Dusty's Trail (1973)

in TV Land, sometimes lightning strikes the same place twice, as seen in the numerous series that have had successful spinoffs or derivatives, such as the Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spinoff Rhoda. Other times, though, lightning didn't strike twice since the first strike left nothing to strike again, in the case Gilligan's Island, its short-lived derivative The Good Guys (1968), and its obscure, short-lived bastard child/derivative, Dusty's Trail(1973).

Gilligan's Island was abruptly canceled in 1967 (which is why there was never a series finale) but the Suits at CBS thought Bob Denver's comic potential could carry another comedy series, even after The Good Guys died a screaming death. Wrong. Sherwood Schwartz, the creator of Gilligan's Island, tried using the exact same formula that worked so well for Gilligan's Island in a different environment, and the results were catastrophic. From the IMDb:

This show was Gilligan's Island set in the old West. Instead of being shipwrecked on a desert island, they are a group separated from a wagon train and lost in the wilderness. Every character in Gilligan's Island has a direct counterpart in Dusty's Trail. Of course, the title character is played in both series by Bob Denver. The Skipper is replaced by the wagonmaster, Forrest Tucker. There is a rich married couple, a farm girl, and a smart guy in each group. And this series substitutes a saloon hall girl for an actress to round out the group of seven.

Just as the castaways in Gilligan's Island spent almost every episode trying to get off the island, in Dusty's Trail, they try to find their way out of the wilderness, failing every time. This is a paint-by-numbers re-run of Gilligan's Island which is shot through with cheap opportunism & cheaper production values.

The results were predictable, and Dusty's Trail lasted just the one season. Fortunately, the series lives on YouTube and several episodes are embedded below. If you have never pitied Bob Denver, watch a couple of episodes and reconsider.

Episode 1.

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