The Love Boat

TV classics

USA 1977-87, nine seasons, four specials, 249 episodes, approximately 50 minutes each, ABC, color. Produced by Aaron Selling, Douglas S. Cramer. Cast: Gavin MacLeod, Bernie Kopell, Fred Grandy, Ted Lange, Lauren Tewes, Jill Whelan, Ted McGinley, Pat Klous. Guest stars: June Allyson, The Andrew Sisters, Eve Arden, Gene Barry, Polly Bergen, Amanda Blake, Tom Bosley, Raymond Burr, Sid Caesar, Leslie Caron, Cyd Charisse, Olivia de Havilland, Patty Duke, Joan Fontaine, Greer Garson,  Andy Griffith, Katherine Helmond, Celeste Holm, Gene Kelly, Werner Klemperer, Jack Klugman, Dorothy Lamour, Janet Leigh, Allen Ludden, Rue McClanahan, Leslie Nielsen, Lilli Palmer, Donna Reed, Della Reese, Debbie Reynolds, Marion Ross, Eva Marie Saint, Jaclyn Smith, Jean Stapleton, Gale Storm, Sada Thompson, Lana Turner, Gloria Vanderbilt, Betty White, William Windom, Shelly Winters, Jane Wyatt, Jane Wyman and many others

Plot summary: On the Pacific Princess, love and laughter are all-inclusive.

Love Boat crewReview: In 1976, three TV movies launched the career of a special ship, the Pacific Princess. Based on a non-fiction book by cruise director Jeraldine Saunders, the so-called Love Boat traveled the world with Captain Stubing and his crew. Each week, they were accompanied by a wide array of guests stars ranging from Hollywood legends to contemporary starlets. Split into three different stories, every episode focused on love, comedy and drama. Written by three sets of writers, the weekly plots rarely crossed over but instead made The Love Boat crew the pivotal element that held them all together.

The Captain (Gavin MacLeod), Doc (Bernie Kopell) and bartender Isaac Washington (Ted Lange) were the longest serving members of an ensemble that appeared to be tight on camera and off. They were supported by Gopher (Fred Grandy) and Julie McCoy, played by Lauren Tewes, a young actress who successfully earned her stripes on TV in the first seven seasons. Eventually, they were joined by Jill Whelan as Vicki Stubing, the Captain’s daughter, and Pat Klous as Jody McCoy, Julie’s sister and replacement for the last two seasons. In 1979, Charlie’s Angels checked in on the Pacific Princess to solve a case and simultaneously introduce Shelley Hack as the latest angelic addition. Collaborations like that were rare but boosted ratings for Aaron Spelling’s other projects, Fantasy Island following suit in 1980.

Popular around the world during its ten year run, The Love Boat offered an escape from the grim realities of politically callous times. At the height of the Cold War, the program was bubbly, glamorous and diverting. A perfect vehicle for old stars and new ones alike and thus an evening favorite for boomers and their parents. Shown in reruns for many years, the first two seasons were finally made available on DVD in 2008. A great treat for anyone who has fond memories of flares, weekly cameos and the famous theme song performed by Jack Jones (as well as by Dionne Warwick in 1987).

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Gunsmoke

TV classics: Gunsmoke

USA 1955-75, 20 seasons,  635 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each (1955-61), then 50 minutes, CBS, black & white, then color (1966-75). Created by: Norman MacDonnell, John Meston. Cast: James Arness, Milburn Stone, Amanda Blake, Dennis Weaver, Ken Curtis, Burt Reynolds, Buck Taylor, Glenn Strange, Roger Erwing

Plot summary: Life can be tough in Dodge City, a typical town in American West, but Matt Dillon upholds the law against crooks and gangsters with a little help of his townspeople friends.

Review: Originally a radio show launched in 1952, Gunsmoke became the longest living Western program on television. Lasting a good twenty years, it was canceled by its network CBS in 1975 and replaced by two Mary Tyler Moore spin-offs. Although the show had been on the decline in ratings, the cast and crew were surprised to hear about the cancellation after they  had survived a previous plug-pulling threat in 1967. Despite sagging ratings after switching from a half-hour to a full-hour show in 1961, Gunsmoke had won a faithful fanbase who continued to enjoy and support the program until it finally went off the air in the mid 1970s.

The program, like so many others of its era, was a continued success in reruns. It was also picked up again in a number of television movies in the late 1980s and early 90s, featuring Gunsmoke’s hero Matt Dillon (James Arness) after his retirement. In the first movie, Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge, he was supported by his on-screen love interest Kitty Russell (Amanda Blake) and their former co-stars Buck Taylor and Fran Ryan.

All in all, Gunsmoke was a show that picked up the legend of the American West and the myth of the frontier. In best Western tradition, the show offered an imperfect hero who was given a variety of excellent scripts over the years. Although criticized for not being as realistic and gloomy as the original radio show, the TV adaptation soon picked up a pace and life of its own. James Arness was a great pick for Marshall Matt Dillon who tried to uphold law and order in Dodge City. He was surrounded by a convincing cast of supporting characters, including Amanda Blake as saloon owner Miss Kitty. Although the background information on each character was meager, Gunsmoke also lived off the tension, animosities and amities of its recurring characters.

Thirty-seven years after its demise, the show is still a decent program to watch if not a joy. It’s not as light-hearted as The Adventures of Kit Carson used to be from 1951-55, nor as “soapy” as Big Valley from 1965-69. It continues to be a phenomenon of its own with a very genuine group of characters who lose and win as they live their lives in the prairie of the Wild West.

Available on DVD. Gunsmoke sample episode “Help Me, Kitty”