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 sets sail for a thoroughly pleasant cruise. Come on board, they’re expecting you!
Episode 2.16 “Gopher’s Opportunity / The Switch / Home Sweet Home”
(Directed by Roger Duchowny and Allen Baron, originally aired on January 20th, 1979)
I’ve been watching these old episodes of The Love Boat for a while now and I have to say that I’m still not totally sure what it is that Gopher actually does on the ship. Merrill Stubing is the captain and is responsible for the safety of all of the passengers. Julie McCoy is the cruise director and is responsible for making sure everyone is entertained. Adam Bricker is the doctor and is probably responsible for the cruise line getting sued by every patient that he hits on. Isaac Washington is the bartender and is responsible for getting everyone so drunk that they’ll go back to their cabin with the first person who asks. But what does Gopher do?
I know that Gopher is the purser but the show has never really made clear what that means. I know I could look it up on Wikipedia but that’s not really the point. The point is that, while Fred Grandy was certainly likable in the role, the show often seemed to be unsure of what to do with Gopher. His cabin was decorated with posters of old movies but Gopher rarely spoke of being a fan. Instead, while the other crew members fell in love with passengers and got involved in each other’s lives, Gopher was often left as a mere observer.
This episode is unique because it actually allows Gopher to do something. When his old friends, Melody (Elayne Joyce) and Phil (Bobby Van), board the ship, they tell Gopher that they need a manager for their hotel and that they’re offering him the job. Normally, Gopher would never think of leaving his friends on the Pacific Princess but this episode finds him getting on Stubing’s nerves by leaving too many suggestions in the suggestion box. (One suggestion, which Stubing finds to be particularly egregious, is that the boat should have a designated “no smoking” area, which today just sounds like common sense, Can you even smoke on a cruise ship anymore?) Gopher, feeling underappreciated by the Captain, takes the hotel job. But, after he realizes that there’s an attraction between him and Melody, Gopher decides to stay on the boat and instead, he encourages Phil to give the position to Melody. It’s a pretty simple story but it does allow Fred Grandy to do something more than just make wisecracks in the corner. To be honest, the main theme of this story seemed to be that Captain Stubing is an insensitive jerk who doesn’t really appreciate his crew until they threaten to quit.
While Gopher is trying to decide whether to pursue a new career, magician Al Breyer (Ron Palillo, co-star of the latest addition to Retro Television Reviews, Welcome Back, Kotter) comes to the ship as a last-minute replacement for his older brother, Ken (Michael Gregory). Ken’s assistant, Maggie (Melinda Naud), is already on the boat and she’s disappointed when Al shows up instead of Ken. It turns out that Maggie was more than just Ken’s assistant. At first, she refuses to work with Al but she comes around when she discovers that Al is sensitive and nice and basically the opposite of Ken. When Ken does finally show up on the ship, he’s such a sleazeball that you have to kind of wonder what Maggie ever saw in him to begin with. Al responds to Ken’s arrival by locking him in a closet and then he and Maggie leave the boat, arm-in-arm. Hopefully, someone found Ken before he suffocated because, otherwise, Al’s magic career might come to an abrupt end.
Meanwhile, Hetty Waterhouse (Nancy Walker) decides that she’s going to live on the ship. She can do this because she’s a wealthy widow. She books her cabin for the next five years. Oddly, even though the audience has never seen or heard about her before, everyone else on the crew seems to know her and treats her like an old friend. That always bothers me a little, when we’re told that a previously unknown character is apparently everyone’s best friend. Anyway, the main reason that Hetty wants to live on the boat is because she’s in love with Charlie (Abe Vigoda), a cabin steward who has apparently been on the boat for years but who, again, the audience has never seen or hear about before. Charlie is retiring but he wants to get an apartment on dry land. He’s tired of the sea. Hetty gives up her cabin so that she can move into Charlie’s apartment. Awwwww!
This was actually a pretty sweet episode. Gopher finally felt appreciated by the captain. Al and Maggie realized that they were both better than Ken. Hetty and
Tessio Charlie found late-in-life happiness together. This was a perfectly charming cruise!