Monday, August 2, 2021

Conrad Bain was the "Love Boat's" ship's steward?

 I was blown away while watching The Love Boat season 9 episode "A Day in Port" when I saw Conrad Bain was in the guest cast--not as a passenger, but as the ship's steward! His Charles Custers is not a new hire, but the chief stew, which means that in the LoveBoativerse, Bain's character has been coexisting with all the regulars for--well, likely for years.  

To the show's creative team, this might have seemed a throwaway character. After all, Bain had been on the series many years earlier as someone squabbling with--and maybe reconciling with?--Janet Leigh. And not even a year earlier, Bain showed up in season 8 as a different passenger. So why not bring the veteran performer in a key role as a heretofore unseen crewmember?

I'll tell you why not: Because now I feel cheated. Conrad Bain (OK, his character, but still) has been on the staff for this long, and we never saw him? The series works best when we don't think about the scores of other employees who make the boat go.  The illusion that a handful of dedicated people keep the Pacific Princess afloat is just fine for me as long as the series doesn't contradict it like this!

Another odd aspect of the episode: The ship's head of chambermaids is Diane Ladd, which is a similar issue, but worse for Ladd is her character...spoiler alert...ends up in a romance with Bain. Now, this is particularly acute to me because we just covered Alice this season. Ladd was a vivacious waitress in the Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore feature film, and then a mere 4-5 years before this Boat episode, she was Flo's replacement on that sitcom. Now, in 1985, a shade below 50 years of age, she is a romantic foil for Conrad Bain.

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