Where's Charo when you really, really, really need her?
I used to think Charo, in her recurring role of singer-guitarist April Lopez, epitomized the level of vacuousness to which "The Love Boat" took ABC in the early '80s -- that halcyon era of "Joanie Loves Chachi."
But I was wrong -- oh, so horribly wrong. I have now seen "Love Boat: The Next Wave," UPN's remake of the "Love Boat" series, and I would kill for the privilege of watching the great Charo perform on board the Pacific Princess for even a few minutes.
This is the worst series of the entire television season. Yes, it is worse than "The Tony Danza Show" and "Meego" combined.
In fact, the only thing missing from the pilot of "Love Boat: The Next Wave," which premieres tonight, are featured roles for Danza and Bronson Pinchot. Who knows, though, these are the days in TV-Land when anything goes, and they are both looking for work. Maybe Pinchot will turn up as the new April Lopez (Cousin Balki goes Latin), with Danza taking over as captain.
Danza could not be worse than Robert Urich, who plays Capt. Jim Kennedy III, skipper of the Sun Princess in "The Next Wave." As everyone knows, Urich is battling cancer. So, on a personal and human level, it is nice just to see him working. But that doesn't mean critics should say his work is good if it isn't.
The pilot finds Captain Kennedy taking over the Sun Princess pleasure cruise ship after a long career of commanding destroyers in the Navy. He gets a surprise dockside when his estranged wife hands off their 15-year-old son, Danny (Kyle Howard), a "troubled teen," to use the language of the UPN press release.
Danny's big trouble is that dad hasn't spent enough time with him. Danny's disappearance on board is what is supposed to pass for drama tonight. Despite constant references to Danny's "probation officer," Danny's troubles are not so large that they can't be resolved in a scene all of about 50 seconds long between father and son staring out to sea.
In terms of talent, let's just say Howard brings every bit as much to the scene as Urich.
Could it get worse?
How about Doug Savant, who played a gay character on "Melrose Place," in a guest role as one of two men sharing the Honeymoon Suite on the Sun Princess? While the plot line cries for some sense of spoof or, at least, postmodernist fun, it is played as straight drama.
Maybe the most pitiful thing, though, is Corey Parker as ship physician Dr. John Morgan. Remember the promise Parker showed as Melanie Mayron's young lover in "thirtysomething"? Here he's reduced to playing a nebbish with a queasy stomach for 60 minutes. Where's Bernie Koppell when you need him?
There's a slight problem, too, in the matter of entertainment as advertisement. Much of the hour is nothing but a shameless promotion for the cruise ship, with characters repeatedly commenting for no apparent reason on the magnificent and abundant buffet.
Why go on (with the review or life, for that matter, if I have to watch even one more episode of "The Next Wave")?
I know we are so far into the postmodern that nothing remains left to do except recombine odds and ends of our culture in different ways. All the creative work has already been done and re-done and re-done, postmodernists say.
But does the recombinant have to be this bleak? Where are the Love Boat Mermaids, the eight singer/dancers who were brought in to pep up the series during the 1985-1986 season? One of them was named Teri Hatcher. Another was named Macarena (really). Can't we have some fun with that?
"The Love Boat: The Next Wave" might have made a splash if its creators had gone camp and maybe done to the series what the Zuckers did to the "Airplane" movies. But, no, we got low-end Aaron Spelling, recycled, prime-time dumb.
Goochie, goochie, goochie, Captain Kennedy. Sail on, sweet Charo, sail on through the deep, dark seas of my TV memory.
'Love Boat: The Next Wave'
Where: UPN (WUTB, Channel 24)
$ When: 8 to 9 tonight
Pub Date: 4/13/98