Saturday nights are considered a dead night on network TV. This is a night for reruns or live sports. Nothing original is risked on Saturday nights because the primetime audience has vanished into nightclubs, DVDs or videogames. This wasn’t always the case. ABC launched escapist TV in the later ’70s. These were shows featuring familiar faces on vacation aimed to entertain people who had no social life. The anchor to their Saturday night programming was Fantasy Island. The people stuck at home were delighted to think of a tropical island where a man in a white suit and his shorter assistant would let you experience your dreams. Fantasy Island: The Complete Second Season brings back the magic of Saturday night TV.
The show’s concept is rather simple. People pay a small fortune to fly to the island where Mr. Roarke (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan‘s Ricardo Montalbán) creates their fantasy. Mr. Roarke’s assistant Tattoo (Man With the Golden Gun‘s Hervé Villechaize) would provide comic relief.
“The Homecoming / The Sheikh” are two people paying to be folks. Arte Johnson (Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In) wants his own harem. Even with the mutltiude of choices, he gets stuck on Georgia Engel (The Mary Tyler Moore Show). What makes this segment click is Sid Haig and Cassandra Peterson (Elvira) in the harem action. “The Homecoming” is David Birney wanting to see his family again. They think he died in Vietnam. His wife Lynda Day George (Mission: Impossible) has remarried. He wants to know if it’s worth reentering their lives. “The Pirate” is another bonzo performance from the late Sonny Bono (Congressman). He comes up with a nutty scheme to win back his wife. Remind me again how Sonny Bono was able to win a seat in Congress with this performance on his resume? Speaking of Congressmen, Fred Grandy has two episodes. Even though he was on Love Boat playing Gopher, he jumped ship to prove to America he could do more than be Doc’s wingman. He’s a writer eager to outdo his stand up boss Jack Carter (Alligator) in “The Comic.” He also plays a musical writer with a crush on a showgirl in “Mr. Tattoo.” Tattoo does his best to be Mr. Roarke for Barbi Benton and Connie Stevens.
“Queen of the Boston Bruisers” makes Anne Francis (Honey West) hide her roller derby skills to impress the parents of Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek: The Next Generation). Don DeFore of Hazel is the posh dad. “The Island of Lost Woman” discovers Michelle Pheiffer (Batman Returns). Robert Morse (Cooper on Mad Man) arrives after a year inside a submarine in quest of being the only man amongst Amazon ladies. He gets more than he paid for. “The Flight of the Great Yellow Bird” puts Peter Graves (Mission: Impossible) on the trail of Bigfoot, but he finds what he really needs in his life. Robert Reed (The Brady Bunch) wants to suck some blood in “Vampire.” Sadly his victims aren’t any of the kids, but he rocks his dad perm. “The Stripper” turns a wealthy heiress into a dancer with the help of the legendary Chuck McCann (Far Out Space Nuts). Mamie Van Doren helps her move so good. “The Fighter” puts Ben Murphy (The Gemini Man) into the ring with Forrest Tucker(F Troop) as his trainer. “Pentagram/A Little Ball/The Casting Director” burns out the sky with Lisa Hartman, Florence Henderson (The Brady Bunch), Don Knotts (The Andy Griffith Show), Cesar Romero (Batman‘s The Joker), John Saxon (Enter the Dragon) and Abe Vigoda (The Godfather). That must have been an amazing lunch break with them swapping tales of Bruce Lee, Marlon Brando, Adam West, Andy Griffith and Mr. Brady’s Dad Perm. The remaining stars of F Troop arrive in “Ghostbreaker” with Larry Storch and Ken Berry looking to exorcise. “Cornelius and Alphonse” lets Billy Barty and Red Buttons kidnap Tattoo. That’s so wrong. The final episode “Amusement Park/Rock Stars” lets Ted Lange (Isaac) hop off The Love Boat for a night with Jill Whelan.
Snooty TV critics will moan Fantasy Island, but this was a fun way to burn a Saturday night when your plans fell through. The various stories varied from melodrama to slapstick. There was excitement to see who got off the plane looking for a fantasy. The series was a fine opportunity for old and upcoming stars to play different roles in hopes that viewers will remember they’re actors and not their characters. Gopher and Isaac were able to step back a time slot to show they can act without uniforms. Fantasy Island: The Complete Second Season shall have you smiling without Mr. Roarke’s coaching.
“The Homecoming / The Sheikh,” “The Big Dipper / The Pirate,” “The Beachcomber / The Last Whodunit,” “Best Seller / The Tomb,” “The Jewel Thief / I Want To Get Married,” “I Want to Get Married / The Jewel Thief,” “War Games / Queen of the Boston Bruisers,” “Let the Goodtimes Roll / Nightmare / The Tiger,” “Return / The Toughest Man Alive,” “The Appointment / Mr. Tattoo,” “The Flight of the Great Yellow Bird / The Island of Lost Women,” “Carnival / The Vaudevillians,” “Charlie’s Cherubs / Stalag 3,” “The Lady and the Longhorn / Vampire,” “Seance / The Treasure,” “Cowboy / Substitute Wife,” “Photographs / Royal Flush,” “The Stripper / The Boxer,” “Pentagram / A Little Ball / Casting Director,” “Spending Spree / The Hunted,” “Birthday Party / Ghostbreaker,” “Yesterday’s Love / Fountain of Youth,” “The Comic / The Golden Hour,” “Cornelius and Alfonse / The Choice,” “Bowling / Command Performance” and “Amusement Park / Rock Stars.”
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers are quite good for their age. You can see classic ’70s fashions and strange details of the island life. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. You’ll be able to hear the rich tones of Mr. Roarke and the sweeping score. The episodes are Closed Captioned.
No bonus features.
Fantasy Island: The Complete Second Season brings back the goodness of Saturday nights in 1979. The show remains odd fun with hundreds of guest stars in new roles. Mr. Brady wants to bite necks. Gopher swears he can tell jokes. Mr. Phelps hunts Bigfoot. It’s all good fun as Mr. Roarke and Tattoo give people more than they paid to experience. This is the perfect DVD to break out on a Saturday night when the networks offer you nothing.
Shout! Factory presents Fantasy Island: The Complete Second Season. Starring: Ricardo Montalbán and Hervé Villechaize. Boxset Contents: 25 episodes on 6 DVDs. Released: May 8, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: Batman, Enter the Dragon, Fantasy Island, James Bond, John Saxon, Larry Storch, Love Boat, Peter Graves, Star Trek, The Joker