There are so many reasons not to buy the first-ever Love Boat DVD set. For one thing, it’s not even all of season 1. Instead, you have to settle for merely the first 12 of 25 episodes. That means you’re out of luck if you were hoping to see Gopher take on the jewel-swiping monkey, and — let’s be honest — who wasn’t? There’s also the matter of the bonus features, or rather the almost complete lack of them (network promos are all you get here). At the very least, I was hoping for a Bernie Kopell commentary talking about the decision to make Doc the skeeziest medical practitioner in history, or a Ted Lange featurette explaining how Isaac managed to tend bar at every watering hole on the boat?simultaneously.
However, extras aren’t the only things in short supply. So are the laughs. I don’t think I guffawed once while watching this entire three-disc set — amazing, considering it was one of the signature comedies of the 1970s, and a show I revered during its initial run. Of course, I was 6 years old then. Cameos by the likes of Jimmie Walker are considerably less dy-no-mite three decades later. But while The Love Boat may not offer gut-busters aplenty, you can’t help but watch with a stupid satisfied grin plastered on your face. The punchlines may be corny and the plots all pretty much follow the exact same script — singles discover the loves of their lives, couples navigate rough waters — before sailing smoothly into port?but there’s still something undeniably special about a cruise on the Pacific Princess.
A good deal of that has to do with the main cast — a group that always seemed to take a backseat to the celebrity guest stars (the regulars even received second billing in the opening credits?on their own show!). It may have made no sense whatsoever how they all managed to be on a first-name basis with every single cruise guest — damn, that yeoman purser gets around! — but Kopell, Lange, Gavin MacLeod (Captain Stubing), Lauren Tewes (perky Julie McCoy), and Fred Grandy (goofy Gopher) created a truly warm and welcoming atmosphere. An open smile on a friendly shore, if you will. And pretty soon, because of that congeniality, you care! You actually care whether Epstein from Welcome Back, Kotter will lose his virginity to Marcia Brady. You care whether stowaway Charo will make it to America. You care if an in-drag John Ritter will ever convince his female roommate that he’s all man while avoiding the somewhat creepy advances of Captain Stubing. And then, finally, you will start laughing; only this time, by getting sucked in to this silly charade of a series, the joke is on you.