17 Facts You Might Not Know about Gilligan's Island

1.  Producer Sherwood Schwartz designed the characters to represent parts of society. That’s why the Skipper and the Professor are addressed by their titles. They have names, but Schwartz forbade their use during the show.

2.  Schwartz picked Gilligan’s name at random out of a phone book.

3.  The characters full names were Skipper Jonas Grumby, Ginger Grant, Thurston Howell III, Lovey Wentworth Howell, Professor Roy Hinkley and Mary Ann Summers. Gilligan’s name is less certain.

4. The ship Minnow was named after Federal Communications Commission president Newton Minow (left), whom Schwartz loathed. Minow is most famous for giving a speech in which he called television programming “a vast wasteland.” Minnow advocated for educational programming.

5. Jerry Van Dyke (right) was Schwartz’s first choice to play the role of Gilligan.

6. It was hard for Schwartz to convince CBS president Jim Aubrey to air the show. Aubrey didn’t like the idea of keeping the castaways stranded permanently. They cut a deal: once the ratings slipped, Gilligan and his friends would be rescued and would continue their adventures off the island.


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7. Jim Aubrey insisted that his vision for Gilligan's Island was better than Schwartz's. To prove his point, he created his own version called The Baileys of Balboa. It lasted one season before cancellation.


8. Carroll O’Connor (left) tried out of the part of the Skipper, but Schwartz rejected him. O'Connor is most famous for playing Archie Bunker on All in the Family.

9. During the first season, the theme song listed the Russell Johnson's and Dawn Wells's characters as “...and the rest.” This changed in the second season to “the Professor and Mary An.” because audiences loved those two characters. They would no longer receive second billing anymore, even though they had been designed as secondary characters. Dawn Wells and Russell Johnson made a joke of it and would sometimes address each other in correspondence as “the rest.”

10. Why does the Skipper keep the idiotic Gilligan around? Because during World War II, Gilligan saved the Skipper’s life. In the official backstory, they served on a destroyer together. A depth charge got loose and rolled down the deck. It would have crushed the Skipper if Gilligan had not pushed him out of the way.


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11. You can sing the hymn “Amazing Grace” to the tune of the Gilligan’s Island theme song.


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12. . . . and vice versa.

13. Gilligan’s Island was cancelled to make its time slot available for the long-running western series Gunsmoke.

14. Russell Johnson enjoyed the show, but noted that it was difficult for him to get a role as a heavy in future productions. He had been typecast as a comedic actor.

15. There was a reunion movie in 1978 called Rescue from Gilligan’s Island and another in 1979 called Castaways on Gilligan’s Island. Both were of dubious quality but commanded high ratings. The third and final reunion movie, The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island (1981), bombed.

16. Schwartz had plans for a fourth movie in which the castaways learn that a nuclear war has destroyed human civilization. Bob Denver (Gilligan) describes the premise:

The seven of us think it’s destroyed and we get married. Gilligan marries Mary Ann and they have a baby boy. The Professor marries Ginger and they have a baby girl. And then there’s like a Blue Lagoon sequence where the kids grow up, so when Gilligan’s son is twenty, he sails off to see whether the world is really destroyed, and of course it isn’t. They heard it on the radio, and Gilligan broke it just before the disclaimer came on.” (14)


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17. A 1987 episode of Alf included a lengthy dream sequence in which Alf imagined that he was on the castaways’ island. Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr., Russell Johnson and Dawn Wells guest-starred.

Partial bibliography:
Green, Joey. The Unofficial Giligan’s Island Handbook: A Castaway’s Guide to the Longest-Running Shipwreck in Television History. New York: Warner Books, 1988.

Image credits from top to bottom: CBS, Newton Minow, Alan Light, CBS, CBS.


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That official backstory presumably predated the casting, as Bob Denver's Gilligan clearly wasn't old enough to have served in WWII, which was about 25 years prior to the time of the show.

The Skipper could easily have served on in the Navy after the war, though, to be saved by draftee doofus Gilligan, and keep his Little Buddy around after mustering out and buying a tour boat.
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