‘The Real Love Boat’: How it became a reality dating show

Paolo Arrigo gave the producers behind CBS’ The Real Love Boat a tour of the Princess Cruises ship he’s overseeing when the creative team fell in love with the captain. They then asked Princess if they could borrow Arrigo for a few weeks – and so he not only plays a real ship’s captain, but one on TV too.

“We explored the ship and met Captain Paolo, who was the ship’s designated captain at the time,” says executive producer Jay Bienstock diversity. “When we met him we were like, ‘Wow, you’re so charming and so interesting. We’d love to have you on the show instead of being the captain while we’re filming. And then Princess graciously gave it to us.”

Love, exciting and new. CBS hopes you’ll come on board. they are expecting you The Love Boat will be making another run soon, but this time as The Real Love Boat – a competitive reality take on the classic TV franchise. The show, which premieres on Wednesday October 5th, features real life singles looking for love on deck along with a legitimate trio of supporting players to help with the matchmaking effort.

Her captain, Arrigo, who has been with Princess Cruises since 1996, eventually worked his way up to captain for the liner. Ezra Freeman, your bartender, joined Princess in 2019. And Matt Mitcham, your cruise director, has held the job for 14 years (and apparently met his own wife on a cruise in 2016).

“We didn’t want actors, we wanted people who could make a living out of it,” says Bienstock. “A real ship captain, a real bartender, a real cruise director. And just like the original series, these people’s job, aside from their day-to-day work, is to find single people and bring them together in hopes of a match.”

Even more momentum into the action: The married couple Rebecca Romijn and Jerry O’Connell not only moderate the show, but also sing the iconic opening theme (made famous by singer Jack Jones, of course).

“You can’t underestimate the value of ‘The Love Boat’ nostalgia,” says Bienstock. “And then add this theme song.” (Below, the opening of “The Real Love Boat” sung by Romijn and O’Connell.)

The Real Love Boat first came into being when Eureka Productions — who also happens to be behind a new version of The Mole, which premiered on Netflix this week — started looking for classic IP that could be seen as a dating show could work (a genre that’s definitely on the rise these days thanks to breakout hits like “Love Is Blind”).

“There was such a fantastic brand in ‘The Love Boat’ and how would it look if we took it into the unscripted space,” said Chris Culvenor, CEO of Eureka. “We worked closely with CBS, the show’s rights holders, and also with Princess Cruises, who were involved with the original show. It’s been a long development process because everyone involved really wanted to set the tone and make sure we were building on that brand rather than exploiting it in any way.”

Eureka, which is based in both the US and Australia, was then also able to produce two versions of the show for two different territories (and for outlets both owned by Paramount Global). Before filming the CBS series, Eureka produced an issue for Australian network 10.

“It was tremendously valuable,” says Culvenor. “We effectively did a loop around the Mediterranean when we shot the Network 10 version, and then we did another loop along the same path when we shot the US version. When the CBS version came out we had a really fine tuned machine to produce it. There were things we did on the Australian version that worked really, really well that we obviously built into the CBS version. And even now in the post there are things that we could do in the US version that we look at and say, ‘Oh my god this is awesome, we need to do this for the Network 10 version.

The shows differ slightly in format – the Network 10 show airs several times a week and requires more episodes compared to CBS’ weekly publication pattern, meaning the Australian edition runs a bit more like a soap opera, while the US version more focused on challenges. Both used much of the same Australia-based production crew. (Below is the Network 10 promo for their version, hosted by Darren McMullen, which also stars Arrigo as the captain.)

“The Aussies are rock stars,” says Bienstock. “After taking a trip around the Mediterranean, they said, ‘You know what, just as you leave Santorini around 7 p.m., the sun is perfect on part of deck nine.'”

There was only one day for a change as the Australian cast and producers left and the American crew came on board in what Bienstock called a “coordinated dance”.

Of course, most of the script for 1970’s “Love Boat” was shot on a soundstage that mimicked a Princess Cruise. In this case, Eureka wanted to shoot The Real Love Boat on a real ship, and it was a logistical feat.

“It took place in the Mediterranean in the summer,” says Culvenor. “It was about literally circling a cruise in the journal and planning everything to get that timeline because the boat went on that cruise whether we were there or not. It gave some momentum to the show prep and everyone was able to really focus.”

Contestant Marty Hassett with Captain Paolo Arrigo. (Photo: Sara Mally/CBS)


Bienstock says that meant filming The Real Love Boat while 3,200 paying customers were enjoying their vacation at the same time.

“How can we, as a production, shoot our show in the middle of all this without detracting from anyone’s experience on the ship? And this is where the Princess crew was invaluable,” notes Bienstock. “When can we use Lido Deck? The Fiesta deck. We want to use the basketball court. We want to use the club; We want to use multiple pools. To navigate the ship which is a floating city you can’t just walk around and do stuff or you will get lost. We shot a reality show in the middle and the customers embraced it.”

Adds Culvenor, “Generally when you’re shooting in a mansion or mansion, you’re in full control of everything. But when you’re shooting on a ship, there’s so much you can’t control. There are certain areas that we had cordoned off solely for production. But there were other spaces that we rightly shared with guests. Of course we were very aware that the people were really on vacation. I feel like we struck that balance really well.”

In some cases, the show was so enthusiastically received by vacationers that the show developed “crew groupies” as passengers kept showing up in and around the production. But Bienstock and his team embraced the “extras” in the background.

“It gave the show a real sense of authenticity,” he says.


Ted Long


Contestants were kept close together on the floors while the production crew stayed close by to keep track. Meanwhile, two familiar faces also make an appearance in Season 1: Ted Lange, the show’s original bartender, and Jill Whelan, who played Vicki Stubing, the captain’s daughter.

“It’s really fun when you see how the fictional world and the real worlds collide,” says Bienstock. “Here comes Jill to meet Captain Paolo. Now you have the scripted TV show version of the Captain’s Daughter meeting the real Captain.”

Bienstock said he’s reached out to a number of “Love Boat” stars, but planning is difficult for most. “Everything just fell into place for these two. We were thrilled to have her.”

But a staple of “Love Boat” that producers haven’t gotten in touch with yet was charo. “In subsequent seasons, we can look forward to having fun with people who guest-starred on the original series,” says Bienstock.

The series begins with 12 singles between the ages of 24 and 36 hailing from across the country and Canada. They date and participate in challenges to test their compatibility; As the show progresses and the boat docks in new ports, new singles are added while others have to return to shore. Ultimately, a couple wins a cash prize and another trip.

“The idea that love is around the corner and that corner happens to be somewhere in the Mediterranean is really intoxicating,” says Bienstock. “And you have a married couple running it all.”

In fact, Romijn and O’Connell were cast to engage in the humor that was part of the original “Love Boat” (which, despite being an hour-long series, was considered comedy enough to use a laugh track).

“Jerry and Rebecca are naturally funny, and they have this great dynamic that obviously has 15 years of marriage in the making,” says Culvenor. “And you see how that plays out. You can almost imagine some of the discussions they have to have when they’re in the car together or eating together because they’re so honest and open.”

To prepare for The Real Love Boat, Culvenor and Bienstock both went back and watched many of the original series for inspiration.

“I’ve seen a lot of them. Oh my god, I saw a lot,” says Bienstock. “What struck me about the show, which I loved, is its innocence. Nothing works too hard. It’s a very natural, free-flowing, fun show.” Culvenor added, “I grew up in Australia and the show would be repeated every afternoon when I came home from school. What I loved about this original was the adventure, the comedy, and the world it took you into. It felt so exotic. So this original probably sat in my subconscious for years.”

https://variety.com/2022/tv/news/the-real-love-boat-rebecca-romijn-jerry-oconnor-ted-lange-jill-whelan-1235394123/ ‘The Real Love Boat’: How it became a reality dating show

Charles Jones

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