Fantasy Island was a fantasy television series which ran
from 1978 to 1984 on ABC television. It starred Ricardo Montalban as Mr.
Roarke, the enigmatic overseer of a mysterious island somewhere in the
Pacific Ocean where people from all walks of life could come and live out
their fantasies... for a price.
Roarke was known for his white suit and cultured demeanor, and he was
initially accompanied by an energetic sidekick, Tattoo, played by the
diminutive Hervé Villechaize, who shouted "The plane! The
plane!" to announce the arrival of a new set of guests at the
beginning of each episode. From 1980 to 1982, Wendy Schaal joined the cast
as another assistant named Julie. Villechaize quit the series prior to the
1983-1984 season (its last) and Tattoo was replaced by a more sedate
butler type named Lawrence, played by Christopher Hewitt.
In the early seasons, it was noted that each guest had paid $50,000 in
advance for the fulfillment of their fantasies and that Fantasy Island
was, at its heart, a business. In later seasons, this aspect was
downplayed and there were often supernatural overtones suggesting that Mr.
Roarke was an angel, or perhaps a space alien or something else
other-worldly, and that his powers to fulfill fantasies were the result of
a supernatural being or beings needing to correct things that had happened
in the past. Roarke's ability to create almost any environment on the
Island with literally a snap of his fingers was never explained. In one
notable episode late in the series, Roarke battled a character who
appeared to be The Devil (played by Roddy McDowall).
The usual format of each episode consisted of an introduction in which
Roarke would describe to Tattoo (or another assistant) the nature of each
person's fantasy, usually with a cryptic comment to the effect that the
person's fantasy will not turn out as they expected. The episode would
then alternate between two or three independent storylines as the guests
experienced their fantasies and interacted with Roarke. Often, the
fantasies would turn out to be morality lessons for the guests, sometimes
to the point of (apparently) putting their lives at risk, only to have
Roarke step in at the last minute and reveal the deception. It is
mentioned a few times that a condition of visiting Fantasy Island is that
guests never reveal what goes on there.
Prior to the long-running TV series, Fantasy Island was
introduced to viewers through two highly-rated made-for-television films
in which Mr. Roarke and Tattoo played relatively minor roles.
In 1998, ABC attempted a revival of the series. The role of Mr. Roarke
was filled by Malcolm McDowell and, unlike the first series, the
supernatural aspect of his character and of Fantasy Island itself was
emphasized from the start. The supporting cast was also expanded for the
new series. There was no attempt to replace Tattoo, so instead Roarke had
a team of assistants—one of whom was a beautiful female shape shifter—who
were assigned to help create and maintain the various fantasy worlds
created on the island. Apparently these assistants were imprisoned on the
island in order to pay off some debt, but the series was cancelled midway
through the first season and this subplot was never resolved. In an
attempt to contrast this series with the original, the new Mr. Roarke
usually wore black.
The revival series also featured another subplot involving the travel
agency that actually books the fantasies, and the two elderly travel
agents played by Fyvush Finkel and 1930s silver screen leading lady Sylvia
Sidney (in her final acting role).