SILLIGAN'S ISLAND

Did you realize that the insanely-implausible sitcom Gilligan’s Island ran for only three seasons and 98 episodes? Now, granted, that is about 95 more than its premise warranted, but because of its lengthy syndication life the series seems to have been in production for decades. How is it that such a broadly-written piece of total fluff was able to keep people watching over all these years? It was very very very very very very very silly, and again, one of those TV shows or movies that could only have come out of the ‘60s, with the mod aesthetic, yet-to-be-jaded viewers, and apparent writer drug use.

I was 2 1/2 when the show began its run on CBS, and we watched every week. I realize that I was internalizing this show as REAL LIFE, because what did I know? I was little and everything was served up as fact to me. I was not really aware of the rather total division between reality and fantasy, unless it was some Disney short about unicorns and fairies, and not really then either.

If I could have written out my takes on the show’s characters then, or written anything at all other than “MARIANNE” and “CAT,” this is pretty much what I thought. (Bad language added for emphasis here - I didn’t know any swear words back then):

The Skipper
: Old. Irritable. Authoritarian. Mean to Gilligan, but with a soft heart underneath. Fat. Not stupid, but not smart enough to figure out how to fix the fucking boat. Some sailor. Secretly longs for Ginger, but would do Lovey or Mary Ann if given the chance. Which was ewww. Hardworking, yet incompetent.

Gilligan: What the hell is he? A boy? A man? What??? So incredibly na├»ve he made my preschool ass look cosmopolitan. Unnaturally sexually-repressed; still in girls-have-cooties stage. Fearful and goofy. Painfully gawky and skinny, but with the longest hair, which was a plus. First one on island likely to be eaten by an animal, or killed in frustration by the fellow castaways. Friendly, but a major dork who will ruin everyone’s shit every single week.

The Professor: Some brilliance – hah! Three years and Smarty Pants can’t figure out how to rig up a GODDAMN RAFT. My god, you could kill Gilligan and float away on his bloated CORPSE, ROCKET SCIENTIST – THERE, I SOLVED YOUR PROBLEM! Mainly asexual and nerdish, but would probably welcome a drunken orgy with Mary Ann and Ginger if the opportunity arose, then would be profoundly embarrassed. Reasonably good-looking and authoritative, but still piloting the failboat. Nice radio, man.

Thurston Howell, III
: Really old. Really rich. Asshole. Would sell own mother for a buck. Possibly did in one episode. Devoted to his stupid wife, Lovey, but would sell her as well, for 50 cents. Would absolutely join in the drunken orgy with the Professor and Mary Ann and Ginger, and would not be embarrassed whatsoever. Too pompous and lazy to realize he could probably float home in his big money trunk. Sometimes blind (see Mr. Magoo).

Lovey Howell
: Really old. Really Rich. Stupid. Snobbish with possible Graves’ Disease or just overly-large false eyelashes. Seemingly in Valium-induced haze most of the time. Almost completely devoid of sexuality, thank god. Second one on island likely to be eaten by an animal. No value whatsoever to anyone at all.

Ginger: So oozing with sexuality she may combust at any moment. Vapid and pointlessly elegant. Needy and obnoxious but beautiful, so people deal with her. Would have sex with anyone on the island, but would not enjoy it at all. Secretly did every single visitor to the island for new sparkly gowns. Unintelligent, but shrewd. Would throw Mary Ann off a cliff into the lagoon if she could get away with it. Could have floated away using her boobs alone.

Mary Ann: My namesake and fellow farm girl. Boring, somewhat clueless, and overly kind. Annoyingly handy and practical. Very pretty, but pissed about having to be compared to Ginger all the time. Would do the Professor or Gilligan for an engagement ring and a slop bucket of empty promises. Sexy, but a bit dorky. Low self-esteem, with moments of feistiness. Smarter than the Professor, but won’t realize it until she is older with three divorces and a crappy career behind her. Would throw Ginger off a cliff into the lagoon, and not really be all that concerned about justifying it, either.

The last new episode of Gilligan’s Island aired on April 17, 1967, 11 days after my 5th birthday. The world was entering into the Summer Of Love, and a brave new world of TV comedy like The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (good) and The Flying Nun (stunningly, an even-stupider show). The characters of Gilligan’s Island, for better or worse, stayed in my head. That probably means there was something to the writing there, as silly and stereotyped and moronic as it was. It was memorable, and that is always what anyone strives for, even if you aren’t about to win an Emmy for it and your legacy is punctuated by canned laughter and repeated still shots of the S.S. Minnow.