Apr 16, 2021

Love Boat/Fantasy Island: Love Won't Hurt Anymore

During the decade that began on September 24th, 1977 and ended on February 27th, 1987, I graduated from high school and college, got my M.A. in English, spent a year on Hell-fer-Sartain, and moved to West Hollywood.  I spent my Saturday nights going on dates, going out with friends, cruising in the bars, at movies, dinners, concerts, potlucks, or as a last resort at the gym.

Only when I was sick, studying for finals, or back in Rock Island for the holidays did I find myself staying home on Saturday nights.

And when I was home on a Saturday night, I watched Gimme a Break, Love Sidney, We Got It Made, Magnum PI, anything but those nauseating anthology series, Love Boat and Fantasy Island.  

But my parents watched.  All of the older people watched.

Love Boat (1977-87) was set on a cruise ship, where the randy Captain (Gavin MacLeod), ship's doctor (Bernie Kopell), purser (Fred Grandy), bartender (Ted Lange), and activities director (Lauren Tewes) made a hobby of facilitating three heterosexual romances per episode (two serious, one funny).

A sports writer and a tennis pro, a minister and an exotic dancer, a chauffeur and his employer, a rock star and a deaf girl, a celebrity and a tabloid reporter, an advice columnist who can't find love, a magician who can't find love.  It goes on like that. For 248 episodes.

Gay people were unknown, except for an episode where two buddies are mistaken for a gay couple.  By the end of the episode, they both find love (with women).  Problem solved.

But I understand that there were there were lots of guest stars in Speedos lounging around the Cabana Deck, like perennial 1970s fave Bert Convy (top photo).

Fantasy Island (1977-84) was more of the same.  The mysterious Mr. Roarke (Ricardo Montalban, known as Khan on Star Trek) and his assistant Tattoo (Herve Villechaize) ran a tropical resort where, for an additional fee of $20,000 (waived for charity cases), he would arrange to fulfill your "fantasy."  Two or three per episode, alternating between serious and  funny.

In the early years, the fantasies involved nothing more than props and actors, as guests wanted to be Latin lovers or cowboys or movie stars.  Later, Mr. Roarke was able to travel in time, conjure up ghosts and genies, and make a deal with the goddess Aphrodite to fulfill the guests' fantasies.  The Devil even dropped.

Here, too, most fantasies ended with hetero-romance.

No gay people existed, but again, there were guest stars with their shirts off, like Bert Convy again.

I always wanted to ask the old people:  why?  Why do you need yet another dose of heterosexism?  You've already married and reproduced, your life is nearly over (actually, in 1977, my Dad was younger than I am now).  What's the "love, love, love!" brainwashing for?

An article in TV Guide explained: "Love Boat for people who live in Iowa and can't get dressed up and go out on Saturday night."

The dig at Iowa roiled me -- hey, we had four-star restaurants, opera, theater, and the symphony!

But I understood -- these Saturday night "love, love, love!" marathons were to keep them assuaged near the end of their lives: yes, yes, it was all worthwhile, marriage and family was a noble goal, the only thing worth doing.

See also: Love, American Style and Ricardo Montalban.


  1. It was mesmerizing in a way; I watched it every week, captivated by its sheer awfulness.
    I think it also gets points for getting the title song lyric, "Welcome aboard, it's love!" past the censors.

  2. Love, exciting and new.Come aboard, we're expecting you. I don't see the sexual connotation.

  3. Teen Titans even took a dig at it with Beast Boy's acting days: "You couldn't even get me on the Love Boat, and they'll take anyone!" Trust me, Gar, your supervillain agent's doing you a solid.

    And yeah, like, any town with more than 30000 people will have a fine arts scene. Or did before it became too expensive to maintain.

  4. I hated 'Love Boat" and I wish the entire crew got ship wreck and eater by cannibals. "Fantasy Island" began as much more serious "Twilight Zone" made of tv movie "Haunts of the Very Rich". I think the appeal of both shows to older audiences is to see old time movie stars show up as guest

    1. "The Love Boat" was shipwrecked in a "very special episode." Although the trip was just following the coast from Los Angeles to Puerto Vallarta, so they weren't far from civilization.

    2. Cruise ships generally don't go to West Papua, and their cannibal rites are more or less a funeral thing. And they don't do it anymore because of prion disesses, laughing sickness.

    3. If not cannibals at least zombies or sharks I truly despised Captatin Stubbins

  5. Actually in that episode Bert is not wearing a speedo. He is wearing one of those shorts style swim trunks that was popular in the day. It just appears like it in that cap but when he gets up from that lounge chair he is wearing a regular swimsuit. Go to this link and you can see a gif o him as he gets up. https://www.boyculture.com/boy_culture/2016/04/bert-convy-love-boat.html

    1. How do you remember the exact type of swimsuit after 50 years? It must have made a major impression on you as a kid. I actually don't know much about different types of swimsuits, not enough to differentiate Speedos from others. I just said "guest stars lounging in Speedos" because it sounded clever.


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