Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Love, exciting and new.

Yes, this Valentine's Day I'd like to reflect on one of television's most loving love shows that happened to be about love -- and a ship.

Love...won't hurt anymore.
ABC's The Love Boat ran from 1977 to 1986, week in, week out. It was a force of nature. It could not be stopped.

Well, obviously, it could be; everything eventually ends, except The Simpsons. Ratings declined and the network pulled the plug, but it still came back for four movie specials in the following years. And the show was revived on UPN in 1998 with a different cast, but by then the magic had sailed away and it only lasted one season.

The show was kind of an anthology show, using its regular cast as a framing device while guest stars played out their stories as cruise passengers. Usually there were three storylines that unfolded over the course of the voyage. One might be a dramatic love story, another a dramedy family story, a third just played for laughs.

Everybody showed up on that boat over the show's run. Wikipedia lists (if my math is right) 1,030 special guest stars on that show. It seemed like everyone on earth had a shot at being a guest star. A lot of them were stalwarts of TV in that era, including Jack Klugman, Nipsey Russell, Michael J. Fox, Joan Van Ark, and Lyle Waggoner, but the list includes people like Andy Warhol, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, Gene Kelly, Robby the Robot, various Osmonds, Reggie Jackson, the Hudson Brothers, Cab Calloway, Tom Hanks, Hulk Hogan, Dorothy Lamour, Sammy the Seal, and on and on. It is insane, the number and variety of people who schlepped through that ship.

Can you imagine being in the writers' room on that show?

"Who we got coming up in the next ep?"

"Uh... Loni Anderson, Betty White, Alan Ludden, Robert Stack, and the Village People. Knock something together in three days, okay?"

At one point the show's regulars appeared in a line of action figures.

I'll just leave that one there.

I guess what put me in mind of The Love Boat was the various tributes to Mary Tyler Moore (never a guest star on TLB) and her eponymous sitcom that came in the wake of her passing away on January 25. Gavin MacLeod may be most lauded for his wonderful work on her show as newswriter Murray Slaughter, but he spent more of his career as Captain Merrill Stubing, a very different character. I also thought of Bernie Kopell, a great comic actor who played Dr. Adam Bricker on the show through its run -- but when I saw him on The Tonight Show during that time, he preferred discussing the 14 episodes of Get Smart he appeared on in three years as Siegfried (KAOS's Vice President of Public Relations and Terror). And of course Fred Grandy, who played Gopher Smith, later spent eight years in Congress. I don't know what he did to be punished like that.

Still, there's no reason to go on about the show, except that today is the day we're all supposed to be thinking lovey thoughts, and it was probably TV's most successful production based on the idea of romantic love. At least in the U.S.; when they ran it in France it was called La croisière s'amuse, or The Fun Cruise. Because in France, love is fun, oui? 

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