Gilligan's Island, which premiered on CBS on September 26, 1964, is quite possibly the most ridiculed television show of all-time. Interestingly and ironically, with the possible exception of I Love Lucy, it is also possibly the most well-known and beloved. According to Dawn Wells, it is by now the single most watched TV show in history, including I Love Lucy.
As I always clearly state: what makes people laugh is subjective- like taste in women, cars and colors, And while Gilligan's Island will cause only eye rolls and channel-changing from many of my fellow TV watchers, I myself have always found the show to be hysterically funny.
True, the teaming of Bob Denver (Gilligan) and Alan Hale (the Skipper) as Gilligan and the Skipper, so obviously based on Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, never equaled Stan and Ollie. But who did? To me, both the verbal and physical humor of the show was very funny and often clever. (Like almost any great TV series, the writing did get weaker towards the end of the show's run.)
Like all great art, in my humble opinion, Gilligan's Island reflected and mirrored life. Denver's Gilligan was the naive, trusting child in us all. Dawn Wells' Mary Ann reflects our innocence, before we all somehow got cynical and corrupted by the world around us. And speaking of innocence, has anyone ever realized that of these seven full-grown adults, three of the seven (Gilligan, Mary Ann, and the Professor) are still virgins?
The scheming, eternally greedy Mr. Howell (Jim Backus) and the man-hungry vamp Ginger (Tina Louise) perhaps reflect on the more base side of all of our natures.
Gilligan was a nerd, but no less than the intellectual professor (Russell Johnson). They both bring back the memories we all share of those terrible times, both in our youth and in our adulthood, when we just didn't fit in. Yet, Gilligan's stupidity and clumsiness and the Professor's verbose pretentiousness are both equally accepted and welcomed by their comrades.
All seven characters played their roles well.
True, each of the seven were cartoonish stereotypes (with the exception of Dawn Wells' Mary Ann), but each actor or actress brought something very real and endearing to their portrayals. The friendship of the castaways defied their diverse classes in society -all seven: millionaires, movie stars, and average folks- always treated each other in a friendly manner.
True, there were fights and disagreements- as in all friendships the world over. But the closeness and real love each of the seven characters had for each other was, to me at least, quite apparent.
Gilligan's Island was also perhaps the first TV show to overtly deal with our sexual desires and libidos. "Ginger or Mary Ann?" is a phrase well-known and carefully thought over by countless millions of males the world over. And Tina Louise's hip-swiveling Ginger and Dawn Wells' bikini-clad Mary Ann have probably awakened more sexual desires in guys than every issue of Playboy magazine sold, bought and perused the world over too.
As an interesting side bar, I have spoken with dozens of girls and women over the years who have also informed me of how "hot" the Professor was.
I will, unabashedly and unashamedly state that I love Gilligan's Island, I am a huge fan and that I think it was a truly marvelous show. Of the 98 episodes made, I’d say about 70 are truly wonderful and funny. Not a bad batting average for any kind of art.
I salute and profoundly thank the seven stranded castaways who have brought so much joy, happiness and rich laughter into my own universe.