Based on the non-fiction book “The Love Boats,” written by real-life cruise director Jeraldine Saunders, the hour-long dramedy/sitcom was a favorite of viewers and critics alike.
Each episode featured the ship’s crew, anchored (pun intended) by Gavin MacLeod as Captain Stubing and Bernie Kopell as Doc Bricker, supported by Ted Lange as the bartender Isaac, Fred Grandy as ship’s purser Gopher, Lauren Tewes as cruise director Julie McCoy, and Jill Whelan as the Captain’s daughter Vicki Stubing.
Then every week, a rotating set of passengers played by literally hundreds of notable guest actors — including Jim Nabors, Jamie Lee Curtis, Betty White, Robert Stack, Telly Savalas, Janet Jackson, Andy Warhol, Maureen McCormick (The Brady Bunch), Kristy McNichol, Phylicia Rashad (The Cosby Show), Ray Bolger (The Wizard of Oz) and even future Friends star Courteney Cox — would go through a series of romantic and comedic adventures.
Almost as notable as the show itself was the catchy theme. Written by Charles Fox and Paul Williams, and sung by Jack Jones, it opened every season of the show (apart from the final one, where Dionne Warwick’s cover of it was used instead).
Jones’ version was even released as a single in 1979, with a cover of Barry Manilow’s “Ready to Take a Chance Again” on the flip side. – AJW
The Love Boat debuts (1977)
“THE LOVE BOAT”a romantic comedy series premiering on Saturday at 9 p.m. on Channel 8. The setting of a luxurious cruise ship, whose passengers and crew find comical, sentimental and exciting adventures during each voyage.
Starring are Lauren Tewes as cruise director, Julie McCoy; Gavin MacLeod as the skipper, Capt. Merrill Stubing; Bernie Kopell as the ship’s physician, “Doc” Adam Bricker; Ted Lange as bartender Isaac Washington; and Fred Grandy as purser Burl “Gopher” Smith. – Waco Tribune-Herald (Texas) September 18, 1977
It’s smooth sailing tor The Love Boat (1977)
By Cecil Smith – The Los Angeles Times, December 18, 1977
Last spring at the ABC affiliates convention when everybody was talking about Soap, a veteran of the network rat race said: “You know the real sleeper of the year? Love Boat.”
I don’t think even he knew how right he was. For though Soap has not been the blockbuster the network expected, it has drawn a large audience, bolstered by a string of hot comedy lead-ins (Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Three’s Company).
But Love Boat has been little short of sensational. It not only has given the high-flying ABC network a lock on the night that has always eluded it — Saturday — but the show has even dislodged that perennial favorite of the Saturday night audience, Carol Burnett.
So badly has it hurt Burnett that CBS shifted her variety hour to Sunday nights, switching it with Kojak in hopes of salvaging it.
Meanwhile, the Love Boat sails blithely on with Gavin MacLeod on the bridge, moving forward to 9 o’clock next month to face NBC’s high-rated Saturday night at the movies.
MacLeod, the self-effacing Murray Slaughter of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, has his own theory as to why Love Boat is so popular. “It has heart,” he said.
We were standing on the $350,000 replica of the British P & O cruise ship Pacific Princess, which sprawls across two sound stages at 20th Century-Fox, watching a scene on deck in which Paul Burke was playing a very tender moment with young Susan Blanchard. It was not really a love scene — it had a kind of melancholy which was disturbing, an underlying secrecy …
“That’s what I mean,” MacLeod said when the scene had ended. “The reason I love this series so much is not for the comedy, but for the heart-touching kind of thing you just saw with Paul and Susan.
“And we don’t make any pretenses about it. There’s nothing subtle about our show, we lay it right in your lap. The idea is get ’em, get ’em, get ’em, make ’em reach for the Kleenex.
“When they brought this to me, I wasn’t sure it was what I wanted at all. The first two pilots were just collections of funny pieces, a seagoing ‘Love, American Style.’
“But in the script they showed me, the captain’s father was a Navy admiral — Phil Silvers! I can believe Phil Silvers as the owner of a delicatessen. But an admiral? With fleets? And he was dying.
“Here all this funny stuff was going on around the ship, and here was Phil Silvers dying. I was very touched by that story.
“We were at Aaron Spelling’s estate with Doug Cramer. I asked them: Are you intending to have pieces like this every week. They said: Absolutely. That decided me.
“And I’m sensationally happy,” he said, “I love this show captain. Never mind this is a weak season, this would work in any season. The chemistry is right.”
Much of the chemistry that’s right is in the casting of the regulars on this cruise ship — of pert Lauren Tewes, the cruise director; waspish Bernie Kopell as Doc Bricker, the ship’s doctor; Fred Grandy as purser Gopher Smith, and Ted Lange as the bartender.
It is typical of this crew that Lange is also a Shakespearean director who begins rehearsals this week staging “Hamlet” at the Inner City Repertory with Glynn Turman in the great role.
Tewes can give you the exact qualifications for a cruise director, and Kopell can tell you why a physician would choose to be a ship’s doctor for maybe one-tenth the income he could make ashore — “to chase girls.”
Actually, MacLeod and his crew of regulars were aboard the real Pacific Princess last week on a cruise down the Mexican Riviera coast to Puerto Vallarta, filming a special two-hour edition of the program with guest stars Harold Gould, Karen Valentine, Desi Arnaz Jr., Michelle Lee, Adrienne Barbeau, John Shuck, Larry Storch.
Four interrelated stories were to be told in the special. Usually, three stories by different authors and with different casts are woven into each sailing of the make-believe Pacific Princess.
The stories are written separately and brought to producers Gordon and Lynne Farr (a husband and wife writing-producing team) and Henry Colman, who fit them into one-hour scripts and cast them out of Hollywood’s vast acting pool.
Most of the filming is on the replica of the cruise ship built on the soundstages — it is an exact duplicate from the bridge to the swimming pool (“actually,” Kopell said, “our swimming pool is a little nicer than theirs”).
So exact a copy is the set that Lauren Tewes says she begins to get sea legs every time she walks down the corridor on the set — “I think I feel the sway.”
Gordon Farr says the ideal mix for a Love Boat episode is a wacky comedy, a love story and a serious story all happening simultaneously on a voyage.
In the episode with Paul Burke and Susan Blanchard, there was also Gavin MacLeod’s wife Patti as a dizzy Gracie Allen type confusing Jim Backus and four young people, one of them Sal Viscuso of Soap, in a romantic tangle.
“One quality we have,” said Gavin MacLeod, standing proudly in his captain’s whites, the gold braid glittering on his cap, “is surprise. The kind the old anthologies had. You see Eva Gabor on our show, but you don’t know what she’s going to do. Bonnie Franklin with us is entirely different than on One Day at a Time.
“Steve Allen, Polly Bergen, Loretta Swit, Pearl Bailey, Don Adams — they can play against their image. Even my wife, a dancer, doing comedy!
“When Mary’s show ended, I thought that if I ever did another series, if I had the chance, I would play the very antithesis of Murray Slaughter. I mean, Murray was wonderful — what more could you ask? The company of actors. The creative juices on that show.
“But Murray was as comfortable as an old shoe. He had settled for his lot in life. He was going to live in Minneapolis forever — he spent one week in Hollywood and couldn’t wait to get home.
“This captain — he’s always on the move. He’s married to the sea. He meets different people, has different adventures, different worlds with every voyage. Here I was thinking about the antithesis of Murray and it falls right in my lap…”
Patti MacLeod says that Gavin is a different person now that he’s playing the captain — “I think he brought Murray home with him.” She said that was one reason she and Gavin put together a nightclub act and went on the road between seasons of the Mary Tyler Moore Show — “he was getting away from Murray, finding excitement.”
Of all the graduates of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, only MacLeod seems to have found a successful niche. Valerie Harper’s Rhoda has been an on-and-off show; Cloris Leachman’s Phyllis fizzled; so did Betty White. Ed Asner’s Lou Grant isn’t selling many papers.
But Love Boat is riding the crest of the wave. With MacLeod beaming on the bridge.
Here’s the crew of your Love Boat cruise…
LOOKING FOR LOVE? Long-term love: 5 secrets for success
The Love Boat opening credits video & theme song
The Love Boat theme song lyrics
Love, exciting and new
Come aboard. We’re expecting you.
And love — life’s sweetest reward.
Let it flow, it floats back to you.
The Love Boat soon will be making another run.
The Love Boat promises something for everyone.
Set a course for adventure,
Your mind on a new romance.
And love won’t hurt anymore.
It’s an open smile on a friendly shore.
Welcome aboard — it’s love.
Guest stars welcomed aboard with love: Village People, Robert Stack & Betty White
Gavin MacLeod has gained a different role
By Ben Brown, The Tampa Tribune (Florida) June 26, 1977
SAN DIEGO — When “The Love Boat” sets sail this September in ABC’s new fall season Saturdays at 10 p.m., the man at the helm of the cruise ship will be familiar to “Mary Tyler Moore” fans.
Gavin MacLeod, who played Murray for seven years on the popular CBS series, portrays the “stoic” captain in charge of some 1,300 crew and guests on the Island Princess. But it’s not the same character who sat behind the typewriter on Mary Richards’ staff for all those years.
MacLeod, appearing at a recent interview session with TV critics here, says he consciously chose “a character that would be the antithesis of Murray Slaughter. Why rehash the same thing? It’s over. And this guy (Captain Stubing of the Island Princess) was.
“I love the fact that I would have a chance to show colors — the kind of things that Murray never had a chance to do. Because he wasn’t like that.”
WHEN THE ABC script came along, MacLeod was planning to take some time off, away from television, to work in the legitimate theater and in his nightclub act with his wife, Patti Steele MacLeod.
But “The Love Boat” looked promising. “Two big laughs on the first page of the script . . . I knew if it got in the right hands it would go . . . It just smelled right,” he said.
But it wasn’t easy getting out from underneath Murray. “I had a lot of those ridiculous scripts submitted to me . . . they would read the scripts and say, ‘Hey, that sounds like Murray Slaughter. Let’s get Gavin MacLeod.’ One was Murray Slaughter in a cowboy suit. You know how some writers work.”
This coming season, however, will see no Murray-in-a-cowboy-suit character. Instead, there is Captain Stubing, an outwardly cold tyrant aboard his luxury cruise ship. But inwardly, he is something of a pussy-cat.
STUBING DIRECTS the huge ship and rules the lives of his crew — especially the lives of Julie McCoy (played by newcomer Lauren Tewes), the social director of the ship; “Doc” Adam Bricker (Bernie Kopell), the ship’s physician; Burl “Gopher” Smith (Fred Grandy), ship’s purser, and Isaac Washington (Ted Lange), a bartender.
The hour-long episodes will feature television and film stars in “Love American Style” stories within stories.
According to one of the show’s executive producers, Douglas Cramer (who also produced “Love American Style”), each program will go after entertaining combinations of intense comedy, light adventure, romance and even a little heart-warming drama.
“The Love Boat” will be shot partly on location aboard the SS Pacific Princess, but most of the routine footage will be filmed on the show’s lavish set — the biggest ever put together for a television series — at 20th Century-Fox Studios.
While Gavin MacLeod and his co-stars are putting “The Love Boat” together, he commutes to San Francisco for the rehearsals for a new stage production of “Annie Get Your Gun.”
“I GET ABOUT three hours sleep… but I’ve been telling the people who are working on ‘Annie’ with me how proud I am of what we’re doing with ‘The Love Boat.’
“You know someone at MTM told me once that to get longevity for a series, you have to be likable; your characters have to be people who will be liked by all the different kinds of audiences that see the show. I think we have that here. It’s just like the ‘Mary Tyler Moore Show,’ everybody cares.”
Everybody connected with “The Love Boat” hopes it has something else MTM had — seven profitable years as a series.