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Series / The Love Boat

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And guest starring every other actor around.

"Welcome aboard, it's loooooooooove!"

Jeraldine Saunders, a real-life cruise director, wrote about her experiences in a book called The Love Boats. A trilogy of Made for TV Movies followed, and then it finally became an Aaron Spelling-produced series airing on ABC from 1977 to 1986.

The show was an hour long comedy, with several intertwining plots about the guests and the crew. As the title implied, people were falling in love all over the place. And, of course, went further than that.

Now, even if you never watched the show, you've probably heard the theme song, one of the most well-known TV themes ever, and a favorite for fictional lounge acts. This was sung by Jack Jones and written by Paul Williams. Yes, the man who wrote "The Rainbow Connection" also wrote this. Ernie Anderson provided the voiceover.

This show had a short-lived sequel, The Love Boat: The Next Wave.


The Love Boat provides examples of:

  • All for Nothing: In one episode the captain is being driven crazy by a pair of seemingly incompetent painters (who are deliberately drawing out the job to get a free cruise) only to change his mind about the color once they finally do it right, after he realizes it's far more common than he'd thought.
  • Busman's Holiday: In "Marooned/The Search/Isaac's Holiday" had Isaac planning a ski trip for his vacation. There's no snow on the mountain, so he takes a cruise on the Pacific Princess instead.
  • The Captain: Merrill Stubing
  • Chekhov's Gunman: In the cruise line inspector episode the man who shows up now and then speaking Russian is in fact trying to find the cruise inspector, who never made it onboard.
  • Christmas Episode:
    • Season 1's "Lonely at the Top/Silent Night/Divorce Me, Please" has Stubing dressing up as Santa for a group of orphan boys on a cruise.
    • Advertisement:
    • There were several others, most notably the Season 10 movie "The Christmas Cruise".
  • The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes: Dear Beverly an advice columnist takes a whole episode and a lot of hints to realize that her own marriage is in danger of failing.
  • Cool Boat: Nearly all the action took place aboard the Pacific Princess.
  • Crossover:
    • A couple with Fantasy Island, another Aaron Spelling show which immediately followed The Love Boat on ABC Saturday nights.
    • Yet another Spelling show, Charlie's Angels, had an episode where the title characters pursue art thieves on a Pacific Princess cruise and encounter Capt. Stubing and his crew.
    • Years after the show ended, some of the cast members appeared in character in a two-part episode of Martin.
  • Cryptid Episode: One storyline involved a group of anthropologists on board the boat who were searching for a Malayan Bigfoot "Missing Link", although it eventually turned out to be a complicated con involving an actor in a bad wig and stage make-up.
  • Disguised in Drag: Happened at least twice.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Dwyer the teacher from Julie's school whose present during a reunion aboard the ship feels this way, but only because he keeps overhearing conversations and walking off right before someone compliments him.
  • Framed Face Opening: Utilized for the guest passengers on each episode, from season 2 onward. The standard credit sequence had the port window motif over the Princess backdrop while the final season (1985/86) used a wave motif over a panoramic montage of sights from around the world.
  • Genre Anthology: This show and Fantasy Island were hybrids of the anthology and ongoing series format. Most episodes would have two stories about characters who had never appeared before and would never appear again (though they would occasionally interact with the regular cast), and one story that the series regulars could participate in directly.
  • Glamorous Single Mother: A few, all the way back to the second episode, where the main character of one plot line (who's trying to get her exterminator boyfriend to propose) shares a cabin with a partier played by Suzanne Somers who provides her some relationship advice. When the exterminator's girlfriend says that she wants children, her roommate offers to let her borrow hers. That may feel like a joke at first, but at the end of the episode we find out that she does have two kids waiting for her at the pier who were staying with their grandmother.
  • Halloween Episode: "Ship of Ghouls," featuring an illusionist who can induce hallucinations in other people and a costume party that all the characters attend.
  • Her Code Name Was "Mary Sue": In one episode Isaac tries his hand at writing, but can't decide on the genre (his opening paragraphs, as read by other crew members, are all examples of Stylistic Suck). He finally turns to a book about the staff of a cruise ship, blatantly describing the Love Boat crew; Gopher's name is changed to "Muskrat," etc. His fellow crew members are not amused.
  • In Love with the Mark: A variation in the third episode, when a widowed private detective falls in love with the woman he’s following for her unfaithful husband.
  • Insatiable Newlyweds: A series Running Gag, starting from the pilot.
  • Inspirational Insult: The second variation was in play during an episode of the show. Jimmy Osmond played a novice actor shooting a scene, who just couldn't get it right. The director wasn't satisfied with his believability. He wasn't conveying enough anger and hurt. After repeated tries, the director called a break, during which the captain's daughter Vicki ripped into him about how he might as well give it up. He was a horrible failure of an actor, and he wasn't ever going to succeed. On the next take, he nailed it. Vicki had insulted him deliberately to make him angry and produce that result.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: A smarmy author advocating open marriage, is the first cheater in the show whose marriage does break up (all the previous ones made amends) and on top of that the other woman jilts him to.
  • Laugh Track: Was used in the audio.
  • The Movie: Besides the three Pilot Movies, there were a number of special two-hour movie episodes throughout the show's run, including three which aired in 1986/87 in lieu of a tenth season.
  • The Noodle Incident: On leave, the gang complains over having to see Isaac's aunt in a horrible play. When Gopher calls it the worst experience ever on shore leave, Doc states he had a worse one with his second wife but "as per our divorce agreement, I'm legally forbidden from talking about it."
  • Not Blood Siblings: One episode has a woman looking for her biological mother find out it’s the mom of the guy helping her who she has a crush on. Fortunately it turns out she’s just his stepmother.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Robert Tanner the jewel thief played by ’’Jim Nabors’’.
  • Popcultural Osmosis: The theme song.
  • Potty Dance: Isaac does this when forced to share a cabin (and a bathroom) with the other male crew.
  • Prenup Blowup: In one episode, this was part of a subplot: a man getting over a very economically taxing divorce tries to court several women on the boat who immediately shun him when he asks for them to sign a pre-nup (while dating). Eventually he decides not to do it for the woman he ends up falling in love with... who at the end of the episode asks him to sign one, having also been through a similar divorce.
  • Put on a Bus: Julie McCoy, after Lauren Tewes' cocaine addiction made her unable to do her job. The Bus Came Back, however. She made a guest appearance (as a passenger) in a season 9 episode, then returned as cruise director for the three season 10 movies.
  • Rearrange the Song: The theme song was sung by Jack Jones in Seasons 1-8, and by Dionne Warwick in Season 9.
  • Reunion Show: A Valentine Voyage, in 1990.
  • Revival: Love Boat: The Next Wave, which ran on UPN in 1998/99 and involved an entirely different ship and crew (although several members of the original show's cast did appear in one episode, where they got together for the wedding of the now-grown Vicki Stubing).
  • Road Trip Plot: The job of the regular cast was to facilitate these for the guest stars.
  • Rule of Pool: Practically every episode has at least one person falling or being shoved into the pool.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Of a story ended with a guest's room closing the door...
  • Sheep in Sheep's Clothing: The eventual winner in the beauty pageant held aboard the ship in season 2. She seems nice at first but then entices the emcee into a compromising position, but it turns out she only did that so he’d let her friend and competitor who was unfairly disqualified back into the contest.
  • Soap Within a Show: In "Marooned/The Search/Isaac's Holiday," the star of All My Loves takes a cruise. Julie is thrilled to see him, saying, "You're the man who murdered his wife! Ooh, I hate your guts!" Later, an old lady hits him with an umbrella because "I just know you're plotting to kill Dr. Jarrat!"
  • Society Marches On: Julie’s claim in the second episode—after three people bought Playboy magazines with a compromising photo of a woman trying to hide them—that “at least we know they're all men” would feel less true in modern times with less stigma towards public displays of lesbianism.
  • Special Guest: This was part of the show's premise. Every episode included a new set of passengers, and a new set of celebrities playing those people, from Betty White to Andy Warhol.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Love, American Style, a Genre Anthology on the same network which also featured several short stories focusing on the theme of love and romance. With the Genre Anthology format no longer in vogue, The Love Boat added a larger cast of regulars and intertwined the stories into a single episode.
  • The Starscream: One episode has Julie assigned an assistant/trainee who's blatantly trying to discredit her and steal her job. The others have something to say about that and discredit her, and the woman learns humility when Julie steps in to tell Stubing she’d been tricked before he can throw the book at her, and Stubing says that, trickery or not, her behavior was inappropriate and the idea of her replacing Julie is absurd.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Judy McCoy, for Julie McCoy.
  • Thanksgiving Episode: In "Tony's Family," the titular engineer's vacation gets cancelled at the last minute, so the crew helps him smuggle his large family onto the ship for a Thanksgiving cruise.
  • Thematic Theme Tune:
    "Love, exciting and new
    Come aboard, we're expecting you!"
  • Third Line, Some Waiting: Every episode featured three interwoven plot lines. Usually they were independent of each other, but on occasion they would intersect.
  • Title Drop: In the third pilot movie (the first with Capt. Stubing), Doc makes the mistake of calling the Pacific Princess a Love Boat. He is told in no uncertain terms by Stubing to not use that phrase in his presence again.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Phil Silvers' character in the pilot, although not as sinful of an earth as in a lot of versions.
  • Understanding Boyfriend: Brad, the centerfolds politician fiancé from the second episode.
  • Visions of Another Self: A Season 9 episode, "Forties Fantasy", has Gopher imagining the ship serving as a troop carrier during World War II.
  • Woobie of the Week: Some of the guest roles included a character with a sad story, but likely to get a happy ending.


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