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!
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Episode 1.12 “The Old Man and the Runaway / The Painters / A Fine Romance”
(Directed by Stuart Margolin and James Sheldon, originally aired on December 24th, 1977)
Hey, this episode of The Love Boat aired on Christmas Eve! Oddly enough, unlike last week’s episode, it was not a holiday-themed episode. You really do have to wonder if there was some sort of scheduling snafu at ABC and perhaps the episodes were shown out-of-order. Then again, it could be that ABC realized that everyone would be busy getting ready for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve so they decided to burn off a lesser episode while no one was watching.
(Doesn’t everyone spend Christmas Eve getting ready for Midnight Mass while their aunt tells them to dress more like the Virgin and less like the Magdalene? Or was that just my experience?)
Yes, this is a lesser episode of The Love Boat. It’s not a terrible episode but, at the same time, it’s not all the memorable. A big problem is that there’s not really much romance on this cruise. The show was called The Love Boat for a reason and, when there’s no love, it just doesn’t feel right.
For instance, one subplot dealt with two incompetent painters (played by Arte Johnson and Pat Morita) painting the captain’s office during the cruise. They kept screwing up the job, which led to Captain Stubing getting progressively more and more annoyed. From the start, I guessed that the punchline would be that the painters were screwing up on purpose so that they could stay on the boat and get a free cruise and …. yep, that’s exactly what it was. Johnson and Morita were a good comedy team but the story itself felt like filler.
Meanwhile, a grumpy old widower (Will Geer) discovered that he was sharing his cabin with a teenage runaway (Bayn Johnson), who had stowed away on the ship and who was planning on meeting up with her boyfriend in Mexico. Once he got over complaining about her being young and irresponsible, Geer convinced her to return to her parents. Again, it wasn’t terrible and Bayn Johnson did a good job of keeping her character from getting annoying but it felt a bit out of place on The Love Boat. Obviously, the 75 year-old man and the 16 year-old runaway weren’t going to fall in love and leave the ship arm-in-arm while the crew smiled knowingly. Instead, this was a typical generation gap story. The most interesting thing about this story is that this was the second time that a runaway managed to stowaway on the Love Boat. Does that boat not have a security team? Don’t you actually have to show your tickets to board the boat? How does these people keep sneaking aboard?
Finally, the third storyline felt a bit more like a Love Boat story. Cruise director Julie (Lauren Tewes) is super-excited when she sees that Sean McGlynn (Anson Williams) is a passenger on the cruise. Julie and Sean grew up together and Julie always had a crush on him. At first, Julie and Sean have fun hanging out but, whenever Julie tries to flirt, Sean panics and runs off. Julie worries that there’s something wrong with her (oh, Julie!) but …. nope, Sean’s a priest. Apparently, he was having a crisis of faith when he boarded the boat, which is why he didn’t tell anyone he was a priest. But, when his roommate (Tom Poston) has a heart attack, Sean delivers the last rites and his faith is restored. (Don’t worry. His roommate survives and has a surprisingly quick recovery. Doc Bricker is a miracle worker!) Anyway, Sean leaves the boat wearing his collar and Julie stays on the boat, no doubt waiting for someone else from her past to buy a ticket. It’s a bit of a shame, as Lauren Tewes and Anson Williams did make a cute couple. Then again, we all know that Julie and Gopher belong together.
Like I said, this was not a terrible episode. It just wasn’t particularly memorable. It needed just a bit more romance. After all, love is life’s sweetest reward.