Imagine a mysterious tropical island where visitors come to have their fantasies played out. If that sounds enticing, you are not alone. For seven seasons, television viewers checked in on the inhabitants of Fantasy Island every Saturday night, watching them live out their dreams, for better or worse, under the watchful eye of their enigmatic host, Mr. Rourke and his assistant, Tattoo.
Fantasy Island began as two made-for-tv specials that aired in 1977. Viewer response was overwhelmingly positive, which persuaded ABC to green-light a weekly series. The suave and dignified Ricardo Montalban reprised his role as Mr. Rourke, caretaker of the island and fantasy-giver extraordinaire. His diminutive assistant Tattoo was played by Herve Villechaize. Roarke was portrayed as slightly menacing in the original movies, a trait which was toned down for the TV series. But his background remained a mystery – no one ever discovered how he came to live on the island and how he made people’s fantasies come true.
Each week, a plane would arrive, much to the joy of Tattoo, who would loudly proclaim in his French accent, “de plane, de plane!” (which went on to become a highly popular catchphrase of the era). Each episode typically showed that one’s fantasy was not necessarily as wonderful as one might envision, and that what you already have might be the best thing you could wish for. If a woman wished she were more beautiful, or a man wanted to go back in time to be with a lost love, the outcome was often that these fantasies were not all they were cracked up to be. Each episode would feature at least two different stories, with the action shifting back and forth between each. Guests each week were comprised of Hollywood celebrities, some of whom also had their own shows on ABC.
The popular series ran from 1978-1984, although the last season saw Tattoo (who was fired from the show) replaced by Christopher Hewitt (who would later endear himself to TV audiences as Mr. Belvedere). Fans weren’t happy with the change and, soon after, Fantasy Island belonged to the ages. In 1998, a halfhearted attempt was made to remake the series, this time starring Malcolm McDowell as Mr. Rourke. Tattoo was nowhere to be found, and apparently, neither were viewers. After 13 episodes, the fantasy of a revival had run its course. The original, on the other hand, still has legions of fans who lovingly remember this popular show.
If you stayed up late every Saturday night to hear Tattoo enthusiastically welcome new visitors to Fantasy Island, we welcome all of your thoughts and recollections in our comments section, as we tip our hats to this beloved series.