The Love Boat reign of Merrill Stubing is officially over. From now on, it's Robert Urich's ship.

The TV veteran (Vega$) has signed to play Capt. Jim Kennedy in The Love Boat: The Next Wave, a revival of the 1970s romantic comedy about swingin' singles and the fruity-looking drinks they swig, to air this spring on UPN.

The upstart network has ordered six episodes of the near-classic Aaron Spelling confection. Filming begins next week. Look for the launch in April.

Joining Urich on board, a gaggle of new faces--not a Gopher or Isaac among them. Meet the new crew:

thirtysomething notable Corey Parker as the ship doctor; Wiseguy's Joan Severance as the chief of security, Camille Hunter; Kyle Howard as Capt. Kennedy's "troubled" 15-year-old son, Danny; and the rest--Stacey Travis as the cruise director (the Julie McCoy Memorial Position); Phil Morris (Mission: Impossible's Greg Morris' son) as the purser (Gopher's old job); and Randy Vasquez as the bartender (the Isaac slot).

Critics may wretch; fans of the old series may wince, but Urich, for one, is looking forward to the cruise.

"I just decided it was time to have some fun," the 50-year-old actor tells today's New York Post.

The all-new Love Boat is Urich's first prime-time series assignment since being diagnosed in 1996 with a rare form of cancer. (TNT canceled his last drama series--Lazarus Man--when he took ill; he later hosted Vital Signs, a reality-based program for ABC.)

"It's been a grueling 18 months with the cancer, and all the other [TV pilot scripts] out there are doctors and lawyers and cops," Urich says, in the Post. "I thought, I don't want to do that...."

Unfortunately for Urich, the new ship may not be quite the gas that Stubing's was. Executive producer Spelling has pledged that The Next Wave will address a "certain degree of realism."

Of course, on Planet Love Boat, that just might mean fewer guest appearances by Charo and the Landers sisters.

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