Synopsis of TV Show
"Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale,
A tale of a fateful trip,
That started from this tropic port,
Aboard this tiny ship…"
These lines—known to nearly every man, woman and child in the English-speaking world—opened the infectious story-song that took viewers to the tropical locale of Gilligan’s Island every week. The ditty is right up there with the songs from The Beverly Hillbillies and The Brady Bunch in the category of best-known television theme songs, and has been remade in every musical style known to man: rap, polka, reggae, even heavy metal. It is and always will be a part of popular culture. However, this song is merely one part of Gilligan’s Island’s universal appeal.
Gilligan’s Island was created by producer Sherwood Schwartz, who would later create another ageless sitcom favorite in The Brady Bunch. The show’s story began with a small charter boat, the SS Minnow, getting lost at sea during a tour ("A three-hour tour," that is) and crash-landing on an uncharted island in the Pacific. The boat’s seven passengers soon discovered the SS Minnow could not be repaired, leaving them marooned.
The Skipper was a good-natured if blustery leader, and Gilligan was the dim but faithful first mate who seemed to jinx anything he touched. Also stranded were five passengers: Ginger was a glamorous movie star, and Mary Ann was her opposite, a sweet-natured, modest country girl. Thurston Howell III and his wife "Lovey" were two socialites who soon realized their wealth was not terribly useful on a desert island (though their eternally-fresh wardrobe came in handy). However, this realization didn’t affect their snooty attitudes. Rounding out the group was the Professor, a high school science teacher who was the group’s resource for practical knowledge (but apparently, nothing involving raft-making).
The ongoing storyline depicted the group’s endless attempts to get rescued. Every week, they would either hear someone's approach to the island via their radio (the only link to the outside world) or someone would crash-land on the island and give Gilligan and crew the hope that someone would come to rescue them all. However, it never worked out that easily. Through a combination of Gilligan’s ineptitude and flat-out bad luck, the rescue opportunity always slipped through their fingers.
Among the many visitors to the island over the years were a Pacific island native tribe, some Japanese submarine pilots, a Tarzan-like jungle boy, a couple of Russian astronauts, and even a gorilla. One of the most memorable ‘visitor’ episodes was ‘Don’t Bug The Mosquitoes,’ which featured a rock band coming out to the island on their own boat for a little peace and quiet. Of course, Gilligan and the other island-dwellers drove them so crazy that they ended up abandoning the castaways in secret.
There were also some episodes that just concentrated on the hijinks involving the castaways. A memorable example of this type of episode was ‘Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow.’ In this episode, the Skipper and Gilligan accidentally went bald due to the bleach they used in washing their clothes ("We look like a couple of coconuts!"). Another episode, ‘New Neighbor Sam,’ had the castaways discovering a parrot on the island who talked about a ‘buried treasure.’ They got the bird to reveal the location and dug it up, only to discover the ‘treasure’ was a box of crackers.
The show ran for three years on CBS, ending its network run in September of 1967. When it went to re-runs, it quickly became one of the most popular syndicated shows of all time, especially among the children who adored the show’s slapstick comedy. Over the years, it has made the transition from old favorite to cultural institution and has spawned two animated series and a pair of made-for-television films (including a visit from The Harlem Globetrotters).
All of this begs the question: why is Gilligan’s Island still so popular? The answer is simple: it appeals to the ‘kid’ in all of us. There is a part of everyone’s character that is playful and fun-loving, a part that finds the show’s slapstick sense of humor as appealing and comfortable as an old pair of sneakers. As long as there are people who value the ‘kid’ inside, there will be a place on television for Gilligan’s Island.
Release History of Prime Time Show9/26/64 - 9/4/67 CBS
TV Sub Categoriescomedy
Television StudioCBS Television
TV CastWilly Gilligan Bob Denver
Skipper Jonas Grumby Alan Hale Jr.
Thurston Howell III Jim Backus
Eunice "Lovey" Wentworth Howell Natalie Schafer
Professor Roy Hinkley, Jr.* Russell Johnson
Mary Ann Summers Dawn Wells
Ginger Grant Tina Louise