In 1977, when other kids were discovering The Sex Pistols, I was discovering The Love Boat. I stayed at my grandparents’ house on most weekends, so on Saturday nights at 8 p.m., I’d settle down on the sofa with the two of them to watch Aaron Spelling’s marine masterpiece. This column is my attempt to reclaim the wonder of those weekends.
Taking Sides / Going By The Book /A Friendly Little Game
Howard Wilson is a nerd. We know this by his thick black glasses and denim three-piece suit. We also know this because his friend Bernie has his shirt unbuttoned to reveal chest hair and giant gold medallion. Howard borrows his book How To Hit On Girls because Bernie insists it works.
At the same time, Captain Stubing’s friend Herb is worried because his daughter Sheila is “an innocent” and is going on the cruise alone. Stubing assures Herb that he’ll assign Doc to be her chaperone, in what seems like the worst idea ever. Of course, Sheila is played by Georgia Engel, who made an entire career out of portraying a blonde bubblehead (that cutesy voice is apparently just the way she talks). When Howard tries a line on Sheila, Doc steers her away, but we get the feeling Howard will be back.
And he is. Every time he hits on Sheila, she becomes more and more interested. There’s kissing and stuff, but Doc always manages to keep them apart. Later on, she finds out that he’s been getting his romantic banter from that book and hits him with it. But when he gives an impromptu speech (no longer “Going By The Book”) declaring his love for her, everyone around applauds and it’s clear this is the real thing.
There are two other couples on board and they are the focus of “Taking Sides.” Mr. and Mrs. Desmond (Robert Urich, Diana Canova) are newlyweds who cross paths with Mr. and Mrs. Watkins (Robert Mandan and Audrey Meadows). The contrast between the lovebirds and the couple who’ve been together 25 years is striking. Ellen Desmond makes her husband Scott promise they’ll “never be like that.” But fate, or at least Julie, intervenes and seats them together at dinner. The interplay between Gladys and Max Watkins feels pretty normal for couples who’ve been married for a long time, but it starts to alter the honeymoon phase of Ellen and Scott’s relationship.
Pretty soon, the wives are sitting together complaining about the husbands and the husbands are doing the same. But when Scott apologizes to Ellen for being a jerk, she says that she is the one who should apologize. Then Max comes around and does the same to Gladys, who is startled to hear an “I’m sorry” after 25 years. It’s pretty touching.
The real heartstrings-puller is “A Friendly Little Game.” Wendell Snead (Harry Morgan) is treating his wife Ida to a cruise and she is concerned about finances. He convinces her it will be OK, even though he admits he took a mortgage out on the house to afford the cost. After all, they have grandkids in Mexico that they’ve never met and that’s the main reason they’re taking the cruise. But we know something Ida doesn’t: Wendell has a deck of marked cards and he’s planning on playing a lot of Gin Rummy.
Soon he racks up over $500 in money from Gopher, Isaac, and Julie, but not Doc, because Doc knows the cards are marked. This means almost two grand in 2015 dollars! Yikes! They hatch a scheme to beat him at his own game and they do, but when Stubing finds out he vows to return Wendell’s money AND fire the crew.
When Wendell admits his duplicity, Stubing is horrified. I couldn’t even bear to screencap any of the scenes of a devastated, teary-eyed Harry Morgan because they were just that heartbreaking, especially when Stubing and the crew let him have the cash because he’s part of their family.
The Fruit Tray scene is back! It shows up about ten minutes into the episode!
A Selfless Love / The Nubile Nurse / Parents Know Best
OK, I know it was the late 1970s and all, but The Love Boat wasn’t usually as offensively sexist as this episode might indicate. Right?
Doc has convinced Captain Stubing hire a nurse for this cruise, but not just any nurse, “The Nubile Nurse.” Dawn Delaney is an ex-Las Vegas showgirl who put herself through nursing school and Doc can’t stop drooling over her. Stubing has the hiccups and mocks Doc’s suggestion that he hold his breath. “No wonder you need a nurse.” Just then Dawn arrives and seeing her Gopher says, “If you don’t need her, I can always use her.” EWWWW GROSS. It keeps getting worse and typing out all the offensive comments would take too long and make me feel too icky.
Dawn has a wonderful way with patients, though. She manages to fix a passenger’s painful neck cramp with a bit of massage and Doc seems annoyed. When another passenger shows up with a bad back, he ends up fixing it himself, leaning over to stare at Dawn’s bum. UGGGHHHH.
When Stubing asks for advice on how to cure his hiccups, Doc totally talks over Dawn’s attempt to help. Later, Doc has a freak out because his files aren’t in order and Dawn isn’t doing her job. Julie, who finds Dawn’s friendly and open nature refreshing, tells Doc he’s a heel after Dawn flees the room crying. As a sort of apology, Doc suggests that Dawn should go to medical school because she’s got what it takes to be a good doctor. Yet, after all that they hug and kiss at the end of the cruise. Seriously, this was a truly offensive plot line that should have ended with Julie and Dawn telling Gopher and Doc they were a couple of troglodytes and not a smooch-filled embrace.
In “A Selfless Love,” Dan Michaels (Leslie Nielsen) and his fiancée Laura (Lynda Day George) have come on this cruise to get married and Dan, who’s a close friend of Stubing’s, asks him to the be the best man. There is a 20-year age gap between the couple, which becomes uncomfortably exacerbated when a young hottie named Gary hits on Laura and an older lady named Glenda hits on Dan, assuming that Laura is his daughter.
Both Dan and Laura start to feel insecure in the relationship. Laura thinks Dan would be better off with Glenda and Dan feels the same about Gary. Laura makes plans to fly home early and Dan is ready to call off the marriage but they both realize what a mistake it would be and get married by a justice of the peace.
“Parents Know Best,” at least that’s what Harry (Monty Hall) and Phyllis Morrison think. They’ve convinced their 22-year-old son Bruce to go on this cruise to convince him that getting married to his girlfriend Ginger at such a young age is a mistake. In the midst of this, they come across the 21-year-old Diana who claims to also be engaged. Inexplicably, Bruce and Diana fall in love right away, but as we soon discover, Diana is actually Ginger. The couple has planned this ruse to prove to Bruce’s parents that they are committed to one another.
When Ginger/Diana starts to feel like they’re being cruel through their duplicity, they get into a huge fight. Seeing the pair so upset, makes the Morrison’s rethink their plans. They apologize to Bruce and then the secret is revealed, which makes them even more delighted, since they’ve grown so fond of Diana.
Until next week, remember to let it flow, because it always floats back to you.
Fun Fact: Harry Morgan is best known for his role as Colonel Sherman Potter on M*A*S*H, but he’d already been acting for several decades before he appeared on that show. His first IMDB credit is the 1942 film To The Shores of Tripoli, starring Maureen O’Hara and Randolph Scott.