I’m probably showing my age when I say that ‘The Love Boat’ was practically ubiquitous when I was a kid. Even if you didn’t make an effort to watch it, it seemed to run in some sort of bizarre, perpetual loop that meant you always wound up catching at least a half an episode here or a few minutes there. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it was one of those weird “Why does anybody watch this?” shows that somehow ran for nine seasons, about a cruise ship called the Pacific Princess, its crew, and the weekly guest stars who found love on the eponymous boat. You could design something more clearly intended to function as comfort viewing and visual wallpaper, but it’d be hard.
And last week, in the comments on my suggestion for a “Jurassic World” series, TrishEM suggested a ‘Love Boat’ reboot with velociraptors. And I have to say, not to diss a readership that is smart and funny and great commenters, but it’s gonna be hard to top that one. In fact, it led me to a whole series of ideas about how to improve the formulaic, generic ‘Love Boat’ simply by mashing it up with some of the other TV shows out there. To wit:
1) The Jurassic Boat. After the failure of Jurassic Park and Jurassic World, no country in the world is willing to host a dinosaur theme park due to potential fears of escaping animals wreaking havoc. So InGen solves two problems at once, creating a floating theme park that cruises in international waters. Each week, a new bunch of guest stars comes to the boat in search of romance, thrills, and adventure! Guessing game for the series: Which guest star will get eaten by raptors this week?
2) Vicki the Vampire Slayer. The Pacific Princess is one of the more…unusual cruise ships out there. It always embarks and disembarks after sunset, it has a full range of 24-hour activities, the cabins all have shutters to block out the sunlight…and it has the highest “fatal accident” rate of any cruise line in the world. Vicki, daughter of ship’s captain Merrill Stubing, finally learns what ties all these things together when she is approached by the ship’s bartender, Isaac, and told that she is a Chosen One–a Slayer. Isaac is her Watcher, and is here to train her in the art of fighting vampires; the Pacific Princess is secretly run by and for vampires who want to travel without risking daylight, and most of the passengers are there as a ready supply of food. She must protect the mortal passengers, slay the vampires, and never let the truth about her identity get out (lest she be kicked off the ship). Guessing game for the series: Which guest star is going to get bitten in the first act?
3) Love the Walking Dead. The Pacific Princess is on a cruise when word comes to them that a strange disease is infecting people on land, causing them to reanimate as flesh-eating zombies. Each week, the crew must find ways to embark and get priceless supplies and rescue survivors, all while avoiding the hordes of undead. Guessing game for the series: Which guest star will get eaten by zombies first?
4) Love Trek. All aboard the Pacific Space Princess for a tour of the galaxy! See the sights, romance the beautiful aliens, and avoid the horndog captain who seems to mack on a new guest star each week! Guessing game for the series: Which guest star will not be making it back from their stops at each port of call? (Hint: It’s the one wearing the red shirt.)
5) Breaking Boat. When Gopher is diagnosed with cancer by Bernie Kopell, he decides to make some money for his family by starting a meth lab with Julie in the ship’s lower decks. Their illicit drug dealing ring gradually brings them further and further into a sordid world of brutality and murder, forcing Gopher to take ever-harsher measures to protect his secrets and his money. Once he’s in…can he ever get out? Guessing game for the series: Will it end in an orgy of violence and rough justice, as each character gets his or her karmic retribution, or do we live in an essentially amoral universe where the good sometimes suffer and the bad sometimes go unpunished?