Porthole’s Five Faves
TV Comedies Go Cruising
Just imagine dining with these comedy crews on your next cruise.
Last night, the latest season of FXX’s cult-favorite comedy It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia concluded, with devoted viewers still in gleeful shock that they’ve been given 11 absurd seasons to witness their favorite Philly pub proprietors (aka the Gang) devolve into bigger, more hilarious degenerates. And while this season only enriched and expanded on show legends like the Gang’s board games, the debauchery of Frank (played by Danny DeVito), and the all-too-timely reminder of a certain character’s small-hand complex, this season also took the Gang further outside the comforts of the bar and titular city they so rarely leave; nearly half of this season’s episodes revolved around either the suburbs, wintery slope vacations, or, as it did in the final two episodes, a cruise ship.
Cruisers no doubt recognized many of the same at-sea adversities that the Gang struggles with on their cruise, from Dennis wanting to leave his bad habits on land … to Dee and Mac’s overblown reactions to deck-chair drama and shuffleboard … to Frank and Charlie’s devotion to sneaking on booze. The Gang inevitably winds up in the one place cruisers wish not to recognize — the ship’s jail — and that just about concludes the only Porthole-compatible plot details we can comfortably share.
What cruisers might not immediately recognize is why a cruise ship makes for such a great plot location. A cruise ship shakes up what’s normally seen in a show’s background and bottles the action and characters in one contained place. When drama ensues, there’s no escape!
Which makes the rumors that the upcoming season of American Horror Story may take place on a cruise ship all the more scary. In anticipation of (and perhaps to help stave off) those inevitable nightmares, we are going to aim a little lighter and bring you the cruise episodes from our favorite TV comedies.
In a 2006 episode, regional manager Michael Scott drags his staff onto a booze cruise so that they may better absorb his motivational-speaker stylings. And while the self-proclaimed Skipper didn’t ultimately succeed at staff-wide inspiration, he did nudge a forlorn Jim toward not giving up on Pam … while handcuffed in a makeshift brig for falsely announcing that the ship was sinking.
Capping off a Season 3 that explored both Nick and Jess’ budding relationship and their attempts at friendship once that relationship fizzles, the 2014 season finale not only forced them into an inescapable ship scenario (thanks to a cruise they drunkenly booked when things were budding), but trapped them and four other friends into a locked stateroom for a totally-inconceivable-yet-totally-hilarious three days.
A cruise is exactly what Peralta and Santiago want in a vacation away from the force, though each has a different idea of how they want to spend it. (Him? Eating unlimited shrimp by the pool. Her? Taking advantage of every single planned activity besides speed-dating for widows.) Both expectations get blown out of the water when the detectives discover that the onboard entertainment is a smush-obsessed pianist going by the name of Horatio Velveteen who Peralta has spent years tracking. Cruise in-jokes include the custom retractable shuffleboard stick that Santiago brings with her, Peralta believing he won the free cruise because he purchased Speed 2 on DVD, and the couple being immediately greeted by an onboard photographer who asks them to say “I love Carousel Cruises International L-T-D!”
It may have taken our favorite family 505 episodes to take the plunge, but inspired by a commercial he sees for Royalty Cruises — “We built heaven and made it float” — Bart sells his bed, baby teeth, and all other worldly possessions and convinces his family they should take the vacation of a lifetime. In addition to referencing famed cruise historian John Maxtone-Graham (whose son Ian is a longtime writer and producer for the show), the episode owes much to David Foster Wallace’s beloved cruise essay, from which the episode gets its title (“A Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do Again”), a well-placed Nadir joke, and its guiding light on post-vacation depression and existentialism. As the Royalty Valhalla cruise director sings, “enjoy it while you can.”
I Love Lucy/The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour
The classic comedy I Love Lucy took its high jinks to sea in 1955 when Ricky’s band set out on a European tour — Lucy, of course, initially missing the ship — but it’s the debut episode of the 1957 follow-up special The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour that re-created how these lovebirds first met thanks to the majesty of cruising. After Lucy and a female friend disembark their ship in Havana on their tireless search for international romance and meet two male tour guides, Lucy loses a coin flip and has to settle on getting the grand tour from the one named Ricky who’s not her type (who, to be fair, doesn’t like redheads anyway). The rest, as we all know, is comedy history.
— Rico Bronte