In Praise Of: Gilligan’s Island (1964 – 1967)

The cast of Gilligan's Island

Gilligan’s Island, the 1964 – 1967 television series about seven castaways, is not something that gets much praise these days.  In fact, it’s often look at with a bit of derision.  But if you poke and prod a bit just about everyone who grew up in the 70’s or the 80’s will admit to having spent an inordinate amount of time watching the show in it’s endless syndication either after school or over summer breaks… or in my case, lying on my grandmother’s bed when I was sick and watching it on the small 7″ black and white TV… in addition to all those other times.

Lately I’ve been showing a number of old shows to my daughters in my efforts to educate them to the pop culture world around them… The Twilight Zone, The Munsters and now most recently, Gilligan’s Island.  Most surprisingly to me is that fact that the show no longer seems to be in syndication and is not even streaming on Netflix… so what’s a father to do?  Well, he trots on over to Amoeba Records on Haight St. in San Francisco (I should offer much praise to Amoeba as well) and purchases all three seasons on DVD (used no less!).  Granted, I only bought season 2 to see whether or not my little Blahgettes would even be into it… and oh my were they!

There is something wonderfully clever and fun about each prat fall, every aborted rescue attempt and all of the Professor’s wacky experiments.  We all know the song… we all know the cast.  The allure of the show is as strong as ever if you allow yourself to stop being critical and simply enjoy… and if you were to see the smiles and hear the laughter coming from my little girls, you realize precisely for whom this show was made.  It was made for anyone of any age who wants a goofy little laugh and to spend 25 minutes escaping to that deserted tropical isle.

One aspect of rewatching this series in totality is really getting to know the crew again.  Bob Denver as Gilligan, Alan Hale as the Skipper Jonas Grumby (yes… that’s his name… there are more of those surprises ahead), Jim Backus and Natalie Schafer as the millionaire Thurston Howell III and his wife Eunice Wentworth “Lovey” Howell, Tina Louise as Ginger Grant, Dawn Wells as Mary Ann Summers and finally… Russell Johnson as Professor Roy Hinkley Jr.  These seven cast mates created three seasons of wonderful TV and have been immortalized in song, parody, remakes and homages.  There are even certain episodes that we may not remember in total but will be brought right back to our childhoods with a mere mention of say… Wrongway Feldman… or the time Gilligan’s filling becomes loose and he becomes a radio… or perhaps my favorite episode when they plant the radioactive seeds and get super powers from eating the veggies.

Nothing has changed over the years.  The music is still fantastic… the scenery still fake looking… and the adventures still stretching credibility… the only thing that has changed is us.  On DVD the quality and the colors (seasons 2 and 3 at least) absolutely pop.  On the season 1 DVD set they even include the “lost” pilot which has three different characters and a goofy calypso theme song.  Best of all, it was directed by Richard Donner (Superman and Superman II) and music by Johnny Williams (yes… that would be John Williams of Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jaws, E.T., Jurassic Park, etc.).

But like so much in my life these days, my favorite aspects of watching this series again is watching it with my girls.  The giggles and guffaws as well as them screaming at the TV… “oh no… Gilligan!!” is like pure music to my ears.  Not to mention the fact that when we were watching Megamindthe other night and Metro Man refers to Megamind as his “little buddy”… the look that came over my 8 year old’s face as the realization of reference set in made each penny spent and every moment watching worth more than I could ever express here.

So sit right back and hear a tale… a tale of a fateful trip… and open your heart back up to those seven castaways… there on Gilligan’s Isle.

(I wanted to post the clip of the opening theme… but embedding was disabled on request.  Here is the link.  Another cool thing, note the flags at half mast in the season 1 opening… they filmed it a week after JFK’s assassination)

The mate was a mighty sailing man,
Cornelius J. Blahg

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