The Love Boat

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The Love Boat
The Love Boat.jpg
Based onThe Love Boats
by Jeraldine Saunders
Developed by Wilford 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 network ABC
Audio format Monaural
Original releaseSeptember 24, 1977 (1977-09-24) 
May 24, 1986 (1986-05-24)
Related Love 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. 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 his 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. [1] [2] Saunders was also partly inspired by the German cruise ship MV Aurora. [3] 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. [4]

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. [5] Another made-for-TV movie, titled The Love Boat: A Valentine Voyage, starring four of the original cast members, aired in February 1990. [6]


The cast members in costume, 2015; l-r: Kopell, Grandy, Lange, MacLeod, Tewes & Whelan Love Boat cast 2015.jpeg
The cast members in costume, 2015; l–r: Kopell, Grandy, Lange, MacLeod, Tewes & Whelan

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; indeed, none of the series cast members appeared in the first pilot, which had a different captain and crew.

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 all, 32 past and future Academy Award winners guested on The Love Boat, including the Best Actress from the first Oscar ceremony in 1929, Janet Gaynor. [7]

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). [8]


SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
Pilots 3September 17, 1976 (1976-09-17)May 5, 1977 (1977-05-05)
1 25September 24, 1977 (1977-09-24)May 20, 1978 (1978-05-20)
2 27September 16, 1978 (1978-09-16)May 12, 1979 (1979-05-12)
3 28September 15, 1979 (1979-09-15)May 3, 1980 (1980-05-03)
4 28October 25, 1980 (1980-10-25)May 16, 1981 (1981-05-16)
5 29October 3, 1981 (1981-10-03)May 15, 1982 (1982-05-15)
6 29October 2, 1982 (1982-10-02)May 7, 1983 (1983-05-07)
7 27October 1, 1983 (1983-10-01)May 12, 1984 (1984-05-12)
8 27September 22, 1984 (1984-09-22)May 4, 1985 (1985-05-04)
9 25September 28, 1985 (1985-09-28)May 24, 1986 (1986-05-24)
Specials 5November 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. Pacific Princess 1987.jpg
Pacific Princess, the main vessel used on the show, off the US West Coast in 1987.

The one-hour sitcom was set aboard Pacific Princess , at the time a real-life Princess Cruises cruise ship. [9] The Pacific Princess' twin sister vessel Island Princess was also used for the show, especially if the show's schedule conflicted with Pacific Princess's cruises or her dry dock.

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

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. [10] 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. [11] Both vessels' scrappings 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

Original cast in a program premiere publicity photo 1977 Love boat cast 1977.JPG 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

The series was also distinctive as being one of the few hour-long series ever made for American television that used a laugh track. [12]

Theme song and title sequence

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 usually ranked among the top 20, and sometimes even the top 10. However, the show fell out of the Top 30 during the 1984–85 season, and after falling out of the Top 50 during the 1985–86 season, 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.

Nielsen Ratings


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. It is currently distributed in syndication by its successor CBS Media Ventures.

Sequels, spin-offs and crossovers

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 hallway, exchange a questioning look, do a double-take and shrug and continue on their separate ways.


The Real Love Boat

In March 2022, both CBS and Australia's Network 10 (both Paramount-owned networks) commissioned The Real Love Boat , a reality dating competition series to be produced by Eureka Productions. The series will feature single contestants on a luxury Mediterranean cruise as they participate in challenges and dates to stay on the boat in the hopes of finding love, with those unsuccessful being progressively dumped from the cruise. As contestants are dumped, new contestants will come aboard the cruise. In the end, the last couple remaining will win the series and be awarded a large cash prize as well as a cruise from Princess Cruises. [24]

The American version is hosted by married actors Jerry O'Connell and Rebecca Romijn. [25] The American version of the show briefly aired on Wednesday nights at 9/8C on CBS starting on October 5, 2022. [26] [27] [28]

The Australian version is presented by Darren McMullen. [29] The Australian version also premiered on 5 October 2022 and aired on Wednesdays and Thursday nights on 10. [30]

Home media

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 nameEp no.Release datesBonus features
Region 1Region 2Region 4
Season 1, Volume 112March 4, 2008September 1, 2008April 10, 2008
  • Episodic promos
Season 1, Volume 212August 12, 2008September 1, 2008October 2, 2008
  • The New Love Boat (TV movie pilot)
  • Episodic promos
Season 2, Volume 113January 27, 2009N/ASeptember 2, 2009
  • Episodic promos
Season 2, Volume 212August 4, 2009N/ADecember 24, 2009
  • Episodic promos
Season 3, Volume 114January 17, 2017 [31] N/AN/A
  • Episodic promos
Season 3, Volume 214January 17, 2017 [31] N/AN/A
  • Episodic promos
Season 4, Volume 1TBAOctober 2, 2018 [32] N/AN/A
  • Episodic promos
Season 4, Volume 2TBAOctober 2, 2018 [33] N/AN/A
  • Episodic promos

Awards and honors

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. [34]

On May 23, 2017, the original cast (MacLeod, Kopell, Grandy, Lange, Tewes and Whelan) reunited on Today , [35] 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. [36]

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