Someone needs to create a cable channel dedicated exclusively to shows perfect to nod off to; every night around bedtime, they could run a mini-marathon of The Love Boat. The quintessential repository for '70s kitsch, The Love Boat sets low-impact romantic plots amid the sexy glamour of a cruise ship, casts aging movie stars and TV ingénues to interact with the show's non-threatening regulars, then adds a laugh track so viewers won't have to expend any energy laughing for themselves. The Love Boat practically whispers "relax" with every scene. It drifts in and out like a dream—the kind of dream that leaves viewers feeling refreshed but slightly addled, and muttering to anyone who'll listen, "So what happens is that Gary Burghoff, Jane Curtin, and Phil Silvers are on a cruise to Mexico…"
The Love Boat: Season One, Volume One DVD set offers no context for one of the biggest hits of its era; it even forgoes the three TV movies that served as backdoor pilots for the series. Instead, it offers 12 standalone episodes, each with three distinct stories of estranged couples renewing their love—or unlikely young pairs getting it on—all watched over by The Pacific Princess' benevolent, surprisingly idle crew. A lot of the show's sets were practical and its plots tied to cruise culture, which in the '70s was still primarily a pastime for the rich. So much of the appeal of the show comes from watching other people enjoy extravagant luxury.
But it also matters who the cruisers are. The Love Boat brought well-known faces back into viewers' homes, in new contexts. Like the game shows and talk shows of the era, The Love Boat was the TV equivalent of baseball's designated-hitter rule, giving past-their-prime players a chance to pad their stats. And as it happened, the likes of Polly Bergen and Steve Allen fit right into The Love Boat's tableau of wood-paneled restaurants, polyester pantsuits, and bushy-haired extras. Nothing about the show was meant to stand out, because the audience wasn't expected to think about anything too hard. Just let it flow. It floats back to you.
Key features: "Love" (in the tennis sense).