We watch... so you don't have to.

Fall '98: "Fantasy Island"

Every once in a while, you come across something that you just know should turn your stomach, should leave you weak-kneed and white-faced and issuing quiet, desperate pleas to an uncaring God. And yet, the prospect sounds so sickly fascinating, so horribly compelling, that you hold your nose, gird your loins, and give it a try.

Like, say, cheddar cheese on an Oreo. A friend once told me that he loved thin slices of mild chedder cheese sandwiched into an Oreo. Lord, cheese, on an Oreo? That's disgusting!

Except that it's not. It's... not bad. It sounds wrong, fundamentally wrong, against the natural order of things, which has strict limits cookie/cheese contact. But it's really not bad.

Like Fantasy Island. While it's not high art -- it's not any sort of art; in fact, people named "Art" aren't allowed on the set -- it isn't bad. Which just shocks the hell out of me. Fantasy Island was a bad idea twenty years ago, a land-bound Love Boat that trafficked in cheap romance and happy endings. A new version should be a disaster (cf. Love Boat: The Next Wave.)

But the new version is fully aware of that it should be a disaster, and dodges the bullet well enough. It takes full advantage of the fact that it has an embarassing cultural icon to mock. Malcom McDowell gives his Mr. Roarke a vague creepy menace, a mocking, snide tone that Ricardo Montalban never would have dreamed of. In the premire, McDowell orders a closetful of white suits burned, becuase they "look dated." And I had never considered this before, but Tattoo apparently just enjoyed hanging out with tall men with spanish accents, because as far as I know, his presence was never explained. The staff of the new FI is literally held prisoner, working off some unknown debt. That's kinda cool.

The show's got some low-budget special effects and some nice set transitions, but its star attraction -- and its best feature -- is it's attitude. Leasons are learned, yes, and loves found, but at least there's a little verbal abuse going on, too. Roarke calls a guy impaled on a stalagmite a "wuss."

Fantasy Island, given what it could have been, deserves some credit. Not a lot, of course -- it's still Fantasy Island for god's sake -- but some. And when you're halfway into the new season's shows and you haven't found anything except bitter shoe leather, an Oreo with cheese can sound pretty good.


TeeVee - About Us - Archive - Where We Are Now

Got a comment? Mail us at teevee@teevee.org.

* * *