The Love Boat

The Love Boat

“Love, exciting and new…
Come aboard, we’re expecting you…”

Nothing says romance like a few relaxing days cruising the high seas. The ocean breeze, the luxurious accommodations – the Vegas-smooth vocal stylings of Jack Jones crooning a little welcoming ditty. For those that couldn’t embark on their own voyage of romance and adventure, they could tune in each week to an episode of The Love Boat, which debuted on ABC in 1977 and sailed steadily in the ratings for almost a decade.

Based on a novel by former cruise hostess Jeraldine Saunders called The Love Boats, ABC recruited veteran producer Aaron Spelling to create a couple of made-for-TV films and test the waters to see if they would float or sink. Their demonstrated buoyancy prompted ABC to greenlight the series.

Much like Love American Style that aired in the previous decade, The Love Boat consisted of a series of concurrent plots and colorful characters portrayed by a never-ending list of A-list guest stars. These plots unraveled weekly aboard the luxury liner, “The Pacific Princess” and almost always involved newfound love or a rekindled romance.

At the helm was the able Captain Stubing. His crew consisted of social director Julie McCoy, ship physician Dr. Adam Bricker, purser Gopher Smith and bartender Isaac Washington. In 1979, television viewers were also introduced to the Captain’s daughter, Vicki. A few more changes to the regular cast were made in 1984, when Judy McCoy replaced Julie McCoy (a result of Lauren Tewes leaving the show) and Ted McGinley joined the crew as photographer Ace Evans. And if one paid particular attention, they might just notice that the womanizing brother of Captain Stubing, Marshall, was actually played by the same actor as the Captain (Gavin McCleod) only with a cunningly deceptive toupee.

The Love Boat had a bit of realism thrown in, considering that the exterior shots used in the series were actually filmed primarily aboard two real cruise ships, “The Pacific Princess” and “The Island Princess”. The ships were at sea during filming and all those extras in the background were real passengers. Interior scenes, however, were filmed inside the more accomidating Hollywood sound stages.

In 1985, the ratings for The Love Boat began to list and changes were implemented to set the show back on course. The memorable Jack Jones theme was re-cut with Dionne Warwick handling the vocal duties. A group of performing singer/dancers called “Mermaids” were added to entertain the guests, and Capt. Stubing found his own romantic mojo on board and married a new character named Emily Haywood. Even with these alterations, The Love Boat continued to take on ratings water and the ship returned to port at the end of the 1986 season. It wouldn’t be the last time the ship(s) sailed, however, as a series of two-hour specials would follow in their wake.

Perhaps the most memorable thing about The Love Boat was the plethora of guest stars – a list of whom which reads like a who’s who of Hollywood. A small sampling includes: Steve Allen, Ann B. Davis, Jamie Lee Curtis, Peter Graves, Annette Funicello, Pat Morita, John Ritter, Mickey Rooney, The Village People, Andy Warhol, Vincent Price, Lee Majors, Janet Jackson, Bob Denver and Sonny Bono. Basically, if your face was on TV in the 60s, 70s or 80s, you probably found your way aboard the Pacific Princess at one time or another.

And today, The Love Boat remains popular all over the world, still airing in reruns in over 90 countries. The original cast reunited in 1990 for the 2-hour special The Love Boat: A Valentine Voyage. And, in 1998, Robert Urich took over the helm for an all-new version of the series called The Love Boat, The Next Wave. It didn’t fare so well at sea and only lasted a year. But no matter, fond memories of the original show will linger for many years to come.

Did you tune in each week to The Love Boat, maybe even watch a little Fantasy Island afterwards? We would love to hear your memories of the series in our comments section below, as we give a tip of the hat to Captain Stubing and his colorful crew for reminding us that love was alive and well on their boat, exciting and new …

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