One Man and his baby (and his boat)…
Going back to some of the greatest Gavin MacLeod’s Captain Stubing storylines in The Love Boat.
Watch Captain Stubing on ‘The Love Boat’, Me TV
I was sad to learn of the passing of Gavin MacLeod, who was remembered primarily for one role by us 70s and 80s kids. This was his coveted role of Captain Merrill Stubing, in one of Aaron Spelling’s greatest TV hits. The show was The Love Boat (1977-86), and this series – with an all-star guest star list in its hundreds – has made so far three appearances on this blog.
This role, however, was just one of Gavin MacLeod’s many television roles. He also appeared as a guest star himself in those other shows with guest stars galore, Hotel (1983-88) and Murder She Wrote (1984- 96). MacLeod was remembered in the movies, be it in his breakout role, in the Cary Grant film Operation Petticoat (1959) or as he appeared with Donald Sutherland and Clint Eastwood in Kelly’s Heroes (1970).
In The Love Boat, a lengthy nine season series he starred as the Captain of The Pacific Princess cruise boat in all 250 episodes of this series. This role was also his in one of the three pilot movies, and all those reunion movies. I believe that best of his storylines was when we saw him, as a father to wee Vicki (Jill Whelan). Whelan joined the cast as an eleven-year-old kid in the second season. Vickie’s backstory was that she was the child of one of his old girlfriends, who sadly passed away.
Looking back on it now, Whelan was the on-screen kid that we kid always wanted to be. Through her on-screen father, she met the all-star guest star list and travelled the world. She wasn’t the only of his relatives to come aboard the Pacific Princess. Other appearances from his family tree included his father (Phil Silvers), an ex-wife (Bonnie Franklin), a nephew (Peter Isackson) and an aunt (Olivia De Havilland).
Gavin McLeod also starred in those crossover The Love Boat episodes with other Aaron Spelling shows. These included one where the cast hooked up for a joint storyline with the series Charlie’s Angels (1979). Here the Angels – including newcomer Tiffany (Shelley Hack) – join the love boat looking for an art thief. With one of the girls, Kris (Cheryl Ladd) falling hook. line and sinker for him. This show was number one in the ratings and he was joined by some of his Love Boat cast.
The Love Boat crew also hooked up with the Fantasy Island guys in 1980, with Tattoo telling his boss Mr Roarke, joining this cruise would be his particular dream. He then produced a
stock photo of the boat as he regaled about the pleasures aboard. More bizarrely, the show was joined by two characters from The Brady Bunch in 1987. Although there was no Dynasty (1981-89) crossover, many of those prime time cast joined the series including John Forsythe, Linda Evans – ie Mr and Mrs Blake Carrington – in the same double episode and Joan Collins.
The Love Boat crew also appeared en masse in a reunion TV Movie, The Love Boat: Valentine’s Day Voyage (1990). Inevitably later the show and the roles were rebooted, but MacLeod as Stubing – with Stubing now a Cruise Ship inspector – and his crew starred in another cross over episode with this new crew in Love Boat: The Next Wave (1998-99).
Finally, there is one The Love Boat episode on the lookout for list. This episode proves that Gavin MacLeod did much more than having his guests dine with him, dance with him and snog him. This as he left those guest stars in his wake. It has MacLeod singing in a sparkly silver suit with those guest stars including Carol Channing, Van Johnson and Ann Miller.
And that’s one Love Boat trip that I hope to join in the near future… However, it’s clear that there is one thing for sure. Every one of The Love Boat episodes would not have been the same without MacLeod as your charismatic Captain Stubing, as he effortlessly navigated those lovelorn passengers and crew through those sometimes stormy at sea romances.