Each week, passengers looking for romance board the beautiful Pacific Princess cruise ship as it sails to tropical and exotic lands. Captain Stubing, Julie, Gopher, Dr.Adam, and Isaac help them to get the most out of their trips and do their best to help them fall in love.
(With apologies to Titanic): It's been 31 years, but I can still hear the laugh track. Sex was referred to as "the good stuff." And Charo had yet to coochi-coochie on the Fiesta deck. The Love Boat was called the Show of Ratings Dreams. And it was. It really was. Available at last on DVD, that ultimate 70s show fulfills its Velveeta-drenched theme song's seductive promise of "something for everyone," so "set a course for adventure, your mind on a new romance," as the Pacific Princess embarks on its inaugural cruises. The Love Boat answered the question of how Gavin McLeod, late of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, would make it on his own. He sailed into pop culture immortality as Capt. Merrill Stubing, who is gruff, but, as he compassionately tells one of his crew, "I'm also a human being." Tending to the passengers are perky and adorable cruise director Julie McCoy (Lauren Tewes), Yeoman-Purser "Gopher" Smith (future congressman Fred Grandy), major operator Dr. Adam Bricker (Bernie Kopell), and bartender Isaac Washington (Ted Lange). Lesser hands would have been sunk by the terrible jokes, but this personable ensemble keep things afloat. As with Love American Style, this anthology series was truly buoyed by its guest stars, an irresistible mix of faded movie and TV legends (to the question, "Where are they now?" the answer during the show's run was invariably, "The Love Boat"), then-current big and small screen favorites, and future stars. Adding to the fun was that many were cast against type. Bonnie Franklin, who portrayed a nurturing single mom on One Day at a Time, shows up as Capt. Stubing's witchy ex-wife. Jim "Gomer Pyle" Nabors appears to be reprising his country bumpkin persona, but first appearances turn out to be deceiving. Loni Anderson has a bit part opposite Steve Allen as a blonde bimbo, a stereotype she would later explode on WKRP in Cincinnati.
The stories range from silly (a wife, whose husband is planning a surprise party for her, thinks he is trying to kill her) to serious (a mother grieves over the loss of her young son). This being the late '70s (and a show produced by Aaron Spelling), there is much hanky-panky (Isaac has an onboard fling with an incognito jazz singer portrayed by Diahann Carroll), but traditional family values usually win out (though feminists may want to hurl themselves overboard after the episode in which successful advice columnist Eva Gabor agrees to take a break from her popular column to tend to neglected and straying husband Leslie Nielsen). Those who have been looking forward to this pleasure cruise may be disappointed to find that the DVD accommodations are not exactly deluxe. It's only the first 12 episodes, the pilot movie that launched the series is not included, and there are no episode commentaries, interviews, or other extras, save for optional viewing episode promos. But The Love Boat itself is still a great escape, so "come on board, we've been expecting you." --Donald Liebenson