Retro Television Review: The Love Boat 1.4 “Message for Maureen / Gotcha / Acapulco Connection”


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!

Welcome aboard, it’s love!

Episode 1.4 “Message for Maureen / Gotcha / Acapulco Connection”

(Directed by Stuart Margolin, Richard Kinon, and Peter Baldwin, originally aired on October 15th, 1977)

Oh no!  It’s a stowaway!  I guess any television show that took place on a cruise ship would have to feature at least one storyline featuring a stowaway.  It’s a bit disconcerting that The Love Boat couldn’t make it for more than four episodes before using the most obvious plotline but then again, the show ended up running for 9 seasons and a movie.  So, apparently, audiences didn’t mind and I have a feeling that there will probably be many more stowaway stories to come.

The stowaway in this episode is April Lopez (played by Charo).  Apparently, April became a recurring character, one who appeared in almost every season.  In this, her first appearance, she sneaks onto the boat in Acapulco.  The captain is not happy when she’s discovered hiding in a laundry hamper but everyone else is charmed by just how loud and talkative she is.  Because there’s no available rooms, April is housed with Doc Bricker until she can be dropped off at the next port.  Of course, Doc falls in love because Doc fell in love with everyone who came into his exam room.  Seriously, Doc was an HR nightmare waiting to happen.

Of course, April is not the only exhausting person to be on the ship.  There’s also Cyril Wolfe (Milton Berle), a nonstop practical joker whose wife (Audra Lindley) is getting sick of dealing with him and really, who can blame her?  Cyril greets a total stranger with a joy buzzer.  He carries around a fake, detachable hand so that he can freak people out.  Cyril can’t even give it a rest during their vacation!  Pretty soon, not only his wife but the crew are pretty sick of him.  (Most of the people watching the show will be sick of him, too.)  Do they conspire to toss Cyril overboard?  They could probably get away with it, seeing as how all of the ship’s nominal authority figures are busy dealing with a stowaway who loves to sing.  Somehow, Cyril survives his trip and he and his wife end up more in love than ever.

Finally, Maureen Mitchell (Brenda Benet) is a former tennis player who is now in a wheelchair.  All she wants is a few days of vacation before she meets with a surgeon who might be able to help her walk again.  Unfortunately, she discovers that an arrogant sportswriter named John (Bill Bixby) is also on the cruise!  At first, she wants nothing to do with him but when John injures his knee and has to use a wheelchair for the rest of the cruise, the two of them fall in love….

Hold on.  You know what just occurred to me?  Last week’s episode featured Robert Reed and Loretta Swit as two people who don’t like each other but just happen to end up on the same cruise.  This episode featured Brenda Benet and Bill Bixby as two people who don’t like each other but just happen to end up on the same cruise …. how long did The Love Boat writers last before they said, “Okay, we’re out of stories.  Let’s start repeating ourselves?”

Anyway, this episode was a mixed bag.  Charo and Milton Berle were not particularly subtle performers and their storylines felt as if they were designed to invite them to indulge in their worst impulses as performers.  But Bill Bixby and Brenda Benet had a lot of chemistry as John and Maureen and their story actually worked as a result.  (Bixby and Benet were married at the time they appeared in this episode.)  Plus, the ship looked lovely.  So did the ocean.  That’s what really matters.

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.

Retro Television Review: The Love Boat 1.2 “A Tasteful Affair / Oh, Dale! / The Main Event”


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!

It’s time to set sail on adventure and set your mind on a new romance!

Episode 1.2 “A Tasteful Affair / Oh, Dale! / The Main Event”

(Directed by Richard Kinon, Adam Rafkin, and Stuart Margolin, originally aired on October 1st, 1977)

The second episode of The Love Boat was all about fighting lovers.

For instance, one storyline — I assume it’s the one that was called “The Main Event” — features Sherman Hemsley as Maurice Marshall and LaWanda Page as his wife, Stella.  From the minute that they get on the boat, Maurice and Stella are arguing but it soon becomes obvious that, like many couples who have been together for a while, arguing is just the way that they express their love for each other.  The insults may be frequent but they’re always affectionate, which is kind of sweet.  Anyway, while on their way to dinner in the ship’s lounge, they get stuck in an elevator.  After arguing about the best way to escape from the elevator, they end up making out.  Of course, when the doors to the elevator do finally open, Captain Stubing and Gopher see that the couple, rather than being dead, are instead making good use of the space.  Everyone laughs.  Seriously, that’s the entire story.  Two people get suck in an elevator and make out.  That’s it.  You know, you can fool around on a moving elevator as well.  You don’t have to fry the circuitry ahead of time.  Just listen for the ping before the elevator doors open.

In a rather more serious storyline, Jaclyn Smith plays Janette Bradford, the wife of a wealthy but heartless man named Lucas (David Knapp).  Lucas is convinced that Janette is only taking the cruise alone because she’s planning on cheating on him.  Lucas hires a private investigator named Dennis Kingsley (Dennis Cole) to watch her on the boat.  Dennis soon discovers that Janette is not cheating on her husband but instead, she took the cruise because she needed a break from his controlling and emotionally abusive ways.  Dennis ends up falling in love with Janette and Janette with him.  However, Dennis also knows that he’s going to have to tell her the truth about why he’s on the cruise.  It doesn’t quite lead to heartbreak but it’s still far more serious than anything you might expect to see on a show of The Love Boat‘s reputation.  Jaclyn Smith, it should be said, does a wonderful job in the role of Janette, capturing both the vulnerability of someone in an abusive relationship and also her growing determination to escape from Lucas’s control.

Unfortunately, while all of this is going on, you have to deal with John Ritter playing a guy whose lover actually is cheating on him.  Ritter plays Dale.  Dale wants to follow his girlfriend on the cruise for the same reason that Lucas hired Dennis to spy on Janette.  Dale suspects that he’s being cheated on.  However, the cruise is almost entirely sold out.  There’s only one ticket left but it’s to share a cabin that’s already occupied by a woman.  Since Dale is not a woman, he can’t buy the ticket.  So, of course, Dale steals a blonde wig and a suitcase full of the frumpiest dresses imaginable.  Can you guess where this is going?  Dale gets his cabin, falls in love with his cabinmate (played, in a likable performance, by Tovah Feldshuh), and spends a lot of time changing clothes in the ship’s linen closet.  Captain Stubing ends up getting a crush on the mysterious woman with the big blonde hair and the ugly dresses and yes, it’s as stupid as it sounds with a heavy dose of cringey 70s gay panic humor tossed in to boot.  It doesn’t help that John Ritter gives such a frantic performance in the role that I actually got nervous watching him.  “Calm down!” I wanted to say.

As you can guess, the tone is all over the place in this episode.  That’s to be expected when you’re telling three stories at one time but there’s such an imbalance between Jaclyn Smith acting depressed and fragile and John Ritter doing pratfalls that it ultimately takes away from both stories.  With the second episode of The Love Boat, it seems obvious that the show was still struggling to find the right balance between drama and comedy.  As well, this episode suffers because the crew isn’t given much to do.  The first episode was enjoyable because the main cast had a fun chemistry but, in this episode, everyone is a bystander except for Captain Stubing.  Unfortunately, this episode couldn’t even treat Stubing consistently as the elevator storyline requires Stubing to be significantly smarter than the Stubing who appears in the John Ritter storyline.

Would the show ever succeed in finding and striking the right balance?  We’ll see what happens next week!

Retro Television Review: The Love Boat 1.1 “Captain & The Lady/Centerfold/One If By Land….”


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!

Welcome aboard, it’s love!

Produced by Aaron Spelling, The Love Boat is one of the signature shows of the 70s and the 80s.  Each week, the Pacific Princess would set off for a different location with a different group of guest stars.  Typically, each episode would feature three stories.  One story would be silly fun.  One story would be a dramedy.  And then one story would typically feature a member of the Love Boat crew either falling in love or worrying about losing their job.  It was a tremendously silly show but, from the episodes I’ve seen, it was also very likable.  If nothing else, the ship looked really nice.

While the passengers changed from week-to-week, the crew largely remained the same.  During the show’s first season, the crew was made up of:

Captain Merrill Stubing (Gavin MacLeod), who started out as a stern, no-nonsense captain but who became significantly nicer and a good deal goofier as the series progressed,

Adam “Doc” Bricker (Bernie Kopell), the ship’s doctor who hit on every woman who boarded the boat and who probably would have been an HR nightmare if the show actually took place in the real world,

Gopher (Fred Grandy), the ship’s purser who …. well, I’m not sure what a purser does but hopefully it wasn’t too important of a job because Gopher was always getting into weird situations,

Isaac (Ted Lange), the ship’s bartender who spent the entire cruise getting people drunk,

and Julie (Lauren Tewes), the cheerful cruise director.

And, of course, we can’t forget the true star of the show, the theme song!

Before the series, there were three made-for-television movies: The Love Boat (1976), The Love Boat II (1976), and finally The New Love Boat (1977).  These movies served as pilots for the show.  The first movie featured an entirely different cast playing the ship’s crew.  Kopell, Lange, and Grandy first played their roles in The Love Boat II.  MacLeod and Tewes came aboard in The New Love Boat.  Unfortunately, these pilots aren’t available on Paramount Plus but, fortunately, the rest of the series is.

So, let’s set sail on a course for adventure with the first episode of The Love Boat!

Episode 1.1 “Captain & The Lady/Centerfold/One If By Land….”

(Directed by Richard Kinon, Stuart Margolin, and Alan Rafkin, originally aired on September 24th, 1977)

The Pacific Princess is about to set sail but all is not right on the cruise ship that some call The Love Boat.

Ginny O’Brien (Brenda Sykes) just wants to get away from her longtime boyfriend, Ronald (Jimmie Walker).  Ginny wants to marry Ronald but Ronald just wants to have a good time.  When Ginny boards the cruise, Ronald decides to follow her.  The only problem is that the cruise is sold out and Ronald can’t break the law by stowing away.  (I was actually surprised that didn’t happen.  I can imagine The Love Boat writers room descending into chaos as the writers argued about whether or not it was too early to do a stowaway story.)  Ronald decides to follow the Love Boat from port to port, just so he can show Ginny that he is committed to something.  Ginny ends up spending her entire cruise wondering if Ronald is going to be make it to every port.  To me, it felt as if her cabinmate (Suzanne Somers) seemed to be kind of annoyed about getting sucked into all of Ginny’s personal drama but that could just be projection on my part.  I know that I would certainly get annoyed by it.

Meanwhile, Congressman Brad Brockway (Shelly Novack) has set sail with his fiancée, Sandy (Meredith Baxter-Birney).  When Sandy was younger, she posed for a sleazy photographer.  Now that she’s engaged to the Congressman, a tabloid has published those pictures.  Sandy spends the entire cruise trying to keep Brad from seeing any copies of the magazine.  The only problem is that the magazine is sold in ship’s gift shop!  (Did most cruise ships sell adult magazines in their gift shop?  I supposed it’s possible.  It was the 70s….)  Sandy manages to get almost every copy of the magazine but misses the copy that Doc keeps in his examination room.  Doc looks at the pictures and tells her that she has nothing to be ashamed of because the pictures look good.  That really wasn’t her main concern, Doc.  Anyway, it turns out that the Congressman doesn’t care.  Personally, I would have preferred that the story had ended with Sandy announcing that she was the one who didn’t care.

Finally, Captain Stubing is a nervous wreck because an executive of the cruise line named Aubrey Skogstad (Robert Symonds) is on the cruise and so is his wife, Stacy (Bonnie Franklin).  While Aubrey is quiet and polite, Stacy proceeds to tell every member of the crew that they are inadequate and that she will personally make it her duty to get them all fired.  It turns out that Stacy is hostile because she’s Captain Stubing’s ex-wife.  Since Captain Stubing is still new to the ship and has kept himself aloof from the rest of the crew, they wonder if he’ll ever stand up for them.  Eventually, the captain tells Stacy off and, in doing so, he finally wins the loyalty of his crew.  Yay!

Anyway, the first episode of The Love Boat was very, very 70s.  The only thing that could have made it more 70s would have been a disco ball on the lido deck.  Fortunately, as our long-time readers know, I’m a total history nerd so I enjoyed the show as a floating time capsule.  It’s one thing to watch a movie that’s set in the 70s and which features everyone going out of their way to bring to life every stereotype.  It’s another thing to actually view something that was specifically made during the time period.

Unfortunately, the stories and the passengers themselves were pretty forgettable.  The whole thing about the Stacy and the Congressman was slightly interesting just because, with the rise of social media, everyone’s got smutty pictures out there now.  For the most part, though, this first episode was about introducing Captain Stubing and the crew and the cast did display a good deal of chemistry together.  They were all likable.  Even Doc Bricker, with his stash of cruise porn, seemed to be well-intentioned.  They came across as people who most viewers would want to take a cruise with, which is exactly what the show required to be a success.

Next week …. more love, more 70s fashion, and more intrusive laugh tracks as we set sail on another voyage!