Love Boat Taught Tom Hanks How To Say 'No' To A Role

If you were any kind of celebrity in the late 1970s and early 1980s, chances are you booked a one-episode trip on "The Love Boat" at some point. It's also possible you boarded "de plane" to "Fantasy Island." These two ABC shows were the backbone of ABC's losers-and-old-farts-stuck-at-home-on-a-Saturday-night line-up, and scored impressive ratings throughout the majority of their runs based primarily on their constantly revolving carousel of guest stars. Week to week, you never knew which washed-up actor, up-and-coming ingenue, or reasonably telegenic pro athlete was going to show up.

Basically, if you weren't getting badgered by these series' casting directors for a guest appearance, you needed to either fire your agent or quit the business altogether. That said, if you relented and made an appearance on either program (or, god forbid, both), you might've required a career intervention. "The Love Boat" and "Fantasy Island" had everything to gain from landing biggish names, while the performers got nothing more than a call from their elderly aunt saying how excited they were to see you on their favorite show.

For younger actors, realizing you were too big for "The Love Boat" or "Fantasy Island" was a reassuring rite of stardom. Just ask Tom Hanks.

Stay off the island

Hanks was just getting started in 1980 when he was cast as the co-lead of ABC's cross-dressing sitcom "Bosom Buddies." The show was a hit, which meant "The Love Boat" was very much expecting him. Perhaps realizing it was in his best interests going forward to be a team player for the network, Hanks climbed aboard for the season 4 premiere, in which he played the old fraternity chum of Fred Grandy's ever-on-the-make yeoman purser Gopher.

Hanks learned one important lesson from his brief time on the cruise ship: how to say no. He applied his newfound knowledge when the network hit him up for a guest star appearance on "Fantasy Island." As Hanks told Oprah Winfrey:

"Tom: I got an offer in between our two grand seasons of 'Bosom Buddies,' and I said, 'You know, I'm not going to do 'Fantasy Island.' They said, 'What are you talking about? What are you doing instead?'

Oprah: Wasn't playing in 'Fantasy Island' like playing in 'The Love Boat?'

Tom: I did a 'Love Boat!' And based on my trip on the 'Love Boat,' I said, 'I'd just as soon not do Fantasy Island.'"

ABC might've been miffed at the time, but Hanks evaded any potential network retribution by becoming a full-fledged movie star in 1984 with "Splash" and "Bachelor Party." There would be no more "Love Boat" or "Fantasy Island" for Hanks. Now he was big enough to appear later in the evening as the host of "Saturday Night Live," where he became a distinguished member of the long-running sketch series' Five-Timers Club.