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 hourlong 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. The guy who did the voiceover was Paul Thomas Anderson's dad.
This show had a short-lived sequel, The Love Boat: The Next Wave.
The Love Boat provides examples of:
- The Captain: Merrill Stubing
- Christmas Episode: Several, most notably the Season 10 movie "The Christmas Cruise".
- 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.
- Disguised in Drag: Happened at least twice.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 complain 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."
- 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.
- Sexy Discretion Shot: Of a story ended with a guest's room closing the door...
- 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.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Judy McCoy, for Julie McCoy.
- 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.
- 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.