Paramount // 1978 // 644 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // August 25th, 2008
Love...exciting and new...
Move to have the charge dismissed as false. There was never anything "exciting" or "new" about The Love Boat.
Meet the crew of the Pacific Princess or, as it's known in luxury cruise-line circles, The Love Boat:
Your captain, Merrill Stubing (Gavin MacLeod, The Mary Tyler Moore Show), who's a little dense, a little efficient, and always has the right platitudes in a crisis.
Your ship's doctor, Adam "Doc" Bricker (Bernie Kopell, Get Smart), a rascally horndog who's just a couple of chest hairs and a gold chain away from aging '70s swinger.
Your yeoman-purser, Burl "Gopher" Smith (Fred Grandy, Death Race 2000), an adenoidal horndog who whiffs more than he scores.
Your bartender, Isaac Washington (Ted Lange, The Naked Truth), not as much of a horndog as Doc and Gopher, but quicker with a quip; also, the only non-white crew member.
Your cruise director, Julie McCoy (Lauren Tewes, Nowhere), the perkiest thing in the ocean and herself a lonelyheart.
Every week, these lovable salty dogs mess it up with different sets of people looking for -- and invariably finding -- love on the high seas.
The Love Boat was part of legendary TV executive Fred Silverman's successful push to make ABC the number one network through a combination of family-friendly shows (like Eight Is Enough) and "jiggle" programming (like Charlie's Angels). The Love Boat was the perfect hybrid of these, with its G- and PG-rated bedroom humor, silly antics, and shots of pretty girls lounging by the pool. Plus, every segment had some kind of moral or lesson at the end, usually something simple like, "Follow your heart," "Love conquers all," or "There's someone for everyone." Pairings were more romantic than leering, and "bad sex" -- cheaters, for instance -- always came to a comically bad end.
Each episode presents three or four segments, all introduced during a prologue in which the characters board the ship. One segment is funny, another is serious. Music cues and performance levels let us know which is which. The remaining segment or segments might start serious and end funny, start funny and end serious, or just operate at a different level of funny from the other funny one -- slapstick vs. character, jokey vs. situational. It's rare to find more than one serious segment. By the time the ship is launching and everyone is throwing confetti at the camera, you pretty much know who's going to hook up and how everything is going to turn out.
The crew members have various degrees of involvement in what's going on around them. Sometimes, they are a Greek chorus, commenting on the action ("Look at the way they gaze into each other's eyes. That must be love," Cruise Director Julie wistfully pronounces on more than one occasion). More often, they're directly involved in a story, usually romancing a passenger -- the male crew members often compete for the attentions of the fairest of the ladies. Sure, in the real world they'd all be brought up on sexual harassment charges, but in the real world, you wouldn't have people sailing on luxury cruise liners because they want to get some work done, be away from people, or take their mind off their money troubles.
Over nine seasons, the weekly rosters of guest stars were strangely eclectic: Oscar winners past (Patty Duke, Ruth Gordon) and future (Tom Hanks, Kathy Bates), Emmy winners past (Jack Klugman, Betty White) and future (Michael J. Fox, Shelley Long), old people (Farley Granger, Helen Hayes) and young (Corey Feldman, Jason Hervey), rising stars (Tim Robbins, Hulk Hogan) and falling stars (Arte Johnson, Larry Linville), the hip (Andy Warhol, Pam Grier) and the not-so-hip (The Village People, Donnie, Jimmy, and Marie Osmond), athletes (Reggie Jackson, Joe Namath), oddities (Charo, Halston), future politicos (Maureen Reagan, Sonny Bono), and Larry Storch.
The Love Boat never deviated from its formula. Here and there, its serious segments attempted to be topical. In one episode on this set, there's a (serious) story about a disgraced politician (Dick Van Patten) romancing a woman who turns out to be a reporter (Vicki Lawrence). Another segment in this episode -- the one that starts out funny and turns serious -- concerns Isaac's romance with a woman who's writing a dissertation in Black History (she's on the Love Boat to work!) and her disgust with an older black man (the great Scatman Crothers) whom she believes to be acting undignified. When she and Isaac rudely dismiss the man -- who's teaching everyone how to Hambone -- they get a lesson on multi-cultural tolerance from...Captain Stubing! This was about as ironic or edgy as the show ever got.
Of course, this is why people loved it. It was easy going; there was nothing jarring or especially thought provoking about it. Everything turned out the way it should. Justice prevailed.
When the show premiered, in September 1977, America was three years past the resignation of its president and his subsequent pardon by his successor. The troops had been withdrawn from Vietnam, and Saigon had fallen two years earlier. A new president had just been inaugurated, but the country was facing an energy crisis and difficult economic times.
People were ready for their entertainment to be escapist and uplifting -- in March of 1977, the challenging and disturbing films All the President's Men, Network, and Taxi Driver had lost the Academy Award to the feel-good Rocky. Fred Silverman's instincts were right; The Love Boat couldn't have come at a better time.
On top of that, there is something very watchable about this show. It's bright and cheery, and even at its most ridiculous, it's never less than interesting. The silly patter, soap opera situations, and name-the-actor casting create a strangely soothing and inescapable hook. Back in the day, I can't imagine people waiting breathlessly for the next episode, but I can certainly understand turning it on and parking in front of it.
This set contains 12 episodes (including one two-parter) from the second half of the first season (winter and spring, 1978). Since this is a Paramount release of a classic TV show, we get...not a whole heck of a lot: full-frame transfers and mono audio, none of which has been cleaned up or remastered. It doesn't look or sound bad, however, it's pretty much what you'd see if you were watching these episodes on TV Land. Surprisingly, we get an actual special feature: The New Love Boat, the 1977 ABC Movie of the Week that started this whole thing. This was actually the third Love Boat movie (the others had different actors playing the crew members), and while it's really just a longer episode, the writing and acting are a shade sharper than normal.
As Judge John Floyd noted in his review of The Love Boat: Season One, Volume One, Paramount is releasing the series as half seasons. To own the complete Season One would run you around $74 (srp), mighty steep for a series remembered more for its nostalgia value than its quality. In a way, though, this might not be such a bad thing. Once you've seen a few episodes, you've seen them all; I can't imagine anyone actually wanting to own the complete series.
Like that weird uncle who turned up at all the family gatherings but never really talked to anyone, so too was The Love Boat a fixture in American homes. For years, The Love Boat and its mindless anthology counterpart, Fantasy Island, ruled Saturday night TV viewing. This kind of long-term ratings dominance was a more frequent occurrence back when there were three networks.
The Love Boat: Season One, Volume Two gives you a dozen episodes of what passed for popular entertainment 30 years ago and is still entertaining in its own way.
Not guilty, but I don't know that I'll be on board when The Love Boat makes another run.
Review content copyright © 2008 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
Running Time: 644 Minutes
Release Year: 1978
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Episode Promos
* The New Love Boat
* IMDb: The Love Boat
* IMDb: The New Love Boat
* DVD Verdict Review - Season One, Volume One
* Wikipedia: List of Guest Stars on The Love Boat