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.

Cleaning out the DVR: The Boy In The Plastic Bubble (dir by Randal Kleiser)


This made-for-television film from 1976 tells the story of Tod Lubitch (played by a pre-Saturday Night Fever John Travolta).  Tod was born without an immune system and, as a result, he’s had to spend his entire life in a germ-free, plastic bubble.  When Tod was a child, it wasn’t such a big deal not being able to leave his house without getting in a plastic ark beforehand.  But now, he’s in his teens and he wants to do teenager stuff.  His parents (Robert Reed and Diana Hyland) are overprotective.  His doctor (Ralph Bellamy) says that there’s little chance that Tod’s condition will ever improve.  But the girl next door, Gina (Glynnis O’Connor), finds herself falling in love with Tod and she wants to help him live a normal life.  Gina loves to ride horses and Tod wants to ride one with her.  As we all know, horses are totally germ-free.

The Boy In The Plastic Bubble is one of those movies that has a reputation.  It’s usually cited as being the epitome of 70s schmaltz and, indeed, it is very 70s and it is very schmaltzy.  It’s one of those films where the big dramatic moments are so overdone that they instead often become kind of comedic.  When Tod finally convinces his parents to allow him to attend school, he does so while wearing a special protective outfit that makes him look like a cross between an old school astronaut and a demented teddy bear.  When it looks like his suit might be malfunctioning, he runs into the plastic cell that’s been set up in the back of the classroom and strips it off while all of his classmates watch.  Everyone’s truly impressed by both Tod’s positivity and the sight of a 22 year-old John Travolta rolling around in gym shorts.

Indeed, while watching the film, it’s impossible not to ask certain questions.  In what world, for instance, could Robert Reed, best known for playing the patriarch on The Brady Bunch, be John Travolta’s father?  Why is there such a weird tension between Tod and his mother?  (It may have had something to do with the fact that Travolta was dating Diana Hyland at the time.)  How does Tod keep his hair so perfect while living in a plastic bubble?  Did anyone think that the scene where Tod is carried onto the beach inside a plastic box would be so odd to watch?  Reportedly, The Boy In The Plastic Bubble was based on the lives of two young men who has the same condition as Tod.  According to Wikipedia, one of them was very amused by the idea the Todd’s protective outfit would keep him safe at school.  And, then of course, there’s the film’s ending, which tries to offer a ray of hope but instead leaves you convinced that Tod is going to die at any minute.

And yet, for all the obvious flaws, The Boy In The Plastic Bubble is slightly redeemed by the sincerity that Travolta and O’Connor bring to their roles.  In particular, Travolta brings a smoldering anger to his role, which may not have been present in the script but which feels appropriate for the character.  As played by Travolta, Tod may understand why he’s in the bubble but he’s still pissed off about it.  O’Connor has an even more difficult role to play because Gina’s actions often don’t make a lot of sense.  But O’Connor makes you believe that she’s sincere in her desire to give the Bubble Boy the high school experience that he deserves.  It’s a schmaltzy film but Travolta and O’Connor bring a few moments of emotional honesty to it.

Director Randal Kleiser later worked with John Travolta on Grease.  I don’t think Danny Zuko would have been a good influence on the Boy in the Plastic Bubble.

Horror on the Lens: Bloodlust! (dir by Ralph Booker)


In this 1961 version of The Most Dangerous Game, two vacationing couples find themselves trapped on a tropical island and hunted by the insane Dr. Albert Balleau (Wilton Graf).  Dr. Balleau loves to hunt people.  Why, you could even say that Dr. Balleau has a …. BLOODLUST!

Anyway, this is an undeniably low-budget film and it’s kind of silly but that’s actually what makes it watchable.  There’s a thousand different versions of The Most Dangerous Game out there but this is the only one to feature Robert Reed, the dad from The Brady Bunch, being hunted through the jungle.  If you’re like me and you think that Mike Brady was an authoritarian fascist, this film is for you.

Enjoy!

Snatched (1973, directed by Sutton Roley)


Three women have been kidnapped and are being held prisoner in a lighthouse.  Robin Wood (Tisha Sterling), Kim Sutter (Sheree North), and Barbara Maxvill (Barbara Parkins) are married to three wealthy men and the kidnappers (one of whom is played by the great Anthony Zerbe) assume that the husband will be willing to pay whatever is necessary to get back their wives.  Paul Maxvill (John Saxon) and Bill Sutter (Leslie Nielsen!) are willing to put up the money but Duncan Wood (Howard Duff) scoffs at the idea of paying a million dollars just to see his adulterous wife again!

It sounds like the set-up for a Ransom of Red Chief-type of comedy but Snatched is actually a very serious and intelligent thriller, one that will definitely keep you on your toes as you try to keep up with who is working for who.  Kim is diabetic and is growing weaker every minute that she’s being held in the lighthouse.  Paul, Bill, and police detective Frank McCloy (Robert Reed) try to get Duncan to pay his share of the ransom but Duncan is convinced that his wife has been cheating on him and he refuses to pay for her.  On top of that, it turns out that one of the wives might be in on the scheme.  When she tells the kidnappers that she’s actually the one who came up with the plan, is she just trying to protect the other wives or is she telling the truth?  It leads to betrayal and a surprisingly downbeat ending.

Snatched is a well-produced made-for-TV movie.  The mystery will keep you guessing and the cast is made up of a collection of old pros.  Leslie Nielsen, cast here long before he reinvented himself as a comedic actor, is especially good as Bill Sutter and John Saxon gives one of his better performances as Paul.  Even Robert Reed gives a good performance.  Snatched is a classic made-for-TV mystery.

Captain Kirk vs. Sheriff Taylor: Pray For The Wildcats (1974, directed by Robert Michael Lewis)


The year is 1974 and there’s nothing more dangerous than being a hippie in Baja California.  That’s because psychotic business Sam Farragutt (played by Andy Griffith!) is on the loose.  Sam likes to describe himself as being a hippie himself.  “A hippie with money,” Sam puts it as he waves a hundred dollar bill in the face of a hippie without money,

Actually, there is one thing more dangerous than being a hippie in Baja California and that’s being an ad executive.  Once again, Sam Farragutt is to blame.  He’s willing to give his business to three ad execs but first they have to agree to go down to Baja and ride around with him on their motorcycles.  The three ad execs are Terry Maxon (former child evangelist Marjoe Gortner!), Paul McIllvain (former Brady Bunch star Robert Reed!), and suicidal burn-out Warren Summerfield (William Shatner!).  Warren is having an affair with Paul’s wife (Angie Dickinson!) but he’s still planning on committing suicide in Mexico.

However, going to Mexico gives Warren a new lease on life.  After Warren discovers that Farragutt is responsible for the death of two hippies, he becomes determined to make sure that justice is served.  Soon, Andy Griffith (!) is chasing William Shatner (!) across the Mexican desert.  Someone’s going to die.  Is it going to be Sheriff Taylor or Captain Kirk?

Pray For The Wildcats was a made-for-TV movie that aired the same year as Savages.  Both movies were a part of Andy Griffith’s attempt to change his image after playing the folksy Sheriff Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show.  Griffith is a good villain but the main appeal of Pray for the Wildcats is the chance to see William Shatner doing his thing.  Shatner has a juicy role here, playing a man who is at first suicidal and then righteously indignant.  He overemotes with the self-serious intensity that was Shatner’s trademark in the years before he finally developed a sense of humor about himself.  The movie itself gets bogged down with unnecessary flashbacks and dated dialogue but the spectacle of Griffith vs. Shatner makes it all worth it.

Horror on the Lens: Haunts of the Very Rich (dir by Paul Wendkos)


Today’s horror on the lens is a 1972 made-for-TV movie, Haunts of the Very Rich!

What happens when a bunch of rich people find themselves on an airplane with no memory of how they got there?  Well, first off, they land at a luxury resort!  But what happens when the resort suddenly turns out to be deserted and the guests discover that there’s no apparent way out!?

You can probably already guess the film’s “surprise” ending but Haunts of the Very Rich is still an entertaining little film.  You can check out my more in-depth review here!

Enjoy!