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It's not really Gilligan's island, but don't tell him that.note Clockwise from bottom center: Gilligan (Bob Denver), the Professor (Russell Johnson), Thurston Howell III (Jim Backus), Lovey Howell (Natalie Schafer), Ginger Grant (Tina Louise), the Skipper (Alan Hale Jr.), Mary Ann (Dawn Wells)
"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. The mate was a mighty sailin' man, The Skipper brave and sure, Five passengers set sail that day, For a three hour tour, A three hour tour..."
Iconic "stupid sitcom" from the 1960s, filled with Idiot Plots, What an Idiot moments galore, a Laugh Track, and a great cast of actors. The show featured seven stereotyped characters — a millionaire, his snobby wife, a famous actress, a farm girl, a college professor, an innocent misfit klutz, and the captain of the charter boat on which all of them had sailed — trapped on a Deserted Island. Their little colony of survivors was usually awash in schemes, alliances, betrayals, and petty manipulations, usually over the most minor of things. Their own foibles and blind spots frequently sabotaged any chance of rescue or escape, and nobody ever seemed to learn anything from their mistakes....Wait, did we get mixed up with the article on Survivor? No? Okay, just checking.Gilligan's Island was created in 1963 by veteran TV writer/producer Sherwood Schwartz (who would later make a career out of The Brady Bunch). Schwartz was an academic with degrees in zoology and psychology, and originally intended for the program to be a meaningful examination of American life. Inspired by Robinson Crusoe, Schwartz intended to create a microcosm of American society by stranding representative members of different subcultures and seeing how they interact. He chose his representatives carefully, claiming later that "Anybody who is watching can identify with someone." How this ostensibly academic and rather intriguing concept turned into the show that actually aired is anyone's guess.note CBS president James Aubrey and his vice president of programming, Michael Dann, might have been responsible, as they believed audiences needed "bosoms, broads and fun". It lasted three years on CBS (1964-67), then became a perennial favorite in daily syndication.At least four TV movies and two cartoon series followed, first rescuing, then re-stranding, then re-rescuing the castaways, who then turned the island into a resort. In the strangest twist, though, 2004 saw Gilligan's Island become the first (and maybe only) Sitcom ever revived as a Reality Show, with the broadcast of The Real Gilligan's Island on TBS...a show which combined the original series with Survivor in a bizarre blend.Some of the cast reportedly disliked the show. The actress that portrayed Ginger (the movie star), Tina Louise, refused to do either the cartoons or the reunion movies because she considered the show "silly" and the concept ridiculous while also resenting that she'd ended up being typecast.A big-screen adaptation is currently trapped in Development Hell after an initial release date of March 30, 2012.Not to Be Confused withGullah Gullah Island.
This show provides examples of:
Adaptation Dye-Job: Ginger was changed from a redhead to a blonde for the animated shows in order to avoid any complaints from Tina Louise over using her likeness.
Amnesia Episode: There were actually two of these, one with the Skipper ("Forget Me Not") and the other with Mary Ann ("The Second Ginger Grant"), who thinks she's Ginger. When the Professor tries to snap her out of it with hypnosis, Gilligan ends up thinking he's Mary Ann. Obviously Played for Laughs.
Aside Glance: The Skipper's brief look to the camera after Gilligan does something stupid again (a Shout-Out to Oliver Hardy from Alan Hale, Jr.) Ginger occasionally does the same and shrugs when an attempt to seduce someone into doing what she wants fails.
The Bad Guy Wins: Harold Hecuba and Eva Grubb not only get the usual Karma Houdini, but also successfully steal the Castaways' idea for a musical Hamlet and Ginger Grant's identiy and movie career, respectively.
Bamboo Technology: Trope Codifier. The Professor was able to create some kind of battery substitute for their radio, build a fully-functioning hot air balloon, and also could fill Gilligan's cavities. It's been frequently lampshaded in almost every parody about how he can do all this, but can't fix a hole in a boat.
That last sentence is a Memetic Mutation, in that there were at least two separate occasions where the Professor concocted a means to repair the Minnow using material available on the island. In both cases, the repairs not only failed but left the boat worse off (needless to say, because of Gilligan).
Actually, they only tried to repair the boat once. Gilligan found a tree sap to make syrup with, to put on pancakes, but it turned out to be incredibly sticky. The professor got the idea to use it to glue boards onto the boat. However, the adhesive was only temporary and the whole boat (that had been treated) fell apart before launching. So, that one was NOT Gilligan's fault.
When Russell Johnson was asked why the Professor couldn't seem to repair the Minnow, he replied "If you were living on a tropical island with Ginger and Mary-Ann, would you be in a hurry to fix the boat?"
Breaking the Fourth Wall: In "Where There's a Will", when Mr. Howell thinks the castaways are trying to kill him after he includes them in his will, Mrs. Howell looks directly into the camera and says, "I'm going to get to the bottom of this."
Broken Aesop: The show was supposed to show the need to work together, but who gets off the island? The guest stars, by betraying the regulars. (Among said guest stars, Phil Silvers, whose production company Gladasya co-produced the series.)
To be fair, the deposed dictator who escaped the island (in Season 2 episode The Little Dictator) did attempt to send a rescue mission once he regained power, but nobody believed him and he was overthrown again when the opposition painted him as having gone insane for continuing to bring up "a deserted island with people on it."
Wrong-Way Feldman also tried his best to get them rescued, but his total incompetence at anything related to directions and navigation resulted in the location he gave for the island not even being wrong.
And Gilligan accidentally damaged the message recorded in the robot they sent walking (along the sea floor) back to Hawaii.
The castaways think they'll be rescued when they find rare butterflies for renowned collector Lord Beasley, who (of course) then leaves without them. Unfortunately he's too obsessed with his lepidopterian pursuits to even mention them once he returns to the mainland.
Subverted in the case of Erika Tiffany-Smith, played by Zsa-Zsa Gabor. Upon returning to civilization, she explained about the island and the Castaways, but could not offer the exact longitude nor latitude, plus her diary was written in Hungarian which no one in the Navy could read. The sailor who brought her could have told people, but creator Sherwood Schwartz stated that he "suffered a major coronary and died."
The big-game hunter who'd been trying to shoot Gilligan was so spazzed out over his failure to do this that he sank into a catatonic state (after slinking off the island in secret), and when found, was just mumbling, "Gilligan... Gilligan...," endlessly, with no one able to figure out what he meant.
Inverted with the episode where the Russian cosmonauts accidentally land on the island. They're more than willing to help the castaways get off the island, but the price for being rescued would be detention in the Soviet Union (as the Soviets don't want to admit their capsule landed off-course, and the castaways would be living proof of that). Given the choice between a lush tropical island and a Siberian gulag, this was one incidence where they worked to keep from being rescued by the wrong people!
California Doubling: The harbor the Minnow is seen sailing from in the opening credits is really the harbor at Newport Beach. The cave Gilligan sometimes hid in is located a little south from there, at Corona del Mar, and is still known today as 'Gilligan's Cave' by locals.
The Cameo: In the third reunion movie, Jim Backus reprises his role for one scene. This was due to his suffering from Parkinson's disease. He was originally going to be left out altogether for this reason, but Backus felt up to doing one scene and was welcomed by production.
Which lead to an offscreen Heartwarming Moment as Backus completed his scene and walked over to Dawn Wells (Mary Ann) and asked "Was I funny?". She hugged him and assured him he was. To this day the incident makes her tear up as she recounts it for interviews.
Clothing Damage: Suffered frequently by the Skipper (usually as a result of something stupid Gilligan has done). Gilligan gets it sometimes as well. The Professor and Mary Ann have had it happen at least once each. Good thing they have that Unlimited Wardrobe.
Criminal Doppelgänger: Happened three times. Gilligan had a Russian spy double, Mr. Howell had a freeloader double, and Ginger had a...well, she wasn't a criminal until she went back and started using Ginger's fame.
Mary Ann is based on Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz; if being a pig-tailed girl trapped in a mysterious land is not enough, she used to live with her aunt and uncle in Kansas.
In 1990, the Fox Network presented Whoops!, a sitcom about the last six people to survive a nuclear bomb. Sherwood Schwartz threatened to sue, but since the show only lasted a few episodes before being canceled, the point became moot.
Mr. Howell: It's not just a party, it's a coming out party!
Hollywood Natives: Played painfully straight with the various tribes who appear throughout the series' run. For example, the episode "Gilligan's Mother-In-Law" has a native family — complete with grass skirts, feathered headdresses, and bad language skills — choosing Gilligan to be a husband for their overweight daughter.
Karma Houdini: For such a seemingly innocent kids' show, it was loaded with these. Of all the many, many guest stars who would show up on the island and meet the Castaways, nearly all of whom would deliberately, maliciously choose to not only leave the Castaways on the island, but also tell nobody about them. Sometimes, the Castaways would hear over their radio that some of these jerks faced some Laser-Guided Karma. But not that often.
Limited Wardrobe: Gilligan, the Skipper, and the Professor pretty much always wore the same outfits outside of the "dream" episodes. And yet the ladies all seem to have a never-ending supply of clean and fashionable outfits to wear.
Although this was explained (Gilligan, Skipper, and the Professor only having the clothes off their backs, but Ginger and the Howells brought multiple outfits)
Although Gilligan and the Skipper could plausibly have kept a couple changes of clothes on board, so they had something to change into when they inevitably got their clothes dirty doing maintenance chores. These, however, would also quite plausibly be identical to their other work clothes. The Professor appears to have brought a spare shirt (a common enough thing for a professional man to have with him at all times) that Mary-Ann appears to have acquired as sleepwear.
Lots of Luggage: Thurston Howell the Third, his wife Lovey and Ginger all took along much more luggage (mostly clothing) than they should have needed for a "three hour cruise". On one of the occasions where they had a chance to escape the island, they insisted on taking all of their luggage with them.
How insane their luggage is takes multiple episodes to understand. At one point, there is a plan to use what is by then an empty steamer trunk of theirs as a bathtub. Another episode shows that they brought an entire steamer trunk of cash with them (on a cruise on a boat with no indication of anywhere on board to buy anything).
Lysistrata Gambit: The girls move to the other side of the island in one episode in an attempt to force the men to build more huts. This wouldn't even count as a G-rated example if Mrs. Howell didn't specifically cite the Trope Namer!
Mistaken for Prank Call: The castaways once try tapping into a transoceanic telephone cable to call for help and, later, sending a homing pigeon with a message for help. The operator and the pigeon's owner both assume it's a prank.
The Musical: Adapted as a stage musical by Sherwood Schwartz and his son Lloyd.
Negative Continuity: Sometimes. Continuity was actually fairly good at first, but was relaxed as time went on.
Mrs. Howell claims to be fluent in French in "You've Been Disconnected". In "All About Eva", she says she doesn't speak French.
In "Pass the Vegetables, Please", Gilligan's favorite vegetable is spinach. In "Lovey's Secret Admirer", Gilligan's statement that he likes spinach causes the Professor's lie detector to go off.
The whole plot of "My Fair Gilligan" revolves around Gilligan being adopted by the Howells, who state they have no son of their own. The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island, however, introduces David Ruprecht as their fully-grown son Thurston Howell IV. This particular instance is also a case of Real Life Writes the Plot, as Jim Backus was too ill to manage more than a cameo as Thurston Howell III and Howell IV was brought in as a Suspiciously Similar Substitute.
"The Postman Cometh" establishes that Mary Ann does not have a significant other back home. In Rescue from Gilligan's Island, when the gang is finally rescued after 15 years on the island, she suddenly has a fiance who's been waiting 15 years to marry her.
Never Win the Lottery: In "The Sweepstakes", Gilligan has a winning sweepstakes ticket. Or so he thinks. It isn't until the end of the episode that he realizes the ticket is from last year's sweepstakes and thus is worthless. (It was a second season episode, after all.)
No Name Given: It was never established whether "Gilligan" was the character's first or last name, or what his other name was. Pre-production materials for the pilot indicate that the character was to be called Willy Gilligan, but the name never appeared in canon.
Nothing Is the Same Anymore: In Castaways on Gilligan's Island, the Castaways are permanently rescued at last, make sure the island's location is properly recorded and turn it into a resort.
Older Than They Look: A real-life example in the form of Natalie Schafer, who was 63 when the series began. She kept her true age a secret, and it only became known after she died. The other cast members subsequently expressed surprise.
Possibly not a good example, as the character indicated she already knew Mr. Howell in 1929, more than 30 years before the series (although given that the Howells come from an extremely exclusive social circle, they might have been formally introduced as early as their teens).
Once in a Blue Moon: The episode "Ship Ahoax". When Ginger tells Gilligan's fortune, she says to look for a ship when "the moon is blue". Sure enough, that night the moon is colored blue and a ship passes by the island.
The Operators Must Be Crazy: In "You've Been Disconnected", an undersea cable washes up on the island, and the castaways rig up a phone to tap into it, getting a very uncooperative operator who does things like ask them to insert ten cents without listening when told there's no place to put money in an undersea cable.
Pilot: The original, unaired pilot has a different, calypso-style theme tune which mentions a "six hour ride" instead of a "three hour tour," different actors playing slightly different versions of the Professor and Ginger, and an entirely different character in the Mary Ann role. A small amount of footage from the pilot was used in the first broadcast episode, "Two on a Raft"; and the entire plot was recycled as a flashback in the Christmas episode "Birds Gotta Fly, Fish Gotta Talk", with scenes featuring the original actors re-shot with the series regulars.
Reality Show: A very strange case. A reality show was made where they would round up several millionaires, movie stars, sailors, idiots, professors, and what have you, and do a Gilligan's Island version of Survivor to see who best represented the original characters. It had two seasons.
Recycled IN SPACE!: Gilligan's Planet is one of the quintessential examples of this trope.
Reed Richards Is Useless: The Professor can do miracles with Bamboo Technology, but he can't build a raft or fix the Minnow, which would solve the single most pressing problem in that little microcosmic society. Lampshaded in the movie Back to the Beach, when Bob Denver (playing an Expy of Gilligan) laughed that he knew "a guy who could build a nuclear reactor out of coconuts but couldn't fix a two-foot hole in a boat."
They attempted to repair the Minnow in a first season episode using tree-sap which had super-glue like properties. They found out too late that the adhesion was temporary, and had already coated the Minnow with it, causing the boat to fall apart.
There were also multiple attempts to make nails out of various metals refined from ores inexplicably found on the island. (Later on the Professor mentions that there cannot be iron ore on the island because of what this type of island is composed of.) All fail in some way (on-screen failures included shattering like glass or exploding when hit with a hammer).
They did build a handful of rafts over the course of the show. The Hand Wave explanation for why they couldn't sail home was that prevailing ocean currents couldn't get a small raft into the shipping lanes.
The Remnant: In one episode, a demented Japanese soldier who doesn't realize WWII is long-over arrives on the island and begins ambushing the castaways one by one.
Reunion Show: The TV movies Rescue from Gilligan's Island (1978), The Castaways on Gilligan's Island (1979), and The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island (1981).
Seven Deadly Sins: Gilligan is Sloth, the Skipper is Wrath, Ginger is Lust, Mary-Anne is Envy, the Professor is Pride, and Mr. and Mrs. Howell represent Greed and Gluttony, repsectively. Word of God says this is intentional.
Ship Tease: A Running Gag for the Professor in Season 2, where, in 4 different episodes, he's teased with Mary Anne, Ginger, visitor Erika Tiffany Smith, and even helps Mrs. Howell pull an Operation Jealousy.
Shrunken Head: In more than one episode the castaways, and especially Gilligan himself, are worried that the cannibal tribes from nearby islands will eat them and shrink their heads as souveniers.
The Sixties: This show could only have been made in that decade.
Status Quo Is God: No matter what situation they're in or who visits the island, every episode ends the same way — the castaways are still stranded and nobody learns a damn thing.
Stranger in a Familiar Land: In the first reunion movie, the characters suffer from this after being rescued and returning to the States: Ginger is upset that raunchy movies have replaced the glamorous ones from her time, the Professor's inventions have been created in his absence and he's being pressured to spend all his time fundraising for the university, the Howells have moved beyond their wealthy society friends, and Mary Ann has outgrown her fiancé.
Superstition Episode: A common theme in Gilligan's Island. The Skipper was extremely superstitious regarding voodoo and island curses, which manifested itself in the series frequently. Examples: In "Waiting for Watubi", Skipper unearths a tiki idol which he is convinced will bring him bad luck. In "Voodoo Something to Me", The Skipper is convinced that a voodoo witch doctor has turned Gilligan into a chimp. In "Voodoo", Skipper believes that a witch doctor has stolen some of the castaways' personal possessions so he can taunt them from afar. And in this last instance, he's actually proven correct.
Guest characters, specifically the rarely seen natives visiting from nearby islands, were also not above this. One instance had a depiction of an ancient tribal hero who happened to look exactly like Gilligan. They discover Gilligan isn't really their returned hero, but then panic and run away when, while chasing him, he drops the head of the statue he was carrying for humorous reasons and it looks rather like his head just fell off.
Unlimited Wardrobe: The Howells, Ginger, and Mary Ann. Induces lots of Fridge Logic. In the alternate theme song for the unaired (until 1992) pilot, the Howells brought "just enough bags for a six-hour ride (six hours?)". Why they felt it necessary to bring these things is never mentioned, but they both had lots of clothes...and apparently Ginger and Mary-Ann are the same size as Mrs. Howell.
Which tends to undercut some of the rationale behind events like Mary-Ann chopping rather a lot off of Ginger's dresses when she had amnesia and thought she was Ginger.
Vito Scotti played both the Japanese sailor and Dr. Boris Balinkoff.
Denny Scott Miller played Duke the surfer as well as Tongo the ape-man actor.
Eddie Little Sky appeared in three unrelated episodes portraying island natives.
Now, this is the tale of our castaways, they're here for a long, long time They'll have to make the best of things, it's an uphill climb The first mate and his skipper, too, will do their very best To make the others comfortable in their tropic island nest No phone! No lights! No motorcar! Not a single luxury! Like Robinson Ca-rusoe, it's primitive as can be! So join us here each week, my friends, you're sure to get a smile From seven stranded castaways, here on Gilligan's isle!