Skip to main content

The Many Lives of "Gilligan's Island"

A love of classic television is what fires my passion for writing and I love walking down memory land and am always happy to have company!

The cast of "Gilligan's Island."

The cast of "Gilligan's Island."

The Longest Three Hour Tour in History

What happens when you put seven dissimilar people together on a small island and strand them there for 15 years? Well, you get Gilligan's Island, a 30-minute American comedy series created and produced by Sherwood Schwartz.

The series aired on CBS from September 26, 1964 to September 3, 1967. It was an instant hit with viewers as it often finished in the Top 10. Critics, on the other hand, hated it, often labeled it "moronic, silly, goofy and preposterous".

The plot of the series:

The Skipper aka Jonas Grumby (Alan Hale, Jr) his first mate, Gilligan (Bob Denver), ran a charter boat service situated in Hawaii. One day, they took five passengers out for a tour; Mary Ann Summers (Dawn Wells) a pretty young farm girl, Ginger Grant (Tina Louise) a movie star, Professor Roy Hinkley (Russell Johnson) a high school science teacher, Thurston Howell, III (Jim Backus), a multimillionaire and his wife, Lovey (Natalie Schafer).

The little boat was caught up in a storm and ended up being beached on an uncharted island. The castaways spent 15 years (the series went off the air with no rescue written into the last episode) trying to figure out a way to get back to civilization and failing in each attempt, usually because of Gilligan.

The cast of "Gilligan's Island" (featuring a different 'Ginger').

The cast of "Gilligan's Island" (featuring a different 'Ginger').

Rescue From Gilligan's Island

When Gilligan finds a small metallic disc that is the remains of a spy satellite that exploded in the atmosphere above the island, he makes a necklace out of it. The Professor realizes the disc is unique and using his scientific skills, makes a barometer with which he is able to forecast that a deadly storm is headed for the island and will more than likely devastate it (and the castaways in the process). Working together, they build three huts, lash them together, and when the storm hits, they are carried out to sea, into the shipping lanes, where they are finally rescued! When Gilligan is interviewed on TV, the makers of the satellite see his necklace and spend the rest of the movie coming up with comical ways to get it back.

The subplot to this movie has Gilligan and the Skipper preparing to open another boat charter service, but the insurance company will only pay their claim if they can get each castaway to sign a waiver stating that Gilligan and the Skipper were not at fault for the first accident. When everyone signs off, the Skipper gets his new Minnow and asks the original five passengers to be his first customers on its maiden voyage, and wouldn't you know it, another storms hits and they end up marooned back on the same little island.

  • Aired on NBC on October 14, 1978 and concluded on October 21, 1978.
  • Tina Louise refused to have anything to do with the entire Gilligan franchise after the original series ended.
  • Cast: Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr, Russell Johnson, Dawn Wells, Judith Baldwin, Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer.
Promotional ad for "The Castaways on Gilligan's Island."

Promotional ad for "The Castaways on Gilligan's Island."

The Castaways on Gilligan's Island

This TV movie picks up right where Rescue From Gilligan's Island left off and once again our favorite castaways find themselves stranded back on their little island after having been caught up in another storm.

With the water supplies now contaminated thanks to the storm, it is up to Gilligan to search for an alternate source. Imagine his surprise when he finds a World War II airplane hangar complete with planes. They had been hidden there for years by thick jungle growth that had been cleared away because of the storm.

The Professor cobbles together one working plane out of the parts and the castaways make their way off the island. While in flight, the plane develops engine problems and the Professor figures that lightening the plane's cargo load will help. Gilligan begins to clear the cargo (wearing a parachute of course) and accidentally falls out of the plane and lands safely back on the island. The castaways decide they have to go back and get him, in spite of knowing that the plane will never be able to make another take-off. When the plane lands, the engine falls off and the Professor realizes that if it had fallen off over the ocean, the castaways would have been doomed. Gilligan's accident has saved their lives.

But, Fate seems to have had something good planned, as a Navy captain spotted their aircraft on his radar and was able to pinpoint where they landed. They are taken back to civilization and the little island is marked on the map, so no one will ever be stranded there again.

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Reelrundown

The second storyline of this TV movie takes place a year later and was to act as a pilot for a series that was to be very similar to the popular ABC show The Love Boat. The little island is now a tropical resort owned by Mr. Howell and the rest of the castaways work there as staff. The Skipper and Gilligan provide the shuttle craft that takes guests from the mainland to the resort and back again.

Tom Bosley (probably best known as Mr. Cunningham on the 70s series Happy Days) and Marcia Wallace play a married couple, Myra and Henry Elliot, who come to the island for some rest and relaxation except that workaholic Henry just doesn't seem to be able to grasp that concept. Gilligan befriends a young boy, Robbie (Ronnie Scribner, who is best known for his work as child vampire Ralphie Glick on the 1979 mini-series Salem's Lot) who was unaccompanied and is later found out to be a runaway.

  • Aired on NBC May 3, 1979.
  • Was a pilot, of sorts, for what was to be a weekly series that never developed.
  • Cast: Cast: Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr, Russell Johnson, Dawn Wells, Judith Baldwin, Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer.

The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island

Now that the small island has been transformed into a resort, as seen in the previous television movie, we are introduced to Thurston Howell IV (David Ruprecht), who has come to the island to run the business while his father works on the mainland.

The Harlem Globetrotters, traveling by plane, are forced to make an emergency landing on the island. When they are rescued by the Skipper and Gilligan, they agree to play a game against the staff of the resort, who, naturally, lose the game.

Meanwhile, J.J. Pierson (Martin Landau) a business rival of Howell's discovered that the island is a source of "supremium", an ore that can be used as energy and he wants the island for himself so he can mine it. He tried to scare the staff away, then resorted to acts of sabotage and he nearly succeeded in getting all of the staff signatures except for Thurston IV.

When the Skipper and Gilligan discover Pierson's real intention, he agrees to tear up the contracts if the Globetrotters will play his team The New Invincibles, who are robots. At first, it looks as though the Globetrotters have met their match, but when Gilligan reminds them that they haven't been doing their usual Globetrotter tricks, they begin to score against the team and win (really, was there ever any doubt).

Pierson, though, doesn't really care as while everyone was busy watching the basketball game, he was having the ore loaded onto this yacht. The Professor tells him that the ore will be very unstable in its present form and it explodes destroying Pierson's yacht and leaving him penniless.

When Thurston Howell III returns to the island, he thanks the Globetrotters for their help and congratulates his son on a job well done.

  • Aired on NBC May 15, 1981.
  • Viewers are surprised to learn the Howell's have a son.
  • Jim Backus was ill during the filming of this TV movie and had what amounted to a cameo appearance.
  • Cast: Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr, Russell Johnson, Dawn Wells, Constance Forslund, Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer.

The New Adventures of Gilligan

This animated version of Gilligan's Island was a Filmation production. It aired on ABC for two seasons (September 7, 1974 to October 6, 1975) and featured the voices of the original cast sans Tina Louise and Dawn Wells.

The plot was very much like the original series, with the Skipper and Gilligan taking five passengers out on a boat tour only to end up shipwrecked on a deserted island. An addition of a monkey named Stubby, as a pet friend, for Gilligan was the only new addition to the cast.

Filmation did add, at the end of each episode, a moral of the story kind of message, since the cartoon was aimed at children.

Voice Talents:

  • Bob Denver - Willy Gilligan
  • Alan Hale, Jr. - Skipper Jonas Grumby
  • Jim Backus - Thurston Howell III
  • Natalie Schafer - Eunice Wentworth "Lovey" Howell
  • Russell Johnson - Professor Roy Hinkley
  • Jane Webb - Ginger Grant, Mary Ann Summers

Gilligan's Planet

This is the second animated spin-off from the classic series. Seemingly forgetting about two of the three television movies that had the castaways rescued this series had the Professor build a spaceship for their attempt to get back to civilization. But, as luck would have it, their ship crash-landed on a planet very much like the island they had lived on, but of course, it had more land for them to move around on. The comedy in this cartoon series was the strange aliens and creatures the castaways had to interact with all the while hoping the Professor can repair the rocket.

  • Aired on CBS from September 18, 1982 to September 3, 1983.
  • 13 episodes.
  • The original cast provided the voices of their characters (with the exception of Tina Louise who did not participate in the project.
  • Dawn Wells provided the voices of both Mary Ann and Ginger.
  • Filmation and MGM/UA Television production.
  • The last Saturday morning cartoon series produced by Filmation.

Gilligan's Island Trivia

  • Producers originally wanted Jerry Van Dyke (brother of Dick Van Dyke) to play the role of Gilligan.
  • Gilligan's first name was Willie.
  • Carroll O'Connor tried out for the part of the Skipper.
  • Raquel Welch tried out for the role of Mary Ann.
  • Dabney Coleman auditioned for the role of the Professor.
  • Jayne Mansfield, the famous blond sex symbol of the 1950s, was offered the role of Ginger Grant, but turned it down.
  • Most scenes were shot on a Burbank sound stage and production crews had to be careful of the background noises such as air traffic from local airports and from a nearby Lockheed plant.
  • There really was a Gilligan's Island, well, kind of anyway. It was actually Coconut Island, a small outcropping in Kaneohe Bay off the northeast shore of Oahu, Hawaii. That is where the opening credits for the show were filmed.
  • The show's pilot wrapped up filming on the same day that John F. Kennedy was shot, November 22, 1963.
  • The show ended after three seasons but had been renewed for a fourth. CBS canceled Gunsmoke but many TV affiliates protested this move and CBS changed its mind and put the show back on the air, but they had to make room on their schedule to do so and sacrificed Gilligan's Island.
  • When Russell Johnson (The Professor) was asked why there were never any romances between the single characters on the series, he explained that the show as written with children in mind.
  • Surviving Gilligan's Island is a 2001 docudrama co-produced by Dawn Wells.

Books About Gilligan's Island

(2015) Stranded: The Definitive Directory to Gilligan's Island By Rick Cave with Dawn Wells. A comprehensive guide to just about every aspect of Gilligan's Island. Information on every aspect of the television series Gilligan's Island is compiled here in an easy-to-find A-Z encyclopedia format

(2014) What Would Mary Ann Do by Dawn Wells: A memoir, with lots of Gilligan's Island Trivia and advice from Mary Ann on everything from manners to men.

(2011) Inside Gilligan's Island by Sherwood Schwartz: Sherwood Schwartz, creator, writer, and producer of Gilligan's Island, tells the life story of the show.

(1996) TV Treasures; A Companion Guide to Gilligan's Island By Sylvia Stoddard Offers exclusive interviews, complete biographies, filmographies and more.

(1993) Mary Ann's Gilligan's Island Cookbook : By Dawn Wells The book is filled with anecdotes and photographs from the set of Gilligan's Island, also features favorite recipes from members of the cast.

(1993) Here on Gilligan's Island by Russell Johnson: Offers fans behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the show and cast.

Reminiscing About Our Favorite Castaways

Well, that about does it, I hope you enjoyed your cruise down memory lane. Gilligan's Island certainly has had a long life and I am sure, as it is shown in syndication more and more, its fan base will only continue to grow in size.

Oh, and there are two polls below, feel free to vote, it doesn't cost you anything!

Mary Ann or Ginger, Cast Your Vote Below

Mary Ann or Ginger, Cast Your Vote Below

Favorite "Gilligan's Island" Character

© 2017 Glory Miller

Related Articles