The Love Boat

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The Love Boat
The Love Boat.jpg
Based onThe Love Boats
by Jeraldine Saunders
Developed byWilford Lloyd Baumes
Opening theme"The Love Boat" sung by Jack Jones, seasons 1–8; by Dionne Warwick season 9
  • Charles Fox
  • Paul Williams
Country of originUnited States
No. of seasons9 + 5 specials
No. of episodes250 (list of episodes)
Executive producers
Running time45–52 minutes
Production companies
Original networkABC
Picture formatColor
Audio formatMonaural
Original releaseSeptember 24, 1977 (1977-09-24) –
May 24, 1986 (1986-05-24)
Related showsLove Boat: The Next Wave

The Love Boat is an American romantic comedy/drama television series that aired on ABC from 1977 to 1986; in addition, four three-hour specials aired in 1986, 1987, and 1990.[1] The series was set on the luxury passenger cruise ship MS Pacific Princess, and revolved around the ship's captain Merrill Stubing (played by Gavin MacLeod) and a handful of its crew, with passengers played by guest actors for each episode, having romantic and humorous adventures. The ship's regular ports of call were Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco and Mazatlán. The series was part of ABC's popular Saturday-night lineup of the time, which also included Fantasy Island until 1984.

The original 1976 made-for-TV movie on which the show was based (also titled The Love Boat) was itself based on the nonfiction book The Love Boats by Jeraldine Saunders, a real-life cruise director for a passenger cruise-ship line.[2][3] Saunders was also partly inspired by the German cruise ship MV Aurora.[4] The TV movie was followed by two more (titled The Love Boat II and The New Love Boat), all of which aired before the series began in September 1977.[5]

The executive producer for the series was Aaron Spelling, who produced several television series for Four Star Television and ABC from the 1960s into the 1990s.

In 1987, the episode with segment titles "Hidden Treasure", "Picture from the Past", and "Ace's Salary" (Season 9, Episode 3) was ranked No. 82 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time list.[6] Another made-for-TV movie, titled The Love Boat: A Valentine Voyage, starring four of the original cast members, aired in February 1990.[7]


The cast members in costume, 2015; l–r: Kopell, Grandy, Lange, MacLeod, Tewes & Whelan
  • Gavin MacLeod as Your Captain, Merrill Stubing
  • Bernie Kopell as Your Ship's Doctor, Adam "Doc" Bricker; Kopell played a different character, Dr. O'Neill, in the second pilot film, Love Boat II.
  • Fred Grandy as Your Yeoman Purser, Burl "Gopher" Smith (Seasons 1–6), chief purser (Seasons 7–9)
  • Ted Lange as Your Bartender, Isaac Washington (Seasons 1–9, four specials), yeoman purser (made-for-TV movie)
  • Lauren Tewes as Your Cruise Director, Julie McCoy (Seasons 1–7, four specials, plus a guest appearance in Season 9)
  • Jill Whelan as Vicki Stubing, the captain's daughter (guest appearance in Season 2, Seasons 3–9, four specials, made-for-TV movie)[8]
  • Ted McGinley as Your Ship's Photographer, Ashley "Ace" Covington Evans (Seasons 7–9), yeoman purser (four specials)
  • Patricia Klous as Judy McCoy, Julie's sister and successor as cruise director (Seasons 8–9)

MacLeod, Kopell and Lange are the only cast members to appear in every episode of the TV series as well as the last three made-for-TV movies. Grandy appeared in every episode throughout the run of the series but did not appear in the last of the TV movies, as he was campaigning for the first of his four consecutive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. MacLeod was not the captain of the Pacific Princess in the first two TV movies and did not appear in them, although when his character was introduced, it was mentioned that he was the new captain.

Among the series' attractions was the casting of well-known actors in guest-starring roles, with many famous film stars of prior decades making rare television appearances. The Love Boat was not the first comedy series to use the guest-star cast anthology format—Love, American Style had used the formula seven years earlier—but it had such success with the formula that future series in similar style (such as Supertrain and Masquerade) drew comparisons to The Love Boat.[citation needed] The series was followed on Saturday nights on ABC by Fantasy Island, which was also produced by Aaron Spelling and had a similar format.

In the final season, a troupe of dancers who performed choreographed performances was introduced. The Love Boat Mermaids were made up of Tori Brenno (Maria), Debra Johnson (Patti), Deborah Bartlett (Susie), Macarena (Sheila), Beth Myatt (Mary Beth), Andrea Moen (Starlight), Teri Hatcher (Amy) and Nanci Lynn Hammond (Jane).[9]


SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
Pilots3September 17, 1976 (1976-09-17)May 5, 1977 (1977-05-05)
125September 24, 1977 (1977-09-24)May 20, 1978 (1978-05-20)
227September 16, 1978 (1978-09-16)May 12, 1979 (1979-05-12)
328September 15, 1979 (1979-09-15)May 3, 1980 (1980-05-03)
428October 25, 1980 (1980-10-25)May 16, 1981 (1981-05-16)
529October 3, 1981 (1981-10-03)May 15, 1982 (1982-05-15)
629October 2, 1982 (1982-10-02)May 7, 1983 (1983-05-07)
727October 1, 1983 (1983-10-01)May 12, 1984 (1984-05-12)
827September 22, 1984 (1984-09-22)May 4, 1985 (1985-05-04)
925September 28, 1985 (1985-09-28)May 24, 1986 (1986-05-24)
Specials5November 21, 1986 (1986-11-21)February 12, 1990 (1990-02-12)


Pacific Princess, the main vessel used on the show, off the US West Coast in 1987.

The one-hour sitcom was usually set aboard Pacific Princess, at the time a real-life Princess Cruises cruise ship.[10] The Pacific Princess' twin sister vessel Island Princess was also used for the show, especially if the shows schedule conflicts Pacific Princess' cruises or her dry dock.

Island Princess, the sister ship of Pacific Princess docked at Station Pier, Melbourne in 1986.

Other ships used were: SS Stella Solaris (for a Mediterranean Sea cruise), MS Pearl of Scandinavia (for a Chinese cruise), Royal Viking Sky (for European cruises, now MV Boudicca) and Royal Princess (now SS Artemis) and Sun Princess (for Caribbean Sea cruises). In 1981, P&O Cruises' line Sea Princess (now MS Veronica) was also used for the special two-hour episode "Julie's Wedding", set in and around Australia. Only the latter four ships still exist today.

The series was filmed primarily on sets in southern California: 20th Century Fox Studios for seasons one through five, and the Warner Hollywood Studios for the remainder of the series. The "star of the show", the cruise ship itself, after being renamed MS Pacific and being sold then owned by another cruise line in Spain, the now-world famous Pacific Princess was scrapped in Aliağa, Turkey in 2013 after no further buyer could be found.[11] Her sister ship, which was later renamed MV Discovery was scrapped in Alang, India in 2015 after she too failed to get a new owner.[12] Both vessels scrapping were controversial, but the previous owners justified it by saying that they were getting too old to continue operating.

Episodes set and filmed in other European and East Asian locations became more frequent instead of the usual west coasts along the Pacific shores of the Americas as the show continued. They traditionally aired as season premieres or during the sweeps months of February, May and November.

Writing format[edit]

Julie McCoy (Lauren Tewes)Captain Merrill Stubing (Gavin MacLeod)Dr. Adam Bricker (Bernie Kopell)Isaac Washington (Ted Lange)Burl "Gopher" Smith (Fred Grandy)
Original cast in a program premiere publicity photo 1977

Every episode contained several storylines, each written by a different set of writers working on one group of guest stars. Thus episodes have multiple titles referencing its simultaneous storylines, e.g. the first episode of season one is "Captain & the Lady / Centerfold / One If by Land".

There were typically three storylines. One storyline usually focused on a member of the crew, a second storyline would often focus on a crew member interacting with a passenger, and the third storyline was more focused on a single passenger (or a group of passengers). The three storylines usually followed a similar thematic pattern: One storyline (typically the "crew" one) was straight-ahead comedy. The second would typically follow more of a romantic comedy format (with only occasional dramatic elements). The third storyline would usually be the most dramatic of the three, often offering few (if any) laughs and a far more serious tone.

Laugh track[edit]

The series was also distinctive as being one of the few hour-long series ever made for American television that used a laugh track.[citation needed] Eight Is Enough, on the same network and produced at the same time, is another example.

Theme song and title sequence[edit]

The Love Boat theme song was sung by Jack Jones (except for the last season, where a cover version by Dionne Warwick was used). The lyrics were written by Paul Williams with music by Charles Fox. The song has since been recorded and released commercially, by Charo in 1978 and Amanda Lear in 2001.

The opening sequence for the series underwent three changes over the years. From seasons one to eight, the opening sequence began with a long shot of the ship before the camera slowly zoomed in onto its bridge area. This was followed by posing shots of the crew members (updated several times due to cast additions and changes throughout all seasons) at different points on the ship set. The long shot footage of the ship was used for the credits of the celebrity guest stars. For only the first season, the guest stars were credited by having their names appear on the screen while the series' logo, a radar/compass style circle with four hearts, wrapped around them. Beginning with season two (and originally experimented with in the fifteenth episode of the first season), the compass was graphically put in place and at its center, the guest stars were shown posing for the camera on different parts of the set (or a city spot used in on-location episodes) while their names appeared at the bottom of the screen. For the final season, the compass was replaced by a crescent wave and the long shots of the ship were replaced by a montage of the various locations traveled to on the series. At the center of the wave graphic, the guest stars were shown posing for the camera wearing their formal outfits against different colored backgrounds. Following the guest stars, cast regulars were revealed with a weighing anchor graphic wipe.[13]


For its first seven years, The Love Boat was very successful in the ratings. During that time, it ranked among the top 20, and even the top 10. For the 1980–81 season it posted its highest rating at No. 5. By the beginning of the 1984–85 season, the ratings were beginning to drop, and at the end of the following year, The Love Boat was canceled after nine years on ABC, although four three-hour specials aired during the 1986–87 season. In 1980-81, The Love Boat aired in reruns on ABC daytime, and beat The Price Is Right in the ratings for a few months.


The Love Boat entered the syndication market in the United States in September 1983, with Worldvision Enterprises handling distribution. As an alternative for stations with tight scheduling commitments, Worldvision offered edited 30-minute episodes in addition to the original hour-long programs beginning in the fall of 1986 after the series completed its original run on ABC.

Sequels, spin-offs and crossovers[edit]

  • The 1979 two-hour season premiere of Charlie's Angels—another Aaron Spelling series—that introduced Shelley Hack as new angel Tiffany Welles was titled "Love Boat Angels" and its characters attempted to recover stolen museum artifacts while aboard the Pacific Princess on a cruise to the Virgin Islands (all of the Love Boat regulars had cameo appearances).
  • In 1982, "The Love Boat Goes to Fantasy Island" aired, a 90-minute special that started on The Love Boat and finished with the guest stars on Fantasy Island.[citation needed]
  • A TV reunion movie, The Love Boat: A Valentine Voyage, aired on CBS in 1990.[14]
  • A Saturday Night Live sketch featuring guest star Patrick Stewart merged The Love Boat with Star Trek: The Next Generation. Stewart played the captain while caricatures of Deanna Troi and Geordi LaForge played the cruise director and bartender.
  • A second TV series, Love Boat: The Next Wave, aired on UPN from 1998 to 1999, with Robert Urich as Captain Jim Kennedy, a retired United States Navy officer, Phil Morris as chief purser Will Sanders, and Heidi Mark as cruise director Nicole Jordan (several members of the original show's cast guest-starred on a reunion-themed episode in which it was revealed that Julie and Doc had been in love all along).
  • A two-part 1997 Martin episode, "Goin' Overboard", had the main characters going on a cruise and encountering Isaac, Julie, Doc, and Vicki.

On rare occasions, there were crossovers between stories. In one episode, actors Robert Reed and Florence Henderson, formerly of The Brady Bunch, guest-starred in separate segments. In one scene, the two bump into each other in the buffet line, exchange a questioning look, do a double-take and shrug and continue on their separate ways.

Home media[edit]

CBS DVD (distributed by Paramount) has released seasons 1–4 of The Love Boat on DVD in Region 1. Each season has been released in two-volume sets.

DVD name Ep no. Release dates Bonus features
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
Season 1, Volume 1 12 March 4, 2008 September 1, 2008 April 10, 2008
  • Episodic promos
Season 1, Volume 2 12 August 12, 2008 September 1, 2008 October 2, 2008
  • The New Love Boat (TV movie pilot)
  • Episodic promos
Season 2, Volume 1 13 January 27, 2009 N/A September 2, 2009
  • Episodic promos
Season 2, Volume 2 12 August 4, 2009 N/A December 24, 2009
  • Episodic promos
Season 3, Volume 1 14 January 17, 2017[15] N/A N/A
  • Episodic promos
Season 3, Volume 2 14 January 17, 2017[15] N/A N/A
  • Episodic promos
Season 4, Volume 1 TBA October 2, 2018[16] N/A N/A
  • Episodic promos
Season 4, Volume 2 TBA October 2, 2018[17] N/A N/A
  • Episodic promos

Awards and honors[edit]

In 2014, Fred Grandy, Bernie Kopell, Ted Lange, Gavin McLeod, Cynthia Lauren Tewes, and Jill Whelan became godparents (the passenger ship industry's equivalent of naval ship sponsors) of the Princess Cruises ship Regal Princess.[18]

On May 23, 2017, the original cast (MacLeod, Kopell, Grandy, Lange, Tewes and Whelan) reunited on Today,[19] where it was announced they would be receiving a joint star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for their contributions to television, sponsored by Princess Cruises.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Then/Now: The cast of 'The Love Boat'". Fox News. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
  2. ^ Daly, Sean (23 August 2016). "9 surprising facts about the 'Love Boat'". Fox News. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  3. ^ Corrigan, Kelly (13 November 2014). "'Love Boats' author returns from celebration cruise". LA Times. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  4. ^ "SHIPWRECKED ON LITTLE POTATO SLOUGH". San Francisco Chronicle. 8 October 2020. Retrieved 11 October 2020.
  5. ^ Cox, Gordon (27 September 2013). "'Love Boat' Musical: Full Steam Ahead on Vegas Stage Version". Variety. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  6. ^ "Special Collectors' Issue: 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time". TV Guide (June 28-July 4). 1997.
  7. ^ "Picks and Pans Review: The Love Boat: a Valentine Voyage". People. 12 February 1990. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  8. ^ From watching Season 2 on DVD
  9. ^ D'Amico, Bob (1 April 1985). "The Love Boat Mermaids". Getty Images. Retrieved 2 September 2019.
  10. ^ Sloan, Gene (August 8, 2013). "Famed 'Love Boat' makes final voyage to scrapyard". USA Today. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
  11. ^ "Cruise ship tour: Last look at the original 'Love Boat'". USA TODAY.
  12. ^ Knego, Peter (9 July 2015). "Tears On The Tagus and More (Heart)Breaking News". Maritime Matters. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  13. ^ The Love Boat - Opening Credits Sequence, retrieved 2021-10-06
  14. ^ The Love Boat: A Valentine Voyage. 1990.
  15. ^ a b " – Goodbye".
  16. ^ "Love Boat: Season Four Volume One: Bernie Kopell, Ted Lange, Various: Movies & TV". Retrieved 2020-03-22.
  17. ^ "Love Boat: Season Four Volume Two: Bernie Kopell, Ted Lange, Gavin MacLeod, Various: Movies & TV". Retrieved 2020-03-22.
  18. ^ "Princess Cruises Ship Christeners". Princess Cruises. Retrieved June 21, 2020.
  19. ^ ‘The Love Boat’ Cast Reunites And Gets A Big Surprise About Walk Of Fame Star ~ TODAY. TODAY (News and Talk). May 23, 2019. Retrieved September 12, 2019.
  20. ^ "See 'The Love Boat' cast reunite live on TODAY -- and get a big surprise!". NBC. May 23, 2017. Retrieved June 26, 2017.

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