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Love -- Not Exciting, Not New

The Love Boat is Sign Number Four of the Apocalypse, right behind "> There are some TV memories that cause distant smiles and the pleasant buzz of nostalgia. There are some TV memories that cause shivers at the thrill of world history. And there are some TV memories that cause you to take a knife to your own gut so you can chew on your intestines in order to distract yourself from the nightmare, forming unbidden, in your head.

The Love Boat is one of these memories.

You rememb-- Put that knife down!

You remember: Captain Steubing; Julie, Your Cruise Director; Issac the Bartending Uncle Tom; Doc Bricker, HIV-Worst-Case-Scenario; and Gopher, the wacky, bumbling future leader of the free world.

Well, reminisce no longer. It's coming back.

The Love Boat: The Next Wave is set to premiere this April on -- and you can probably see this coming -- UPN. Robert Urich stars as the ship's captain. Joan Severence plays a really amazing pair of breasts. Brent Spiner is the android science officer. And a bunch of other nobodies figure in somehow -- I nodded off before I finished the press release.

There's no Charo in sight, but that can't last. Unless she's dead. Does anybody know?

The return of The Love Boat is, officially, Sign Number Four of the Coming of Apocalypse, right behind "Presidential Blow-Jobs in The New York Times" and right ahead of "TeeVee Garners Favorable Review in Entertainment Weekly." If we're lucky, fire will rain from the sky and the ultimate battle between Good and Evil will begin before the end of March.

The new version of the show will reportedly include more "realism" than the original, and will tackle the pressing issues of the day, head on. Like Oprah does, but with less emphasis on reading.

The Mid-East Peace Process will no doubt crop up at some point, the intractable, centuries-old problem solved by the shipboard romance of a Mossad agent and a Hezbollah partisan. A member of the Shining Path in possession of stolen Russian nuclear weapons will be dissuaded from wiping San Francisco from the face of the planet by a sassy southern belle. And two young lovers will have a wacky adventure when one of them freezes to death in the icy waters of the Atlantic and sinks to the ocean floor.

Oh, also: The errant, rebellious son of the ship's captain will be caught smoking marijuana. Really. When you want your stark, gritty realism aboard a luxury cruise ship, you know where to turn.

How we came to this particular point in the history of Western Civilization is one of those things that cause sociologists to get all weepy.

You can't help but imagine a network producer -- half-buried in empty pizza boxes and Jack Daniels bottles -- flipping around the TV late at night, cursing loudly and screaming every time he stumbles across Sally Struthers. "Where the hell's the entertainment?" he bellows. "Where the hell's the uplifting fantasy? By God, in my day we knew what the public wanted. And the public wanted The Lov--"

At which point he throws up.

But his idea -- The Love Huuunghhk -- takes hold, and shortly thereafter Robert Urich and crew come sailing out of the cold dark. The revivification of The Love Boat, even before we've been given the opportunity to turn it off in disgust, has spawned yet another ugly, unthinking TV-land trend: Every executive that missed out on producing a Friends rip-off a few seasons ago is now busy dredging the bottom of the network archives for anything even remotely resembling a fond memory, no matter how sticky and damp.

Up ahead, massive icebergs of just really lousy TV, rising from the oily sea of TV past: ABC is reportedly considering a revamp of Fantasy Island for their next season. Love, American Style also is rumored to be underway. Lord knows what else.

It was hard enough steering around this crap the last time. Screw the women and children; I'm heading for the life boats now.


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