The Love Boat gave Bernie Kopell an unexpected romantic image
He was the underdog of romance until he became the type everyone wanted.
There are many ways to succeed in Hollywood. Sometimes it helps to know someone in the industry; other times, it takes a whole lot of luck and a bunch of persistence.
The usual route to becoming a Hollywood star in the '70s went like this: Get lucky and get a part as the leading man or woman in a TV series, then transition to character work as you get older.
Not The Love Boat's Bernie Kopell, though. His story was a bit different.
Kopell started his career as a character actor in the '50s, where he would remain a character actor until The Love Boat came along and made Kopell into a leading man. Those series of events are typically reversed, but there Kopell was, sex appeal at 47.
While referring to his Hollywood glow-up and newfound romantic image, Kopell said: "I've never known an evolution like this."
Kopell played the role of Doctor Adam Bricker, who was the doctor on the ABC series. Since the series premiere in 1977, Kopell would have many romantic encounters aboard the ship – something he was not used to before.
"I attribute my casting, on the one hand, to taking care of myself," Kopell said in a 1979 interview with The Ottawa Citizen. "But on the other level, which is probably more interesting in the universal sense of show business, the standards have dropped for leading men."
Kopell said a new type of leading man had started getting air-time. For Kopell, these men included: Richard Dreyfuss, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino and Gene Wilder.
"I think the world of our business has become more realistic," Kopell said. "We don't just do fantasy trips about beautiful people, like Tyrone Power or Clark Gable. There's a realization that everyone, no matter what he looks like, is capable of romance."
Romance, of course, is what made The Love Boat float. There was romance everywhere; Under the stars, in the water, among the crew and guests.
The Pacific Princess would be a terrible place to be right after a breakup.
Kopell said part of The Love Boat's appeal was that the series provided an escape for people who needed a break from the pollution in cities, breakups, inflation and politics. The other part of the appeal? Average-looking people who are caught up in multiple romances.
"People who enjoy the show the most are those who've never been on a cruise and never will go on a cruise," Kopell said. "This ship takes you away from your problems."
Kopell not only acted out the romance onscreen, but he and Fred Grandy (Gopher) had also written a few segments for the series. He said he and his character had a few parallels, and he attributes his success to his professionalism.
"The age of the rugged individual is over," Kopell said. "Show business is now a computer business and time is money... The point that I am making is that they don't put up with any nonsense. This is an age of professionalism."