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"Smiles, everyone! Smiles!"

"Da plane! Da plane!"
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One of Aaron Spelling's biggest hits, the original Fantasy Island was introduced to viewers via two made-for-TV Pilot Movies in 1977. Those went on to spawn a highly popular series that ran on ABC from 1978 to 1984. Ricardo Montalbán starred as Mr. Roarke, the mysterious, charming, white-suited figure who ran the eponymous island. Assisting Mr. Roarke was his earnest, vertically (and verbally) challenged sidekick, Tattoo (played by Hervé Villechaize, also famous for playing Nick Nack), who kicked off every episode by running up to the island's bell tower, ringing the bell and loudly exclaiming "Da plane! Da plane!"

The plane he was talking about, of course, was the one that was delivering new arrivals to the island, each of whom had lain down a sizable sum of money to have his or her personal fantasies fulfilled. Mr. Roarke would take it upon himself to greet every guest as they stepped onto the island and then describe to Tattoo in an As You Know fashion, the nature of their fantasy request. Of course, being a supernaturally-powered Trickster Mentor, Mr. Roarke very rarely allowed his guests' fantasies to play out in the way they expected them to. And quite often the fantasies themselves were used to teach each guest an important moral — one intended to open their eyes to some facet of their own lives they might have been neglecting. Or to teach them to appreciate what they have. Or just simply, to Be Careful What You Wish For. But rather often, everybody just had a good time, even if it wasn't what they were expecting.

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The source of Mr. Roarke's strange powers and the reason behind his island's existence are never really revealed, although it is implied that he is a supernatural force for Good. (Perhaps even one of the Powers That Be. At one point, he battles The Devil, played to creepy perfection by Roddy McDowall, who is portrayed as a dapper foil for Mr. Roarke himself, dressed like a photographic negative of Roarke.)

In 1998, ABC hosted a Fantasy Island revival series that put Malcolm McDowell into the role of Mr. Roarke. McDowell's take on the character was a bit darker, as was the tone of the series. Gone were Tattoo and his antics. Instead, Mr. Roarke had a team of assistants, most of whom were compelled to serve on the island as a form of metaphysical punishment for their past sins. One of the assistants was a beautiful shape-shifting woman named Ariel (a Shout-Out to a character of the same name in The Tempest.) She was Mr. Roarke's right-hand woman and a source for much of the series' Fanservice. Mr. Roarke also employed an elderly couple as travel agents, who would book the fantasies at the beginning of each show. As mentioned before, McDowell's take on the Mr. Roarke character was a bit on the dark side, and he seemed to take more delight in watching the guests squirm under his treatment, but he was basically a decent fellow/omnipotent Trickster Being, and most guests came away better for their experiences. Of course, it was canceled after only half a season.

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A horror movie based on the series was released February 14, 2020, with Michael Peña playing Mr. Roarke.


This series provides examples of:

  • Absent-Minded Professor: In "The Inventor", an AMP and his lab assistant (Arte Johnson and Marcia Wallace) arrive on the island to perfect a formula .... which has already blown up eight separate labs.
  • Actor Allusion: Mr. Roarke is named after Montalban's most famous American film role, Jose O'Rourke in Neptune's Daughter.
  • An Aesop: The guests typically get one apiece.
  • Aloha, Hawaii!: One episode of The Love Boat had a Hawaii-themed episode take place here. Not surprising, since the two shows aired during the same time block.
  • And You Thought It Was a Game: Countless times, someone finds themselves in what they think is an elaborate game from WWII to Camelot and more...only to realize they really have gone back in time and/or surrounded by real thugs with real deadly weapons. Yet so often, just when it looks like they're meeting their doom, Roarke whisks them back to the present and brushes off their "was it real?" questions with a simple "What do you believe?"
  • As Himself: Tattoo arranges for Don Ho to sing at Mr. Roarke's wedding, and a sixth season episode finds Mickey Gilley playing himself pre fame looking for stardom and getting his real life club Gilley's.
    • During the second season, a post-Raiders Freddy Weller – by now a big country star – performed his then-current single – what else – "Fantasy Island." His was just a performance appearance rather than a story built around him.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: A great one when Tattoo discovers a guest is a supposedly dead rock star (Paul Williams) who's on the run after witnessing a mob murder.
    Tattoo: Does he have a fantasy, Boss?
    Roarke: Does he have a...The man wishes to stay alive, Tattoo!
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Employed many times throughout the series.
  • Benevolent Mage Ruler: Played with. Mr. Roarke is the Chief Magistrate of the island (aka Chief Justice) but several episodes show an ordinary police force under him. Some episodes mention an elected island council. Once there's an election for the position of Honorary Lord Mayor, which Mr. Roarke wins in a unanimous vote against Tattoo. In spite of Mr. Roarke's powers (or maybe because of them), the various permanent residents seem to live in a free and democratic country.
  • Bland-Name Product: An actress lists among her credits a movie called The Towering Disaster.
  • The Boxing Episode: In an episode titled "The Boxer", a boxer (Ben Murphy) arrives on Fantasy Island to clobber an opponent who beat him in the past.
  • Catch Phrase:
    • "Smiles, everyone! Smiles!" "The plane, the plane!"
    • Dunkin' Donuts once had a commercial where Tattoo runs into a donut shop and exclaims "The plain, the plain! Nonono, the chocolate, the chocolate! Nonono, the Boston cream..."
  • Crossover: Apparently among Mr. Roarke's magical, mystical abilities is the power to Cross Over with other Aaron Spelling series.
  • Dramatic Irony: Happens a few times as the customer realizes their fantasy has the complete opposite effect they thought it would.
    • The revival has a man trying to read his wife's mind to see if she's a gold-digger and mistakes her thoughts on a murder mystery book she's thinking up as a plot to kill him. She's outraged to learn what he did and leaves him.
    Roarke: Ironic, isn't it? In trying to prove your wife's love for you, you simply lost it.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Invoked in the 1998 revival by Roarke told a man's fantasy is to be able to read his wife's mind.
    Roarke: I've been in the fantasy business for quite a few years and some requests still make my skin crawl.
  • Evil Twin: In "Look Alikes", a guest (Ken Berry) wishes to meet his non-related twin (also Ken Berry).
  • Exact Words: More than one guest discovers that Roarke has a unique way of interpreting their wishes...
    • A man wanted to live in the "Real West," meaning the romanticized Old West of movies and TV shows. He's thrown to find himself in a modern setting as Roarke points out this is the "real" West.
    • The revival series has a man given his wish to fully understand what women are like...by being turned into one.
    • A somewhat darker example in the 1998 revival as a guy whose entire life is whining Never My Fault rants on how he just wants a life without any responsibilities...so Roarke regresses him into an infant with a sardonic "better luck this time."
  • Faking the Dead: An early episode has a businesswoman curious what would happen to her company if she were to perish. Roarke puts out the story she died in a plane crash while the woman watches her funeral disguised as a mute maid. It doesn't take the woman long to realize just what all her "friends" really thought about her...
  • Fanservice: Lots and lots of hot guys and pretty girls, all in swimwear/skimpy clothing. Also, Mr. Roarke had a couple of shirtless scenes. Believe it or not, Ricardo Montalbán was seriously built in Real Life. Remember Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan? Yeah. That was allll him, baby!
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Many guests are sent back in time — and sometimes figures such as King Arthur, Don Juan and Jack the Ripper ended up in the 70s.
  • A Fool for a Client: "Innocent" featured this in the 1998 revival: A lawyer wished to represent "one innocent client" rather than his usual criminal scumbag. He's arrested promptly for the murder of one of his guilty clients and made to represent himself. Played with that he doesn't entirely represent himself, he has Roarke acting as co-council. But Roarke plays the role of a laughably incompetent attorney, as he's sandbagging the case to teach Sam a lesson. (Sam had previously failed to properly defend another innocent client and Roarke wanted him to own up to his mistake.)
  • "Freaky Friday" Flip: One episode finds a bickering couple (Vic Tayback and Katherine Helmond) swapping bodies for the weekend.
  • Functional Magic: After a few episodes that tried to play the fantasies straight as elaborate set-pieces and full-immersion games run somewhere on the island, the writers just gave up and made everything magical.
  • The Gambling Addict: One episode of the original show had one of these visiting the island, appropriately enough after winning his plane ticket in a lucky streak. His fantasy, of course, is to never lose any beat and he spends his trip as the world's luckiest man. Normally you'd expect his lesson to be Victory Is Boring, but he openly relishes his unstoppable winning streak. Eventually his son comes to visit the island, and lesson turns out to be that his gambling addiction has destroyed his relationship with his family, and he needs to walk away if he wants to repair it.
  • Gender Bender: In 1998's "Estrogen"
  • Gender Flip: Also in "Estrogen"
  • Genre Anthology: A hybrid of the anthology and ongoing series formats: most stories were solely about the guest stars, with Roarke mostly just appearing to grant their wish and provide exposition, though he and Tattoo would occasionally have their own stories.
  • Guile Hero: Mr. Roarke, and how.
  • Hand Wave: The explanation for just about anything that Roarke does.
  • Hula and Luaus: The precise location of Fantasy Island is unclear, but it uses these generic Hawaiian tropes to emphasize its "tropical paradise" motif.
  • Humanity Ensues "The Mermaid Returns" has Princess Nyah granted the fantasy to become human in an attempt to understand love. From getting used to legs to walking around naked is one thing but given her selfish attitude (and the entire "luring men to their deaths" part), it's little wonder she elects to return to the sea.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: In the Pilot episode, believe it or not, the guest's fantasy is to engage in this. Naturally, Roarke makes them regret this fantasy.
  • I Choose to Stay: Occasionally guests would wind up so enlightened by their fantasies that their past lives appeared empty or vapid by comparison, and in these cases Mr. Roarke would allow them to become "permanent residents of Fantasy Island." One episode in Season 3 actually focused entirely on the after-effects of one such case; a lawyer whose client and best friend had chosen to stay on Fantasy Island after falling in love with the damsel in his Errol-Flynn-type Swashbuckling fantasy. The lawyer spent some time in 17th Century London trying to convince him to change his mind, but eventually returned after seeing his best friend was content.
  • Inexplicably Awesome: Mr. Roarke was very much this, at least at first. As the series went on more hints were dropped about how he got his powers, and while the audience never gets a complete picture, it's clear he's more than just a wealthy guy in a white suit.
  • Island of Mystery : Well, it's not Fantasy Peninsula. But the basic premise is a mysterious tropical island exists where a strange man can magically carry out any fantasy he deigns to.
  • Kids Shouldn't Watch Horror Films: In "Instant Fastasy", Two kids were watching a horror movie on TV while Laurie left for the beach.
  • Knew It All Along: Scores of guests think they're hiding the real purpose of their fantasy or a secret but of course, Rourke knew before they even stepped off the plane and tailored the fantasy for them.
  • Ladykiller in Love: While there were a few female guests on the island who would flirt with Roarke (who would only respond with a polite smile whilst ignoring their advances), it becomes a massive surprise when in "The Strongest Man Alive", he falls in love with a widowed guest for real. Whenever he's not dealing with the other guests, he spends all his free time with her, and bonding with the lady's son. They even go as far as wanting to remain together, but all falls apart when her humanitarian work in India forces her to leave the island. Roarke spends the final moments of the episode angsting over her departure. She returns in "The Wedding" so she and Roarke can get married shortly before she dies of cancer.
  • Later Installment Weirdness: In early seasons it was just about people fulfilling their fantasies, albeit with some Fridge Logic about how Mr. Roarke managed to pull some of it off. By the final season the show was dropping some pretty heavy hints that Roarke was a Fallen Angel cast out of Heaven for his pride and that the island was a kind of purgatory.
  • Limited Wardrobe: In the original series, Mr. Roarke never deviated from his white suit, nor did Tattoo when he was on duty. The revival series tried to distance itself from its predecessor and emphasize its Darker and Edgier nature by putting Mr. Roarke in a black suit. He also orders all his white suits burned.
  • Little People Are Surreal: Averted with Tattoo. While Mr. Roarke was mysterious and hinted to be magical, Tattoo was the more straightforward and relatably human character.
  • Loophole Abuse: A classic episode has a woman selling her soul to the Devil to save her dying husband. The Devil says he'll let it go if she can find a very rare living flower on the island. She does so and brings it to him...only for it to wilt in his hands as he smirks "nothing lives when I'm around."
    • In a showdown, Roarke offers the souls of himself, the woman and her husband, three souls total with the Devil agreeing. But then Roarke asks "what about the soul of her unborn child," the Devil realizes that by the terms of the agreement, taking an extra soul violates rules even he dare not cross and thus forced to let all three go.
    • A pickpocket is about to be arrested by an NYC detective and his daughter sent to foster care. But Roarke tells the cop that the local magistrate has ruled the guy has to stay on the island...in "parole" on the farm area the two had been hiding at. At first upset, the detective realizes this is just what the pair want to do with their lives and just smiles before leaving.
  • The Matchmaker: Often enough, one of Mr. Roarke's goal in setting up a fantasy seems to have been to allow a man and a woman to find true love. Leads to a Happily Ever After as a man and woman go off on "da plane" together.
  • Meta Casting: Susan Lucci as a Soap Opera actress in "Queen of the Soap Operas", Gene Rayburn as Game Show host Bob Barkley who wants a chance to be a contestant in "The Quiz-Masters", and Barbi Benton as a Centerfold for Rooster Magazine who wants to treat men like sex objects in "Playgirl".
  • Mr. Exposition: Mr Roarke, explaining the guests' backstories to Tattoo.
  • Mr. Seahorse: In the 1990s revival series, the episode "Heroes" revolves around a man and his wife coming to the island; the man has three daughters and dearly wants a son... but he finds to his shock and horror that it's his wife who paid for the island, so her fantasy is the one that's granted, and he gets made pregnant, complete with giving birth at the episode's end — for added irony, to a fourth daughter. As per usual for the series' moral tone, the whole episode is mostly about the man learning to better respect and appreciate his wife for what she went through during pregnancy, as shown by how he is perfectly content with his final daughter... but it also takes the unusual step of teaching the woman a moral lesson, namely that it's not exactly a picnic being the "expectant father" either, even if it's not as physically stressful as carrying the baby.
  • Mysterious Past: Roarke's full past was never revealed, but we know he's several centuries old, counts Camelot's Merlin as 'a dear old friend', that he can be killed if he willingly suspends his powers, and that The Devil wants his soul very badly. Fan theories are that he's either an angel or a man granted powers by a God to help people by granting their wishes.
  • Never Suicide: "The Seance" has a woman who wants to contact her twin brother, who threw himself off a bridge. He was actually the victim of an Inheritance Murder by their cousin.
  • Noodle Incident: Often, during the Julie episodes, she'll pop up to explain Tattoo is busy with a "minor" issue with another fantasy (such as how the "horse" from a Cinderella themed one, turned back to mice and got loose).
    • It can be flipped with Tattoo noting Julie having her own issues and, say, a half-invisible figure will walk by.
  • Our Genies Are Different: There were subtle hints that Ariel from the 1990s revival was a genie. In particular, when a guest wishes to experience owning a genie, Roarke turns to her, and she is horrified, complaining that he "knows how she feels about bottles". She spends the episode as a Jackass Genie, pretending to be a Literal Genie for the guest's first two wishes in order to manipulate him into using his final wish to become a genie himself.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: Michelle Phillips as Mermaid Princess Naya in three separate episodes.
  • Pity the Kidnapper: In "Cornelius and Alphonse," the titular criminals kidnap Tattoo, planning to ransom him for ownership of Fantasy Island. Taking inspiration from "The Ransom of Red Chief," Tattoo torments his kidnappers so much that they end up paying Mr. Roarke $10,000 to rescue him.
  • Race Lift: Mr. Roarke (played famously by Ricardo Montalban) was Mexican in the original series, while the 1998 reboot cast the English Malcolm McDowell in the role.
    • not really a race lift, as Montalban was white.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: While he tried to be nice and understanding, a few times, Roarke finally gets fed up and lets a guest have it on how some bad thing in their life is their own fault.
    • The revival series has Roarke pulling no punches openly berating guests as a "wakeup call."
    • A few times, the guests get this themselves from either a family member or someone in the fantasy setting them straight.
  • Recognition Failure: One episode featured a fictional starlet who had the fantasy of being somewhere where nobody knew who she was. She was sent to the wilds of [Africa/South America], where she fell in love with an explorer who didn't know who she was. Subverted though in that it turns out he did know, he just didn't care about her celebrity.
  • Recycled In Space: The Love Boat ON A MYSTERIOUS ISLAND WHERE WISHES COME TRUE!
  • Red-plica Baron: Richthofen was featured the episode "The Red Baron", in which a patron of the island wished to save the Baron from his doom.
  • Second Place Is for Winners: One episode had Tattoo spend a lot of money trying to win second prize in a jingle contest (a fur coat; not to wear but to give to a pretty lady of his choosing). Unfortunately, he won the much grander first prize…a trip to Fantasy Island.
  • Secret Test of Character: This is what most of the Fantasies granted actually were; the customers learned an important lesson whether they wanted it or not.
  • Shakespeare in Fiction: In the episode "Room and Bard" William Shakespeare (Robert Reed) is brought to the 70s to write a play for a horror film star wanting to become a serious actress.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: A regular occurrence is a woman coming to the island as a "plain Jane", a tomboy or just uncouth and unstylish only to be transformed into a stunning beauty. Nine times out of ten, they choose to go back to their "old" persona as being more themselves but did enjoy showing off for a bit.
    • It could happen to a male guest with a nerd soon becoming a hunk.
    • One episode has Paul Williams as a rock star on the run after witnessing a murder. He's first seen with long hair and beard, looking rather unkempt. As part of his cover as a butler, he's given a haircut and shave to look suaver.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Country music star Freddy Weller – formerly the lead guitarist for Paul Revere and the Raiders – released a single called "Fantasy Island," a tribute to the series, and was a top 25 hit on the country charts in the winter of 1979. That spring, Weller made a guest appearance on the show ("The Comic/The Golden Hour"), where he performed "Fantasy Island."
    • In one episode three secretaries want to be their favorite detectives - Charlie's Angels (Both shows were produced by Aaron Spelling).
    • In the 1998 series, one guy's fantasy wife complained about him almost breaking her Ricardo Montalbán plate.
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: The 1998 revival becomes this. A mysterious magical island; a shape-changing aide named Ariel; a brutish aide called Cal (as in Caliban); a daughter named Miranda. Add it up and it's obvious this Roarke is meant to be Prospero from The Tempest.
  • Sidekick: Tattoo in the early seasons. He was joined later on by Mr. Roarke's goddaughter, Julie, and later replaced by Lawrence the Butler.
  • Spin-Off: For a few weeks ABC tried a Children's version of "Fantasy Island" aired in the 'Family Hour' of Sunday @ 7pm Est time slot. The only differences between it and the 'Saturday @ 10pm' version were that kids had requested the fantasies, and they arrived and departed via Hot Air balloon instead of De Plane. These episodes were syndicated with the parent show.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Nicely subverted in a revival episode. A woman wants to experience what combat was like in WWII and figures she'll be using the classic "woman disguised as a man" trick. Instead, Roarke puts her into a combat situation where all the soldiers on both sides are female.
  • Take That!: The pilot for the revival had two to the original show - first Mr. Roarke demanded his white suits be burnt on account of their "getting a little dated"; then when Cal shouted "The plane! The plane!" Mr. Roarke told him never to do that again.
  • This Is What the Building Will Look Like: One character plans to build a network of hospitals staffed entirely by computers, with only a handful of human doctors who would travel between the hospitals as needed. He shows off his models and blueprints.
  • Time Travel: Often, guests would think it was a simulation, but learn they had traveled back in time for real. Sometimes they even found themselves taking over the role of a famous historical figure (which could be a real bad thing if that figure was, oh, say, Marie Antoinette or - for totally different reasons - Lady Godiva).
  • Trickster Mentor: Mr. Roarke
  • Tropical Island Adventure: The main setting of the series.
  • Troubled Backstory Flashback: In "Photographs," a woman remembers watching her eleven-year-old son riding around a field on horseback before being thrown off and killed.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The hour-long episodes followed the exploits of two separate Guests. Most of the time, the A story and the B story had nothing to do with one another; in fact, the two plot threads were usually written by two different scriptwriters (as was also the case with The Love Boat, except there it was three).
  • Unwinnable by Design: A few times, it becomes clear the fantasies were never going to work out as they should have by Roarke's own plans to teach a lesson.
    • The Gambling Addict is about to escape by boat despite the pleas of his daughter. Roarke makes him a bet that if the boat starts on the first try, he'll stay. It doesn't and, bound by his own code of honor, the guy agrees to stay with his daughter. After they head off, Tattoo dryly notes that the boats are always emptied of fuel every night with Roarke waving off "details."
  • Wedding Episode: The aptly titled "The Wedding" has Roarke marry one of the guest stars from the previous season. She dies of cancer shortly afterwards.
  • Wham Line: A few occasions.
    • A shy woman wants to be a singer and Roarke sends her to an Old West town. It turns out there's a "rule" set up by the local big-shot who, heartbroken when the singer he loved ran off, banned anyone else from singing on stage. The woman is ready to go ahead...until she learns the big shot is the infamous "Hanging Judge" Roy Bean.
    • How many times has a guest learned a supposed "magical" item was just something mundane?
    • The revival has a woman desperate to know what it's like to be a real soldier. After she shockingly dies, Roarke notes how the woman had terminal cancer and wanted to go out in a blaze of glory.
  • Wham Shot: Often happens, usually a guest realizing they really have gone back in time.
    • The revival series has a germaphobe living his fantasy of an enclosed bubble...only to be interrupted by a woman living out an Indiana Jones-style adventure. In the course of it, the man not only breaks out of his phobia but falls in love with the woman. When he comes to see her once the fantasy ends, he's stunned to discover that she's in a wheelchair.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • During the Tattoo/Julie year we see Julie see the plane and run off to greet it. While some of the episodes with Tattoo give a short mention that Julie is busy with another fantasy, others show her leave to greet the plane, then disappear completely from that episode without explanation.
    • We never find out why Julie and Tattoo leave before the Lawrence episodes.
  • The Wild West:
    • Happened a few times on the show; in Season 1, Mr. Roarke even said it was among their most popular fantasies.
    • Subverted in an episode late in the show's run where a guest is expecting to be sent to this period (being convinced he was Born in the Wrong Century), only to find himself in modern-day Texas working as a hired hand on a struggling ranch. Mr. Roarke explains that his fantasy was to be sent to the "real" west, not the "old" west, and that the values of hard work and determination are hardly restricted to one period of history. Beyond that, a lot of Wild West tropes were played straight with a modern sheen, such as a runaway horse being replaced with a truck with faulty breaks, and the banditos on horseback being replaced with a motorcycle gang.
  • Wish Fulfillment and Wishing Tropes: Virtually every trope in these categories formed the basis of each of the stories seen on this show.
  • Woobie of the Week: New guests are brought in every week to learn some sort of lesson.
 
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Tattoo cosplays as Sherlock Holmes.

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