50 Years since Gilligan’s Island premiered

2014-09-26_1400It was supposed to be a three hour tour (a three hour tour) but US sitcom Gilligan’s Island remains popular 50 years after it first aired on CBS.

Starring Bob Denver, Alan Hale, Jr., Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer, Russell Johnson, Tina Louise, and Dawn Wells, it aired for three seasons from September 26, 1964, to April 17, 1967, but it would never go off the air thanks to syndication.

There were a total of 98 episodes, with the first season in black and white, plus two versions of the opening theme song “The Ballad of Gilligan’s Isle” with the second adding the lyrics, “the Professor and Mary Ann.” Dawn Wells and Russell Johnson made a joke of it and would sometimes address each other in correspondence as “the rest.”

Creator Sherwood Schwartz, who also created The Brady Bunch and It’s About Time, has always favoured theme songs that describe the premise.

Schwartz designed the characters to represent parts of society but CBS was not in favour of them remaining stranded. Once the ratings slipped, Gilligan and his friends were du to be rescued and continue their adventures off the island.

But the show was so successful, as Wikipedia notes the United States Coast Guard even received telegrams from concerned citizens, pleading for them to rescue the people on the deserted island.

Eventually the show was cancelled to make way for the long-running Gunsmoke.

The show also spawned several telemovies such as Rescue from Gilligan’s Island (1978) and sequels, including the animated Gilligan’s Planet.

These days just Tina Louise and Dawn Wells are still with us, with Wells (who still looks fabulous) plugging a book this week in a video you can see here.


  1. @steveany 2.0 / Boromir – you are too kind. Yes, I have similarly given up on commercial FTA but I still watch a bit on SBS. The programs start on time, stay in the same timeslot, and I find the ad breaks tolerable.

    I particularly watch whatever Scandinavian (soon to be Belgian) drama they have on Wednesday and am also enjoying Masters of Sex and the occasional cult movie. If I wasn’t going to be out, I’d be watching the Python reunion tonight.

  2. I liked Gilligan but does anybody remember those dreadful colorized first series episodes that Foxtel showed in the early 2000s? During that period The Sunday Telegraph issued a free DVD with the premiere episodes of four series including Gilligan and The Dukes of Hazzard to promote new box sets of the shows. The first episode of Gilligan was digitally restored black and white, as was the box set. To my knowledge the colorized episodes have never been shown again, thank goodness.

  3. @ Secret S.
    Yes, Faramir, still around – I just don’t watch TV any more (except for QI and anything Micallef) so I really only tune in for sentimental purposes and to read your comments 😉

    And geez, what a relief to see that your previous tome was cut off prematurely! I was worried that you were making some pithy and profound observation about Gilligan but I was too dense to catch your drift!

  4. @steveany 2.0 – thx for the correction re The Professor, and good to see you’re still around.

    The last bit of my comment got cut off but basically, since there were no Sins left, I made a case that Gilligan was actually Satan. Most of the time it was his actions that prevented the others from leaving.

    I enjoyed Gilligans’ Island but I preferred the sequel – Lost. 😉

  5. Ah the memories. Every school-day after getting home – a glass of chocolate milk and Gilligan!
    I remember freaking out when I first saw it in colour – Gilligan’s shirt was so red!

    @S.Squirrel – nice!
    Mind you, the Professor did in fact build some rafts, the best being a big one complete with hut when he deduced the island was sinking. The whole ep was about testing the raft for seaworthiness – eating tests, drinking tests, sleeping tests 🙂
    Of course the island wasn’t sinking – Gilligan merely put his lobster trap marker out a little further each day. It was also the Professor’s depth gauge. From the concept to the score to the slapstick, that ep still makes me laugh out loud!

  6. The sheer comedic brilliance of a show that features an episode with a musical version of Hamlet sung to the score of Bizet’s Carmen…with Phil Silvers!

  7. This might provide some amusement for the weekend. the characters of Gilligan’s Island can be matched to The Seven Deadly Sins.

    Pride – that’s obviously The Professor. Strange how he could build a working radio out of coconuts and bamboo but not a raft.

    Greed – Mr Howell and his suitcase full of cash and several changes of clothes. He even once said that the only thing that exceeded his and his wife’s brilliance together was their greed.

    Sloth – that’s Mrs Howell for sure. She rarely helped with any of the escape plans being more concerned about maintaining her social status.

    Lust – no points for figuring out that this was Ginger.

    Envy – it therefore follows that this is Mary Ann.

    Gluttony – The Skipper was clearly the best-fed of the castaways.

    Wrath – curiously, with his frequent hitting of Gilligan with his hat, this is also The Skipper.

    And Gilligan? He…

  8. I can remember watching this primetime in Australia, 7:00 on channel 0/10, later from last two seasons 5:00-5:30, where the repeats were screen.

    Oh boy My Mother car stink!!

  9. One of my all time favourite shows; indelible because in those formative years, i believed it all possible, as silly as it all was, and the endearing characters, especially Bob Denver’s. The comic timing of Alan Hale’s Skipper and Bob’s Gilligan was just magical.

  10. My favourite Gilligan’s Island related factoid is that Jerry Van Dyke (brother of Dick) was originally offered the role of Gilligan, but turned it down because he thought the premise of the series was too silly. He then went on to star in My Mother The Car instead…

  11. Loved it after school. It was my favourite show. Dusty Trails was a western themed show that had many of the same characters with a similar premise too. Not nearly as good though.

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