29th, 1978)

Before I talk about the two fantasies in this episode, here’s a bit of trivia.  This episode was originally intended to be the first episode of the series.  That perhaps explains why it has a tone that is more similar to the original TV movie than to the more light-hearted episodes that followed.  Just as in the made-for-TV movie, Mr. Roarke is a bit of an enigma in this episode, one who has little trouble manipulating his guests in order to get the results that he wants.  This episode even ends with Tattoo saying, “Thank God,” and Mr. Roarke replying with a mysterious half-smile.  Roarke isn’t quite as sinister as he was in the TV movie but he’s also not quite the cheery host that he would become in later episodes.  Roarke, at one point, also mentions that he has people who research everyone’s fantasy before choosing whether to grant it.  That’s certainly different from later episodes, in which the fantasies are apparently available to anyone who can pay or who has been lucky enough to win Roarke’s sympathy.

Of course, when it came time to air the first season of Fantasy Island, this episode got pushed back and it aired as the eleventh episode.  As a result, it presents a bit of a change-of-pace from the episodes that aired the weeks before.  One can only imagine how someone who decided to start watching the show because of the fantasy where Don Knotts played a private eye reacted to this episode, in which four guests were stalked by a murderer who wore giallo-style black gloves.

The guests being stalked by the murderer are Agnes (Pamela Franklin), Hannah (Hilarie Thompson), Carol (Michele Lee), and Jill (Sue Loyon).  They are all members of the Honeybees, a group of former high school cheerleaders who are having a ten-year reunion.  Their fantasy is to spend the weekend at a recreation of the Beehive, a cabin where they used to hang out while in high school.  Of course, every one of them has a dark secret and, after one of the Honeybees is apparently blown up in a nearby barn, the three remaining Honeybees have to solve the mystery.  It all gets fairly dark and sordid but, fear not!  Mr. Roarke shows up and even takes part in some hand-to-hand combat before revealing the truth about what is going on at the Beehive.

(Again, this is not something that we would normally expect from Mr. Roarke.)

Meanwhile, troubled couple Toni (Lucie Arnaz) and Tom Elgin (Ronny Cox, looking slightly embarrassed) come to the island for their anniversary!  Toni wants to relive the weekend that they got married, when they were still happy and before Tom became a drunk.  All of their old friends are invited to the island and soon, Tom is flirting with another woman while Toni is flirting with another man.  Mr. Roarke even invites Rev. Allen (Stuart Nisbet), the man who performed the original wedding ceremony.  The reverend explains that, due to a mix-up at the licensing office, he wasn’t actually legally allowed to perform marriages when Toni and Tom get married so it turns out that Tom and Toni have been living in sin all this time!  Now, Tom and Toni have to decide whether to get married for real or to go their separate ways.

I vote for separate ways, just because they really do seem to be miserable together.  However, it turns out that Mr. Roarke has a plan to keep this awful couple together.

The decision to move this episode from the start of the season to the latter half was definitely a good one.  It was probably a bit too dark and dramatic to really work as the premiere episode but, as the 11th episode, it provides a nice change-of-pace.  After several comedic and somewhat shallow episodes, this episode emphasizes the dramatic side of Fantasy Island.  In this episode, the ultimate lesson appears to be that fantasies are fun but that it’s far more important to deal with the real world.  In other words, Fantasy Island is a nice place to visit but only Mr. Roarke and Tattoo should live there.

Retro Television Reviews: The Love Boat 1.5 “Isaac the Groupie / Mr. Popularity / Help! Murder!”


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!

Just remember …. the Love Boat promises something for everyone.

Episode 1.5 “Isaac the Groupie / Mr. Popularity / Help! Murder!”

(Directed by Peter Baldwin, Tony Webster, and James Sheldon, originally aired on October 22nd, 1977)

This episode was all about mistaken identities.

Robert Tanner (Jim Nabors) is the most annoying man to ever set sail on the Love Boat.  All he does is talk and talk about what he had for dinner.  Unfortunately, he’s had the same liver and onions dinner for several years now so it’s not like he has much to say that would be considered to be new.  Everyone on the ship avoids Mr. Tanner but Captain Stubing insists that Julie figure out a way to keep him happy.  (No, not like that….)  Fortunately, two passengers read an article about an international jewel thief named Roscoe Toler and they decide that Tanner must be Toler.  (What?)  Suddenly, everyone is hanging out with Mr. Tanner and listening to his stories.  I’m not sure why being mistaken for a criminal would make everyone want to hang out with Tanner.  I mean, aren’t they worried about their jewelry? 

While that’s going on, Isaac is excited because his favorite singer, Roxy Blue (Diahann Carroll), is sailing on the boat.  She’s using an assumed name.  Not even the rest of the crew know that she’s onboard.  But Isaac recognizes her as soon as she sits down at the bar and soon, the two of them are having a ship-board romance.  Good for Isaac and, even more importantly, good for Ted Lange, who gives a really likable performance in this episode.  Unfortunately, once the cruise ends, Roxy will go back to her life as the world’s most famous singer and Isaac will once again be the ship’s only bartender.  This is one of those storylines that would be unthinkable today.  Just try to imagine any celebrity managing to sneak on a boat (or anywhere) without the world knowing.

Finally, in our third and final storyline, Bert Fredricks (David Groh) wants to throw a surprise party for his wife, Denise (Michele Lee).  Unfortunately, his wife spots him talking to Julie and decides that Bert is cheating on her.  Then she overhears Gopher talking about “blowing up” something and she decides that Bert is going to kill her!  (Gopher was actually talking about the photographs that Bert had asked him to secretly take of his wife.)  Everything is eventually worked out but seriously, how bad was their marriage that Denise had absolutely no doubt that Bert was going to kill her so that he could run off with a cruise director that he had only known for a day?  

Anyway, this was another one of those mixed episodes.  The Isaac storyline was nice, largely because of the chemistry between Lange and Carroll.  The other two storylines were both examples of the type of thing that drives me crazy, where everything could be resolved if people just talked to each other and used a little common sense.  That said, Michele Lee had a few funny moments of panic.  I’d like to have a surprise birthday party on a cruise ship.  That’s the important thing.

Film Review: The Comic (dir by Carl Reiner)


The 1969 film, The Comic, details the long and not particularly happy life of silent screen star Billy Bright (played by Dick Van Dyke).  Billy Bright tells us his story from beyond the grave.  The film opens with his funeral, which is sparsely attended and features the type of self-consciously mawkish eulogies that are usually trotted out whenever a generally unlikable person dies.  The only sign of life at the funeral comes when Billy’s oldest friend, Cockeye (Mickey Rooney), throws a pie at one of the speakers.  The speaker says that the pie was Billy’s final joke.

Billy Bright was a funny performer but a miserable man.  That’s pretty much the entire plot of The Comic.  We see the young Billy, performing in silent films and winning laughs through the seemingly impossible contortions through which he puts his body and his face.  Off-screen, Billy marries one of his co-stars (Michele Lee) and starts a production company.  When she discovers that he’s been cheating on her, their divorce is a major Hollywood scandal.

Even before the coming of the talkies, Billy struggles with alcohol.  Once the talkies do come, his career is pretty much over.  Billy became a star in silent films and he stubbornly wants to continue to make silent films, despite the fact that there’s no longer an audience for them.  Billy quickly goes from being a star to being forgotten.  He’s reduced to walking down Hollywood Boulevard with Cockeye and looking at the names under his feet.  When he reaches his name, he discovers that someone has dropped their gum on it.

Billy finally does get his comeback in the late 60s but it’s not much of a comeback.  He appears on a talk show and it’s hard not to cringe a little as the clearly infirm Billy duplicates some of his silent era pratfalls.  He’s reduced to appearing in a rather awkward commercial for a laundry detergent called, I kid you not, White-ee.  “That’s White-ee, baby!” his commercial co-star says after a freshly cleaned Billy emerges from a washing machine.

The idea that most funny performers are actually rather serious and depressing off-stage is certainly nothing new.  Judd Apatow has basically built an entire career out of making films about how funny people are actually carrying around tons of emotional baggage.  The thing distinguishes The Comic from so many other films about angsty comedians is that Billy Bright himself never seems to have a single moment of self-awareness.  Usually, films about miserable celebrities will at least have one scene where the main character realizes that his misery is all his fault.  Billy Bright is pretty much a jerk from the minute we meet him and he’s still a jerk when the film ends.  He’s the type of guy who makes a big deal about picking up his son from school but who still manages to grab the wrong kid because it’s been so long since he’s spent any time with his family that he’s really not sure what his son looks like.  Towards the end of the film, we see him watching one of his old films and what we notice is that he doesn’t seem amused at all.  Is he thinking about how he lost it all or is it possible that this man who made millions laugh never really had much of sense of humor himself?  The film leaves it to you to decide.

The Comic was written and directed by Carl Reiner, who undoubtedly knew quite a few Billy Brights in his life.  As such, the film feels authentic in a way that a lot of other films about creative people do not.  The Comic is a well-made film.  It’s hard not to appreciate the film’s obviously affection for Old Hollywood.  That said, Billy Bright is such an unpleasant character that I found the film difficult to enjoy.  Van Dyke is genuinely funny whenever he’s doing Billy’s silent film shtick and he’s genuinely tiresome when Billy’s ego gets out of control.  It’s a good performance as a generally unlikable character.  How you react to The Comic will probably depend on how much sympathy you can summon up for a character who doesn’t really seem to deserve any.