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Gilligan's Island Turns 50: A Shipwreck of A Column
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Just sit right back and you’ll endure a tale...
September 26 marks the 50th anniversary of the classic TV sitcom “Gilligan’s Island.”
People exclaim, “You’re making me feel old!” when I tell them that. Gee, Skipper, I would have thought it had something to do with your shiny dome, extra chins and smoker’s cough. Silly me, huh?
Yes, time flies. For five decades red-blooded American males have debated the “Ginger or Mary Ann?” dilemma. Now for those of us old enough to remember the show’s original network run (1964-1967), the answer is most likely “Who’s hottest? Depends. Who can get me coupons for orthotic insoles and prostate medicine?”
I used to enjoy “Gilligan’s Island” with my late father (although it was a misquote, we shared a family phrase of “Meanwhile, on another island...”), and my son Gideon has now seen all the episodes (plus the 1978 TV movie “Rescue From Gilligan’s Island”). The show can bring the generations together, but in other ways there is a clear dividing line. My generation wondered how those castaways could survive typhoons, volcanoes and headhunters. Now people ask, “Seven white heterosexual characters? How did they ever survive the series development process???”
I couldn’t get Gideon to articulate the appeal of “Gilligan’s Island,” but I suspect that it’s just that it’s good, goofy, wholesome escapist fare with likable characters. And it’s easy to get up to speed. Each week the sinfully-long-by-current-standards theme song told the audience everything they needed to know about the show’s premise. Now if you want to bone up on a show’s premise, you have to check the public restroom walls.
(Of course not everyone appreciates the theme song. Homesick soldiers wince at certain parts of it and mutter, “A three hour tour? A three hour tour? That’s what the recruiter promised ME!”)
Also, “Gilligan’s Island” was ahead of its time. It preceded reality shows such as “Survivor,” paved the way for comedies featuring nontraditional families and with lines such as “no lights, no phones, no motorcars, not a single luxury,” it prophesied the current plight of people with student loan obligations.
I understand that Warner Bros. is developing a theatrical movie of “Gilligan’s Island.” I hope they can keep it sweetly nostalgic and not update it too much. Otherwise we’ll have storylines such as these:
- Wealthy industrialist Thurston Howell III suffers from insomnia, until he has an epiphany. (“Egad, Lovey! No wonder I can’t sleep. I just remembered I have the Supreme Court in my jammies pocket!”)
- The Professor has second thoughts about being a scientist, when faced with deniers. He announces an ingenious method of escaping from the island and is met with shouts of “Islands do not exist!”
- Hijinks do NOT ensue, as the characters are tipped off by books such as “The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Items Floating In The Lagoon” and “Refraining From Trusting Visitors To Tell The World Where You Are For Dummies.”
- All work on the island ceases as castaways stand in line to get the new iHammock 6.
- The Skipper advises Gilligan, “Little buddy, don’t you think you should OPEN the coconuts before having them baked in coconut cream pie? Oh, I wish we had brought the raft and left the MEDICAL MARIJUANA back in Honolulu!”
*Sigh* If not for the courage of the fearless fans, the Minnow would be lost...
Danny welcomes reader e-mail responses at and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades”