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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Hotel

TV classics: Hotel

USA 1983-88, five seasons, 115 episodes, approximately 50 minutes each, ABC, color. Cast: James Brolin, Connie Sellecca, Nathan Cook, Shari Belafonte, Michael Spound, Heidi Bohay, Shea Farrell, Harry George Phillips and Anne Baxter.

Plot summary: For the hotel staff, life is busy at St. Gregory’s, for the guests, it’s pure leisure and luxury.

Review: Based on Arthur Hailey’s novel from 1965, Hotel focused on the lives and loves at St. Gregory, a fictional five star hotel located in San Francisco. Led by Anne Baxter as hotel owner Victoria Cabot, the show predominantly featured the professional and personal lives of general manager Peter McDermott (James Brolin), his assistant manager Christine Francis (Connie Sellecca) and their staff. Supported by a colorful collection of guest stars, including Gene Barry, Polly Bergen, Joan Fontaine, Beverly Garland, Leslie Nielsen, Debbie Reynolds, Elizabeth Taylor, Betty White, Shelley Winters, Jane Wyatt and many others, the show met the standards of Love Boat, a comedy hit also produced by Aaron Spelling on ABC at the time.

Although originally featuring Bette Davis as the head of St. Gregory who was soon replaced by Anne Baxter for health reasons, Hotel faced a lot of dramatic changes in characterization and plot. Speaking to an audience who enjoyed the mix of soap opera and celebrity appeal, the show had the perfect time slot on ABC, following an equally dramatic Dynasty. With season one available on DVD since 2009, fans of the show are invited to revisit the glamor and allure of St. Gregory’s, its sympathetic staff and matriarchal owner beautifully portrayed by Bette Davis’ 1950 on-screen nemesis Anne Baxter. A shining example of the prime time soap genre celebrated to perfection in the 1980s, the show also has the quality to appeal to those who may still be unfamiliar with the program but enjoy a cast of well-known faces and a regular dose of emotional mayhem. So for anyone who was happy about the recent comeback of Dallas on TV, this show could be the perfect treat.

Marcus Welby M.D.

TV classics: Marcus Welby M.D.

USA 1969-76, 7 seasons, 169 episodes, 48 minutes each, ABC. Cast: Robert Young, James Broslin, Elena Verdugo, Recurring cast: Anne Baxter, Christine Belford, Anne Schedeen, Sharon Gless, Gavin Brendan, Pamela Hensley

Plot summary: After living through a heart attack, Marcus Welby shares his practice a young doctor called Steven Kiley. As a general practitioner, Dr. Welby has a lot to teach to his young associate whose medical skills are as formidable as his methods are modern.

Review: Marcus Welby M.D. premiered on ABC with a two hour movie of the week in September 1969. It introduced the lead character Dr. Welby and his young associate Dr. Steven Kiley, as well as some supporting regulars such as Elena Verdugo as Consuelo Lopez, the doctors faithful nurse and secretary. Serving as a pilot episode to the following TV show, the plot focused on the characters’ background, as well as on the essentials of medical drama: emergency patients and the duality of professional opinions.

Throughout its seven years on the air, Marcus Welby M.D. stuck to its successful ingredients of featuring two generations of doctors who did their best to cure their patients. Robert Young played Dr. Welby, a general practitioner who cared for his patients as more than just customers who paid their bills. James Brolin was Dr. Kiley, his young and ambitious associate who brought a whole set of modern ideas to the Welby practice as well as an eagerness to learn his mentor’s well-tried techniques. They were supported by a hands-on secretary and a variety of regular guest stars such as Anne Baxter, Christine Belford, Sharon Gless or Anne Schedeen.

Introducing new cases every week, Marcus Welby M.D. touched a lot of medical issues otherwise not commonly addressed on television. The show also reunited Robert Young with his longtime Father Knows Best co-star Jane Wyatt, and his two time RKO co-star Barbara Hale who guest starred for an episode each.

After hitting a respectable high in ratings in its second season and a nod at the Emmys, the show declined in the mid 70s and was ultimately taken off the air in 1976 after a total run of 169 episodes. Today, the show is slowly being released on DVD to be savored by its many fans who loved the show back in the days or grew up with it in reruns. What was entertaining then is blissfully diverting now – Marcus Welby M.D. with its high quality scripts and top notch actors is a true gem.

Seasons one and two available on DVD.

Marcus Welby M.D. pilot episode, “A Matter of Humanities”

Father Knows Best

TV classics: Father Knows Best

USA 1954-60, 6 seasons,  203 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each, CBS and NBC, black & white, Created by: Ed James. Cast: Robert Young, Jane Wyatt, Elinor Donahue, Billy Gray, Lauren Chapin

Plot summary: Jim is the head of the Anderson family, including his wife Margaret and their three children Betty, Bud and Kathy. Together they master their everyday life with a good sense of humor and lots of love.

Review: In 1949, Father Knows Best had its radio debut before it moved on to continue its success on television five years later. Circling around the everyday joys and troubles of the Anderson family, the show was targeting an audience of all ages. Jim Anderson, his wife Margaret and their three children epitomized the American family: Jim as the working father who advises his brood in times of trouble, Margaret, housewife and mother, the voice of reason in the family, and their three well-bred children.

What is sometimes perceived as a cliche today was a magnet for entire families then, a program to watch every week with entertaining storylines of educational value. It would be wrong to assume that every family worked as perfectly back in the 50s as the program suggests – after all, how much do contemporary programs reflect our lives today? But like in the 2000s, there was a grain of truth behind the concept. Father Knows Best reflected the aspirations of an entire generation of Americans and influenced their children as they grew up.

Regrettably, both Jim and Margaret Anderson seem outdated with their commitment to family and harmony these days, compared to most shows that now dominate TV. They are gaining momentum again however, online and on DVD. Like so many of their contemporaries, the show is well perceived, once more, by an audience of all ages – some of them old enough to remember the 1950s with great fondness while others wish to have experienced those times for real. There seems to be a craving for authentic programs and storylines far away from sex, drugs and mayhem. For shows that present reliable values and happy faces. Father Knows Best sure is one of those desired products, led by a charming cast of actors including the unforgettable Robert Young and the equally memorable Jane Wyatt as Mr. and Mrs. Anderson.

Available on DVD. Father Knows Best sample episodes

Father Knows Best website