Love on the High Seas
Over the years, I know I’ve seen the random rerun episode of The Love Boat. Recently, I decided that I needed to at least watch the first season of the show. It’s definitely a 70’s TV show, but if you are in the mood for that, you’ll find that you enjoy it.
The show takes place on the Pacific Princess cruise ship owned by Princess Cruises. It follows five crew members as they interact with the guests on various cruises. Those crew members? You’ve got Captain Stubing (Gavin MacLeod), Doctor Adam Bricker (Bernie Kopell), Bartender Isaac Washington (Ted Lange), Purser “Gopher” Smith (Fred Grandy), and Cruise Director Julie McCoy (Lauren Tewes).
The typical episode includes three storylines that weave in and out of each other, rarely interacting for more than a scene or two if that. And what kind of storylines do we have? A centerfold on board the ship is trying to hide old nude photos that have recently been published in a magazine. A man disguises himself as a woman to take the only available cabin so he can woo the girl of his dreams. An advice columnist is spending her working vacation doing nothing but work, ignoring her husband. The musical entertainment on one cruise is a divorced couple who can’t stand each other. A gang of thieves come on board after a rare and expensive diamond. An inspector for the cruise line is on board, and none of the crew and figure out who it is. And a woman is certain her husband plans to murder her while on the cruise.
With all the storylines on board the first season, only one stands out in my mind as particularly serious. Most of the time, the stories would easily fit into a romantic comedy movie. They aren’t anything too deep, and the ending is obvious early on even if the particular plots points along the way aren’t. Still, it is fun watching to see just how the characters will end each episode.
I mentioned that this was a 1970’s show. If the storylines don’t help give it away, the laugh track will. Yes, this may be an hour-long show, but it has a canned laugh track. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy studio audience laughter when it is recorded during the filming of a sitcom, but I find canned laughter to be a bit annoying. I would have been fine without it, but it’s a minor issue for me.
Another staple of the 70’s production is the lack of any attempts at continuity. Most episodes feature at least one of the crew falling for a passenger on board the ship for that cruise. Other times, their love is joining them for a cruise. Yet then a couple episodes later (if not the next episode), they are falling madly in love with someone else. Watching these episodes over the course of about six weeks, that stood out more than it would have watching the episodes spread out over many months.
Additionally, the guest stars sometimes show up in more than one episode playing a completely different character. This is definitely the era where the slate is wiped clean at the end of every episode.
But speaking of guest stars, I was impressed with just how many of them I recognized over the course of the season. Each episode included at least one person I knew from somewhere else, and many of them were involved in their own hit shows already while this show was being filmed. I would expect a show to draw names like this once it had proved to be popular, but this was happening from the very beginning. Okay, so most of the names would only be familiar to you if you liked other 1970’s shows, but if you do, you’ll be impressed. If you don’t, then you should probably skip this show to begin with. The acting from everyone, guest stars and main cast alike, has a certain level of 1970’s cheese to it, but if you know that going in, you’ll be fine.
While I’ve mainly pointed out the drawbacks to the show, I have to say it is light and fun. There’s a reason I referenced a romantic comedy earlier. If you are looking for something to relax and destress you while leaving a smile of you face, this show will do just that.
Of course, like many romantic comedies, the show presents a rather superficial view of love. People seem to fall completely in love with complete strangers after just a few days. I was also surprised to find that people are obviously sleeping together even though they aren’t married. I guess I didn’t realize standards had changed that much on TV in the late 1970’s. Oh, we never see any more than a kiss, but it is obvious what has happened off screen.
Season 1 consisted of 25 episodes. They were released on DVD in two different sets. There was also a made for TV movie that introduces these characters, and it is included…on the first disc of set two. Yeah, doesn’t make any sense to me either. The movie must have aired over 90 minutes with commercials because it is only about twenty minutes longer than a typical episode. The only other extra is the original promotion for each episode.
If you are looking for light entertainment, you will enjoy The Love Boat’s first season. Just keep in mind the time period and you’ll fall in love with the show and the characters. How much did I enjoy it? I’m considering trying to find more episodes to watch.