A TV Series Returns With Hopes of Finding Love, Romance and Laughter
Can you name the 1970s ABC television series that lasted nine seasons and is trying to make a comeback under a different format? Hint: It provided romantic nights for passengers who desired them and tropical destinations where love blooms as easily as the tropical flowers. If you guessed “Love Boat” you probably picked up the hint of “passengers” and “tropical destinations where love blooms” to solve the riddle which probably wasn’t difficult for avid fans.What happened to the original Love Boat and its lovable characters that didn’t sail into another sunset? You’ll have to wait until the end of this article to find out. Fans will remember Capt. Stubing (Gavin MacLeod) and cruise director Julie McCoy (Lauren Tewes) and how the skipper had a knack for bringing people together even if they’d just had a quarrel. He helped Lauren in real life through the seventh season when she took a leave of absence for a drug problem. She returned to the show and continued in her regular role.
Love Boat anchored ABC’s Saturday nights for nearly a decade and became a special favorite of fans of all ages. It’s interesting that it began with a trio of 1970s TV movies and became a series on September 24, 1977 and after that the ship and its characters sailed smoothly into many sunsets. Several actors added much humor to each show: Bernie Kopell as Adam “Doc” Bricker, the ship’s doctor; Fred Grandy as purser Burl “Gopher” Smith and Ted Lange as bartender Isaac Washington, always had witty remarks. In one scene, the latter two presented a zany imitation of the Marx Brothers that was different, but well reviewed. Not long after that, Charo appears as a stowaway with a broken guitar. The “Latin Bombshell” had an accent that matched her broken guitar. On a more serious note, Maureen McCormick (Brady Bunch) was terminally ill, but her parents hadn’t told her yet. She’s head over heels in love with Jay Thomas (Cheers, Murphy Brown). In another heart breaker, which ends happily, Patty Duke falls for Ricky Nelson who unfortunately has acquired amnesia.Endless plots and guests crossed the deck of the Love Boat in 245 episodes. Most were accompanied by Jack Jones crooning the catchy Love Boat theme song. The guest list was always heavy with talented actors, some of whom fans wrote in and requested such as: Florence Henderson, Marion Ross, Milton Berle, Carol Channing, Alan Thicke and Don Knotts. These and others offered something for everyone such as Richard Kline (Three’s Company) pretending to have lost his memory in order to win back his former fiancé. It’s interesting when unknowns came along: Michael J. Fox; Tim Robbins and Billy Crystal for instance. Golden Age actors matched with newcomers might have included Fox and Ann-Margaret, Robbins and Rita Moreno and James Garner with Meg Ryan. More matches appeared such as: Crystal with Debbie Reynolds and Gwyneth Paltrow with Christopher Walken. Professional athletes or just famous names graced the captain’s table such as Gloria Vanderbilt, Andy Warhol and the Harlem Globe Trotters.
When fans sat up at home to wish the Love Boat a Bon Voyage, May 24, 1986, they got their emotions worth. The finale offered tenderness, a love story, corny jokes and embarrassing situations. It had 1980s glamour and of course celebrity guest stars. Some young, some old actors kissed the show goodbye including Marion Ross (Happy Days); a 21-year-old Teri Hatcher (Desperate Housewives); Clive Revill (Star Wars) and Michael Winslow (Police Academy). The actors dispersed and went on to other shows. Before he died in 2021, Gavin MacLeod appeared in musicals. Bernie Kopell appeared in Monk, My Name is Earl and other shows; Fred Grandy became a Congressman from Iowa; and Ted Lange appeared on King of Queens and Scrubs, as well as other shows. Somehow, along the way he managed to write 17 plays.When all was said and done, the question most asked is: “How come after such a long run, when the Love Boat either led the TV ratings or remained in the top 20, it was doomed after nine seasons?” During the 1984-85 season it started to founder. It slipped out of the top 30 and then out of the top 50 that following year. Although it was canceled after nine seasons, three four-hour specials aired during the 1986-87 season. It also appeared in reruns on daytime ABC TV and beat The Price is Right in the ratings for several months. The Love Boat ended, a broken love affair for fans who missed the illustrious ship and its humor, drama and love connections. They were heart-broken when they found out the ship was sent to a salvage yard in Turkey and scrapped. But hold it! Isn’t this boat sailing again? Well sort of.
It has returned as a reality dating show titled, The Real Love Boat, featuring competition between singles on board a ship cruising the Mediterranean. They participate in challenges and dates in order to remain aboard ship where there are hopes of finding love, romance and laughter. Cash prizes and a Princess Cruise are offered to the winners. Look for the show from Paramount Productions.
Author: Ellsworth Boyd
Ellsworth Boyd, Professor Emeritus, College of Education, Towson University, Towson, Maryland, pursues an avocation of diving and writing. He has published articles and photo’s in every major dive magazine in the US., Canada, and half a dozen foreign countries. An authority on shipwrecks, Ellsworth has received thousands of letters and e-mails from divers throughout the world who responded to his Wreck Facts column in Sport Diver Magazine. When he’s not writing, or diving, Ellsworth appears as a featured speaker at maritime symposiums in Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Ft. Lauderdale, New York and Philadelphia. “Romance & Mystery: Sunken Treasures of the Lost Galleons,” is one of his most popular talks. A pioneer in the sport, Ellsworth was inducted into the International Legends of Diving in 2013.