Sometimes it’s difficult to define what makes a classic TV show, but one that has entertained generations of viewers, not with the goal of changing the world, but just inspiring some laughs for half an hour, has to qualify. And with that in mind, how do you not consider Gilligan’s Island a TV classic? The show made its debut 54 years ago and only ran for three seasons (1964-67), yet it’s never been forgotten. Along the way, it turned its characters and the actors who played them into TV icons who will no doubt live on for decades to come. It also gave us one of television’s great theme songs. It’s a legendary tune.
The premise of the show is that a three-hour boat tour (which instantly raises the question of why the passengers had so many outfits with them, but we digress) runs into a violent storm and is washed ashore an uninhabited island. There the seven passengers have to survive and learn to get along with each other with the knowledge they have no way to get home. It all sounds so Lord of the Flies or Lost, but obviously it’s not. This is a comedy, and oftentimes a slapstick one at that, starring Bob Denver (Gilligan), Alan Hale, Jr. (The Skipper), Jim Backus (Thurston Howell III, aka “The Millionaire”), Natalie Schafer (Mrs. Lovey Howell, aka “His Wife”), Tina Louise (Ginger Grant, aka “The Movie Star”), Russell Johnson (Professor Roy Hinkley, aka “The Professor”) and Dawn Wells (Mary Ann without the aka).
Created by Sherwood Schwartz (who would go on to create another gem of classic TV in the form of The Brady Bunch), it was a concept that he fought to get on the air, but never could he have imagined it having the enduring success that it has enjoyed. So to celebrate all things Gilligan, we’re exploring some of the bigger secrets of the island those seven stranded castaways all called home.