Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sunday encore! "Ahoy, Heisenberg!" When "Breaking Bad" collides with "Love Boat"

“Breaking Bad” marathon on today. Here’s the ’13 story about the night when our favorite show got swamped by, yep, “The Love Boat!” Come aboard, they're expecting you! Such great campy fun.

It was 9 p.m. Sunday and Val and I were sitting down to watch the fourth to last episode of “Breaking Bad,” the AMC show that is dividing America.

The half of us who are watching can’t quit talking about what we believe is the best TV show ever; the half that couldn’t care less wishes the rest of us would just shut the hell up. 

As I said, it was 9 p.m. and savvy viewers know that is not the time to sit down and and watch quality programming. It’s a time that means we’d be subjected to about 20 minutes of momentum-busting commercials.

So we needed at least 21 minutes to let the DVR do its magic.

What to do? Meaningful conversation between married parents of two vital children being, of course, out of the question.

Val seized the remote and deftly found a recorded program about the only premise more compelling than trainloads full of methylamine being hijacked in the desert.

Yes, it was love!

“Love, exciting and new! Come aboard! We’re expecting you!”

Fans of cornball TV will recognize that as the opening line from the theme from “The Love Boat.”

She’d taped Season 1/Episode 1 of the glorious ABC cheese-fest that debuted Sept. 24, 1977. It’s now rerunning on the indispensable ME (Memorable Entertainment) TV network.

With line-ups that now include “Gilligan’s Island,” “F-Troop,’ and the original “Hawaii Five-O,” it’s becoming my go-to station whenever the other 999 channels in my Comcast package are offering unwatchable crap. 

She’d taped “Love Boat” for nostalgia sake, thinking we’d watch the intro, have a smug giggle and then move on to something cerebral.

But something surprising happened just after Capt. Merrill Stubing weighed anchor.

We were hooked.

In fact, we hadn’t felt this compelled to watch a TV show since the first time we saw Walter White’s empty khakis sailing through the New Mexico skies.

We were so enjoying the show that within minutes we were asking one another a question unique in the annals of TV debate:

Is “Love Boat” a better show than “Breaking Bad?”

First a little perspective. I’d had a really bad day -- and when I say “really bad day” I apologize to anyone in Damascus who might be taking a break from ducking bombs to read this blog.

But, geez, the Steelers lost their opener and the Pirates got blown out by the Cardinals for the third time in a row.

And I’m feeling melancholy about the conclusion of “Breaking Bad.” So all day as my teams are getting thumped I’m realizing that one or two of the characters about whom we care is bound to soon meet a violent end.

Yes, on “Breaking Bad” it’s guaranteed someone is going to get killed.

On “Love Boat” it’s guaranteed someone’s gonna get laid!

Maiden voyage guest stars included Bonnie Franklin, J.J. Walker, Meredith Baxter Birney, Suzanne Somers and Brenda Sykes.

What’s great about this show is at that moment, many of these stars were at the peak of their fame. Now, nearly 40 years later we can enjoy making cracks about the crazy Hollywood turns their lives have taken.

There was the lovely Baxter Birney playing a coquettish centerfold in love with a promising young politician. It was entertaining watching her act like a teasing heterosexual sex kitten knowing that about 30 years later after raising her family she’d become in real life a staunch lesbian.

It’s funny because back then no man could have ever pegged her for a lesbian and today she’s a lesbian no man could peg.

Then there was J.J. Walker playing an erratic ladies’ man trying to win the fair hand of sexy Brenda Sykes. Walker, as you may remember, played an erratic ladies’ man on the mid-‘70s show “Good Times,” where sexy Sykes guest starred as his girlfriend whose fair hand he was trying to win.

I tell you, “Love Boat” casting was Dy-No-Mite!

The show’s galaxy of guest stars included Sonny Bono, Loni Anderson, Tom Hanks, Barbi Benton, Andy Warhol, Gina Lollabrigida, Ernie Borgnine and Charo! Charo! Charo!

Charo, in fact, was the show’s most frequent guest star, having boarded The Boat eight times over the show’s eight-year run.

(Gratuitous Charo trivia: Legal documents in three different international venues indicate she was born alternatively in 1951, 1941 and 1931.)

So now we’re hooked. I’m sure we’ll watch regularly to monitor the guest stars, the ludicrous plots and try and discern if Adam Bricker, the four-times married ship’s doctor, ever once needed the eye chart on conspicious display in his examination room.

We watched about 30 minutes before switching to watch “Breaking Bad,” which left us absolutely devastated.

So we rebounded by immediately watching the rest of “Love Boat!” It was great!

I can’t tell you how euphoric it felt to watch a show about a cruise ship where every single passenger left happy -- and not just because it didn’t sink and managed to make it back to port under its own power.

So which show’s better?

On this Monday morning, it’s difficult to say.

All I know this, the greatest show ever would be one where the cast of “Breaking Bad” set sail on “The Love Boat.” That cast is due for a little lovin’ and levity.

I wonder if Charo’s free.

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