Season One, Volume One
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Reviewed by Will Harris
ove, life’s sweetest reward…”
Well, there you go: if the theme song hadn’t immediately started running laps in your brain the moment you saw the words “The Love Boat,” then offering up the opening lyrics ought to have done the trick. Look, if I’m spontaneously finding myself bursting into my best Jack Jones impression at the beginning of each episode, then the least you can go is get the tune stuck in your head for the duration of this review.
No, don’t thank me. I’m just doing my job.
The voyages of the Pacific Princess were a staple of ABC’s Saturday night line-up for many a year, as guest stars of varying levels of celebrity set sail with Captain Stubing (Gavin McLeod), Doc (Bernie Kopell), Gopher (Fred Grandy), Isaac (Ted Lange), and the ship’s cruise director, Julie (Lauren Tewes). The show would evolve over the years, but the early years were the glory days, before the series jumped the shark by adding Stubing’s daughter, Vicki, to the mix. We do, however, meet the Captain’s ex-wife, Stacy (Bonnie Franklin), who appears in the inaugural hour-long show, but is never seen again during the subsequent 248 episodes.
The comedy on “The Love Boat” tends toward slapstick and farce. If you grew up in the ‘70s, but haven’t watched the show since then, you may find yourself laughing at things that never struck you as funny when you were a kid. For instance, although it never occurred to me at the time, now I can’t help but laugh when, in the opening minutes of each episode, they show the standard stock shots of the Pacific Princess leaving the dock and then cut away to the newly filmed footage of that episode’s guest stars as they hurl confetti and streamers to celebrate the boat’s departure. The melodrama is often patently ridiculous, with clichés and stereotypes serving as the order of the day, but at least you’re invariably guaranteed a happy ending. Be forewarned, however: if you try watching all three discs back to back, you’re flirting with the very real possibility of O.D.ing on hijinks, shenanigans and wacky misunderstandings,
For as kitschy as the series itself may be, “The Love Boat” becomes more and more of a required viewing experience for new generations of movie and television geeks with each passing year. Though it’s rarely top-level drama and definitely not high comedy, where else are you going to find such a tremendous blend of classic actors and pop culture footnotes? There isn’t a single one of these 12 episodes that doesn’t contain several instantly recognizable faces, many of whom departed this mortal coil long ago. It’s impossible to say which episode features the best celebrity line-up, because your personal mileage may vary. I think I’m most partial to the trio of shows #3 (Scott Baio, Kristy McNichol, Richard Mulligan, Robert Reed and Loretta Swit); #6 (Patty Duke, Ruth Gordon, Robert “Epstein” Hegyes, Tab Hunter and Maureen McCormick); and #12 (Will “Grandpa Walton” Geer, Arte Johnson, Pat Morita, Tom Poston and Anson Williams). (Special props must go out to #4 as well, since it marks the inaugural appearance of Charo on the series.)
If you’re a fan of classic ‘70s TV, you might as well come aboard “The Love Boat: Season 1, Vol. 1.” After all, you know they’re expecting you; they say so right in the theme song.
Special Features: Say “hello” to another Paramount gyp-fest. The only feature is the inclusion of the original promos for the episodes, which isn’t very special when you consider that they consist of nothing more than clips from the episodes themselves. C’mon, are you telling me that not a single member of the cast was available to sit down and talk about the show?