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Gilligan's Island

Gilligan's Island

Category: Sitcom

Created by: Sherwood Schwartz

Stars: Bob Denver, Alan Hale, Jr., Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer, Tina Louise, Russell Johnson, and Dawn Wells

Opening Theme: The Ballad of Gilligan's Isle

Original Run: September 26, 1964 to September 4, 1967

Number of Seasons: 3

Number of Episodes: 98


The show is about the funny adventures of seven castaways as they attempted to survive and ultimately escape from a previously uninhabited island where they were shipwrecked and stranded.

Enjoying solid ratings during its original run, the show grew enormously in popularity during decades of syndication. Today, the title character of Gilligan is widely recognized as a comedic American popular culture icon, ranked, for example, at 122nd place in the July 2003 list of 200 Greatest Pop Culture Icons compiled by VH-1 and People magazine.


A charter boat the S.S. Minnow, with a crew of two, takes five passengers on a "three hour tour" (heee hee hee.....I know something they don't know). The come into a tropical storm which is too much for a small boat like the one they are on. The boat crashes on an uncharted, uninhabited iland somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.  

The show's theme song, "The Ballad of Gilligan's Isle," was written in a sea shanty style to give new viewers a capsule summary of the castaways' predicament. When the show was first presented, executives were concerned that new viewers, tuning in for the first time, might not understand the premise of the show, so the song was written specifically for that purpose. Although the Professor and Mary Ann were in every episode in the first season, they were simply referred to as “the rest”. This was changed to "The professor and Mary Ann" from the second season onward.


Bob Denver is Gilligan. He is an accident-prone First Mate to the Skipper of the S.S. Minnow. Jerry Van Dyke was offered the role originally but turned it down believing that the show would never be successful........and the Dick Van Dyke show was just accidentally a good thing........That's not smart of Jerry. But he did work on Coach, which I liked a lot. I liked it a lot because of Jerry Van Dyke. The fact that he was Dick Van Dyke's brother didn't hurt either......Oh yeah Bob Denver. A loveable character. He's everyone's buddy. Gilligan was his last name. His first name is never mentioned in any episode or TV movie.  

Click here for a great Gilligan's Island video clip

Alan Hale, Jr. is Jonas Grumby, the "Skipper" He loved his role as the "Skipper" and played the character for fun long after the show went off the air. He was a father figure to Gilligan. It is alluded in one episode that Gilligan pushed the Skipper out of the way of a loose depth-charge when they were both serving in the United States Navy.  

Jim Backus plays the part of Thurston Howell, III, the greedy millionaire. He was already a well-known actor when he took the part. He did the voice of Mr. Magoo. He used some of the "Magoo" characteristics on Gilligan's Island. He was known to ad-lib often.

Natalie Schafer plays the part of Eunice "Lovey" Wentworth Howell, Thurston's wife. Her contract didn't allow for close-ups. She was 62 when the pilot was shot. She only accepted the role because the pilot was filmed on location in Hawaii. She thought of the job as a free vacation. She thought the show was silly and would "never go".

Tina Louise plays the part of Ginger Grant, the movie star. When regular shooting began, Louise clashed with producers, because she had believed that she was to be the main focus of the show (despite its title). In addition, her character was originally written as a sarcastic and sharp-tongued temptress, but Louise argued that this was too extreme and refused to play it as written. A compromise was reached; Louise agreed to play her as a cross between Marilyn Monroe and Lucille Ball. The evening gowns and hair style used were designed to recreate the look of Myrna Loy. Louise continued to clash with producers and was the only cast member who refused to return for any of the TV movies that followed the series' cancellation, and the fourth season, which was later canceled to make room for a western, saying that the role had destroyed her career as a serious actress. However, she did appear in a reunion of the cast on a late night TV talk show in 1988 and on an episode of Roseanne in 1995. In the first season, Ginger often wore gowns that looked as if they were tailored from S.S. Minnow tarps or similar ersatz cloth (some had the name of the vessel stenciled on them). Later on, she wore regular evening gowns.

Russell Johnson as Roy Hinkley (The Professor). John Gabriel was originally cast, but the network thought he looked too young to have all the degrees attributed to the Professor.

Incongruously, "the Professor" was in fact a high school science teacher, not a university professor. In the first episode, the radio announcer described him as a research scientist and well-known Scoutmaster. Johnson stated that he had some difficulty remembering his more technically-oriented lines.

Dawn Wells as Mary Ann Summers. Wells was a former Miss Nevada when she auditioned for the role. Her competition included Raquel Welch. The pilot episode had a different character played by a different actress. After it was shot, the network decided to recast the roles of the Professor and the two young women. Charles Maxwell was the uncredited voice of the "Radio Announcer", whose plot-advancing radio bulletins were eagerly tuned in to by the castaways in many episodes.

Gilligan's Island Episodes

Pilot vs. First Broadcast Episode

The pilot episode was not broadcast, because of casting changes and restructuring of characters. In the pilot, the part of the Professor was played by John Gabriel. Instead of the movie star and the Kansas farm girl, the pilot had two secretaries: Ginger, a practical redhead played by Kit Smythe, and Bunny, portrayed by Nancy McCarthy as a cheerful, stereotypical dumb blonde.

The pilot had a different theme song with a Calypso beat and singer and somewhat longer opening credits shots, including scenes of Gilligan carrying the Howells' luggage to the boat, and spilling coffee on the Skipper during the storm. The episode proper begins with the castaways waking up on the beached boat, and deals mostly with practical problems: exploring the island, trying to fix the transmitter, building huts and finding food. Contrary to some descriptions, there are no flashbacks or detailed accounts of the characters' backgrounds.


Gilligan's Island

The first episode actually broadcast, "Two on a Raft", is sometimes wrongly referred to as the series pilot. This episode begins with the same scene of Gilligan and the Skipper awakening on the boat (cut slightly differently to eliminate most shots of the departed actors), and continues with the characters on the boat, listening to a radio news report about their disappearance. This is the scene that reveals the names of the Skipper (Jonas Grumby) and the Professor (Roy Hinkley). There is no equivalent scene or background information in the pilot, except for the description of the passengers in the original theme song. Rather than re-shooting the rest of the pilot story for broadcast, the show just proceeded on. The plot skips over the topics of the pilot; the bulk of the episode tells of Gilligan and the Skipper setting off on a raft to try to bring help, but unknowingly landing back on the same island.

The plot for the pilot episode would eventually be recycled into that season's Christmas episode, "Birds Gotta Fly, Fish Gotta Talk", in which the story, concerning the practical problems on landing, is related via a series of flashbacks. Some of the scenes from the pilot episode were re-shot using the current actors, while other scenes with Denver, Hale, Backus, and Schafer were simply reused.

Gilligan's Island Last Episode

The last episode of the show, "Gilligan the Goddess", aired on April 17, 1967, and ended just like the rest, with the castaways still stranded on the island. It was not known at the time that it was the last episode, as a fourth season was expected, but never happened.

Gilligan's Island Typical Plots

The seven castaways had many opportunites to leave the island but things mess up. Usually they fail to succeed because of something that Gilligan does. Sometimes he would actually find a huge flaw in their plan and save them from trying to use their plan. One example is shown in the episode "Splashdown". An unmanned space capsule with sensitive technology lands in the lagoon, Gilligan allows the other castaways to talk over him, failing to tell them in time that the capsule is floating away.

As the group yells at Gilligan for his "error," the capsule is blown up by NASA via remote control. Another example is in episode "Goodbye Island"; while looking for tree sap for Mary Ann's pancakes, Gilligan discovers a very strong glue-like substance that the Professor believes, because of it is strong and waterproof, is permanent, and therefore can be used to repair the damage to the Minnow. However, Gilligan later discovers that the substance is not permanent at all...it's only temporary. Gilligan tries to warn them, but no one will listen.

Suddenly, the boat starts to break apart until it is completely destroyed. (Despite this, the ship was still prominently presented in the opening titles for the rest of the series' run.)

However, one episode ("The Big Gold Strike") in which the castaways discover a rich vein of gold on the island, is notable in that Gilligan is not responsible for the failed escape: the other castaways, having agreed to leave the gold behind, each smuggle bags of gold onto a makeshift raft; the combined weight of all the gold sinks the raft to the bottom of the lagoon.

Gilligan is the only one who does not smuggle any gold and even comments that he is glad that it's not his fault this time. When the castaways are kidnapped to a mad scientist's lab in the episode "The Friendly Physician," they succeed in getting off the island and onto another piece of dry land for the only time in the series.

Gilligan's Island

Recurring elements centered on one of three primary themes. The first deals with life on the island. A running gag is the castaways' ability to fashion a vast array of useful objects from bamboo and other local material. Some were simple everyday things, while others were real stretches of the imagination. Russell Johnson noted in his autobiography that the production crew enjoyed the challenge of building these props. Some bamboo items included: framed huts with thatched grass sides and roofs, along with bamboo closets strong enough to withstand hurricane force winds and rain; the communal dining table and chairs, pipes for Gilligan's hot water, a stethoscope and a pedal-powered car.

The second theme involves visitors to the "uncharted" island. One challenge to a viewer's suspension of disbelief is the frequency with which the castaways are visited by people who do nothing to assist them. Some have ulterior motives for not doing so; some are simply unable to help, incompetent, or Gilligan somehow interferes and a message with their position is never delivered. Bob Denver, Jim Backus, and Tina Louise each had feature episodes in which look-alikes come to the island (who were, of course, played by themselves). Also, the island is home to an unusual assortment of animal life, some of it native, some just visiting.

Gilligan's Island

The third recurring theme is the use of dream sequences, in which one of the castaways "dreams" he or she is some character related to that week's storyline. For example, after being bitten by a bat, Gilligan dreams he is Dracula. All of the castaways would appear as other characters within the dream, as was done in The Wizard of Oz. The only exception is in Mr. Howell's dream, in the episode "The Sweepstakes", in which Mrs. Howell is not present. In later interviews and memoirs, almost all of the actors stated that the dream episodes were among their personal favorites. In the Jack and the Beanstalk dream sequence of the episode "V for Vitamins", the smaller version of Gilligan, running from the Giant (played by the Skipper), is actually Bob Denver's son Patrick.

Gilligan's Island Cancellation

Under pressure from the network president, William S. Paley, and his wife Babe, as well as many network affiliates and longtime fans of Gunsmoke (which had been airing late on Saturday nights), to reverse its threatened cancellation, CBS rescheduled the Western to an earlier time slot on Monday evenings. This had been Gilligan's Island's timeslot in its third season. (The show ran on Saturdays in its debut season, before moving to Thursdays in season two.) Though Gilligan's Island's ratings had slumped from 24.7 (18th) to 22.1 (22nd) out of the top 25 (possibly as the result of two timeslot shifts in two years), the series was still profitable. Nevertheless, it was cancelled at practically the last minute. Some of the cast had bought houses based on the Sherwood Schwartz's news of verbal confirmation that the Gilligan's Island series would be renewed for a fourth season.

Gilligan's Island : Ginger or Mary Ann?

The question of which one men prefer, and to a lesser extent, who women view themselves to be more like, has endured long after the end of the series. It has inspired videos and even the occasional sermon. By most accounts, the wholesome, low-maintenance Mary Ann has consistently outpolled the glamorous but demanding Ginger since the very beginning.

Gilligan's Island : Cultural References

Alan Hale Jr guest starred on The Wild Wild West. At the end, he remarks he is going on a vacation to a "desert island". The opening scene of the Minnow in a storm was also reused in an episode of The Wild Wild West. in which several persons are trapped on an island.

Gilligan's Island

A small music band Little Roger and the Goosebumps did a parody of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" by setting the words of the Gilligan's Island theme song to the music of Stairway. "Weird Al" Yankovic twice paid tribute to Gilligan's Island, once in a spoof of Tone-Loc's hit, "Wild Thing", entitled "Isle Thing", from the UHF Soundtrack Album (a rap parody), and again in a spoof of Coolio's "Gangsta Paradise", entitled "Amish Paradise", from Bad Hair Day (four lines of the rap parody are a verse from the closing theme). He also mentions Gilligan in his song "Couch Potato" (a parody of Eminem's "Lose Yourself").

Sitcoms ALF and Roseanne paid homage to Gilligan's Island in the sense that the scenes were actually duplicated and cast members made guest appearances: . In the ALF episode "Ballad of Gilligan's island", (also known as "Somewhere Over the Rerun"), Alf is so obsessed with the show, he dreams he is on the island with the castaways. Denver, Hale, Johnson and Wells played their old roles. In Roseanne, Roseanne imagines herself on the island as Ginger, Dan as the Skipper, Jackie as Gilligan, and Mark as the Professor. During the closing credits, Tina Louise, Bob Denver, Russell Johnson and creator Sherwood Schwarz appear, playing the Roseanne characters.

Gilligan's Island

Casados con Hijos, a remake of FOX's long-running sitcom Married... with Children that aired in Argentina in 2005 and 2006, uses the same format as Gilligan's Island.

The 1987 movie Back to the Beach featured Bob Denver, dressed in his Gilligan attire, as a bartender in a seaside bar. He apparently was Gilligan in this movie because of his dress and the fact that he hates being called "little buddy". Also, at the end, he's seen dancing on the beach with a girl whom he's just told of some harrowing ordeal ("Thank God it's over," Denver says) that must have been being stranded on some island; then Alan Hale, Jr., in his Skipper attire shows up and tells Bob it's time to prepare for another "three hour tour". Denver refuses: "It's NEVER just a 'three hour tour'!!" But Hale grabs him and off they go, presumably, to another cruise that will inevitably end in another island shipwreck.

Bob Denver, Dawn Wells and Russell Johnson appeared on a first season episode of Space Ghost: Coast to Coast as themselves. Space Ghost refused to believe that the show wasn't real, Zorak claimed to have made a cameo appearance in an original episode of the show, and Johnson belittled Space Ghost until the host used his power bands to end the interview.

In the VeggieTales video God Wants Me To Forgive Them!?!; the Larry's Lagoon is a direct parody of Gilligan's Island. When Justice Thomas B. Galligan of the New York State Supreme Court developed a reputation for sentencing accused criminals, the jail at Rikers Island was nicknamed Galligan's Island.

In the film Galaxy Quest Gilligan's Island is mentioned as one of the shows the Thermians thought were "historical documents" with the leader saying, "Those poor people" in reference to the castaways.






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