Question: On Fantasy Island, what were the names of the main characters and who played them? Also, when did the series appear on television? Thank you.

Televisionary: So this is where my detractors expect me to go off on a lame "De plane, boss! De plane!" riff, eh? Please, my standards are a little higher than that (not much, admittedly.)

I'm assuming you mean the original version, which starred Ricardo Montalban as the mysterious Mr. Roarke and Herve Villechaize as his assistant, Tattoo. (I'll get into the other characters in a second but, frankly, those guys are the only ones anyone remembers anyway.)

Pulled from the pop-crap genius factory of TV overlord Aaron Spelling, Fantasy Island was built upon the same general formula as The Love Boat, another hit Spelling series on ABC at the time. Generally speaking, both were vehicles for guest stars to appear and have their problems solved by an amiable host. Of course, in Mr. Roarke's case, he demonstrated strange powers as the series progressed.

Guests flew in with problems and fantasies (those two categories were inextricably linked) and left wiser and happier for their time spent on the island. Mind you, those were the days when there were only three networks. You could build an audience by stranding characters on an island or flying them there. They didn't have to eat rats or vote each other out of existence.

As the series moved on — it ran on ABC from January, 1978, to August, 1984, a few changes made their way into the mix. Mr. Roarke's goddaughter, Julie (Wendy Schaal), showed up for a season from '81 to '82 and Tattoo was replaced by Lawrence (Christopher Hewett) in 1983.

But none of that stopped the ubiquitous Roarke from dressing up in myriad costumes and risking life and limb to make his guests happy (as quickly as he got around, at times it seemed like the whole joint was a two-man operation). It all ended horribly when he pulled extracted dinosaur DNA from prehistoric amber.

OK, that was a joke.

ABC briefly tried a remake of the series in September, 1998, with A Clockwork Orange heavy Malcolm McDowell taking on the Roarke role. To my mind, it was far more interesting than the original, but it only survived until January of '99. I guess the fantasy of going back to the captive-audience days of the late '70s, when viewers had far fewer options, was simply too much to ask.