Gilligan's Island

From Academic Kids

For the NES game, see Gilligan's Island (video game).

Gilligan's Island was an American TV sitcom which aired on CBS from 1964 to 1967. Early episodes were filmed in black-and-white; later episodes in color. The show's theme song, "The Ballad of Gilligan's Island" (written by George Wyle and Sherwood Schwartz), begins:

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip...

and was intentionally written in such a way as to give new viewers a capsule summary of the unusual situation the castaways find themselves in. Starting in the second season, another verse was played over the closing credits, after the invariably unsuccessful attempts of the castaways to leave the island.

The Gilligan of the show's title is the hapless first mate of the S.S. Minnow, the ship whose ill-fated cruise created the series. Other characters are the 'Skipper' (referred to as Jonas Grumby in the first broadcast episode), the 'Professor' (referred to as Roy Hinkley in the first broadcast episode), millionaire Thurston Howell III and his wife Eunice, nicknamed "Lovey," movie star Ginger Grant, and Kansas farm girl Mary Ann Summers. The show's plots often revolved around the characters' failed attempts to get off the island where they have been shipwrecked. Often, the failure of that week's attempt was due to some bumbling error committed by Gilligan. The other story format used often is where the castaways have a problem and one of the castaways, usually Gilligan, has a silly dream that relates to the problem in question.

As the character of Ginger Grant, actress Tina Louise created a version of the quintessential Hollywood star and even her name, an amalgam of Ginger Rogers and Cary Grant, was an homage to Hollywood's past. The character was originally written as a sarcastic and sharp-tongued temptress but Louise argued that this type of character was too extreme and refused to play it as written. A compromise was reached and Louise agreed to play her as a cross between Marilyn Monroe and Lucille Ball. The evening gowns and hair style used was designed to recreate the look of Myrna Loy. Louise continued to clash with producers and was the only cast member who refused to return for any of the TV movies that followed the series cancellation, saying that the role had destroyed her career as a serious actress.

In Episode 96, "The Pigeon", the island is said to be located 300 miles (475 km) southeast of Honolulu. The Great circle geodetic equation places this at 18.2N 154.7W, only 75 miles (120 km) from the Big Island. In one episode the fictional professor quoted an exact position of 10N 110W, which is generally discounted as it places the island closer to Mexico and 3100 miles (5000 km) from Hawaii. The actual filming took place at 34.1N 118.7W, in Echo Park in Los Angeles. (The pilot episode, however, was filmed on the island of Kauai in Hawaii.)

A popular joke among viewers points out that The Professor is a genius able to construct practically anything from palm fronds and coconuts, but he is somehow unable to build a boat. Another strange and puzzling fact is that the S.S. Minnow was on a three hour tour—so why did the passengers carry all of their luggage on the trip? Both of these facts were parodied in "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Isle Thing" on the album UHF - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack And Other Stuff: "I like the Professor / he'd always save their butts. / He could build a nuclear reactor / from a couple of coconuts. / She said, 'That man's a genius!' / I shook my head and laughed. / I said, 'If he's so fly / then tell me why / he couldn't build a lousy raft! / And while we're on the subject / I'll tell you one thing for sure: / those homeboys sure brought an awful lot / for just a three-hour tour!'"

Another aspect of the show is the frequency with which the presumably uncharted island is routinely visited by other persons who do nothing to effect the castaways' rescue. In various episodes they are encountered by Polynesian natives with access to two-way radio, a Hollywood producer, a rock and roll band, The Mosquitoes, (portrayed by The Wellingtons, the group which performed the theme song), an exiled Latin American dictator, a mad scientist, a big-game hunter played by Rory Calhoun, daffy aviator "Wrong-Way Feldman," (obviously based on the real-life story of "Wrong Way" Corrigan) a famous surfer, a Japanese sailor unaware that World War II has ended, and Russian cosmonauts among others; all proved either unwilling or unable to disclose to the outside world the existence of the castaways and their location. Some had ulterior motives, such as the producer (portrayed by guest star Phil Silvers), who stole the castaways' idea for a musical version of Hamlet and did not want them to appear to claim credit or royalties; others, such as Feldman, proved too incredible to be believed or were totally unable to give directions to where they had been so that the castaways could be located and rescued.

Another popular element were the numerous dream sequences the castaways experience in the later episodes which gave much needed story variety to the series' limited premise. For instance, Gilligan dreams on separate occasions that he is Lord Admiral Gilligan fighting off pirates, Secret Agent 014, a goofy vampire who is hunted by Inspector Sherlock (played by the Professor) or Dr. Jekyll who turns into Mr. Hyde when people talk about food around him.

According to the show's creator and cast the name "S.S. Minnow" was actually named after Newton Minow, who was chairman of the United States Federal Communications Commission in 1961. In a much-publicized speech, he called television a "vast wasteland." The boat was named after the man who, Gilligan's Island producer Sherwood Schwartz insists, "ruined television." Minow gave networks authority and placed the power of programming in the hands of the networks. He did this after Gilligan's Island was started.

The last new episode of the show aired on September 4, 1967. In the series, the castaways never succeeded in leaving the island. However, they were rescued in a later movie based on the show (see below).

The CBS stage for the lagoon has since been made into a parking lot.


Pilot vs. first broadcast episode

The first episode ever broadcast of Gilligan's Island is often wrongly referred to as the series' pilot. This episode begins with the characters on the beach, immediately after they were shipwrecked, listening to a radio news report about their disappearance. This is the famous scene that fans refer to which reveals that the Skipper's name is Jonas Grumby and the Professor's name is Roy Hinkley.

However, in fact, there was an entirely different episode from this one that actually served as the show's true pilot. That episode dealt more with the characters' background and how they came to be shipwrecked. However, there were significant cast and character changes made after the pilot. The part of the Professor was re-cast to Russell Johnson. The parts of the two secretaries, Ginger and Bunny, were changed to a movie star, Ginger Grant, and a Kansas farm girl, Mary Ann Summers, and re-cast respectively to Tina Louise and Dawn Wells. These changes meant that when the show was finally broadcast, the original pilot could not be used as its first broadcast episode.

Rather than re-shoot the same pilot story again for broadcast, the show just proceeded on, and the series would begin broadcasting with what otherwise would have been the show's second episode—the episode beginning in the immediate aftermath of the shipwreck. In recognition of the fact that by doing this, the audience would have lost all of the background that the pilot episode provided, the scene with the castaways listening to the radio broadcast was added to provide that background as succinctly as possible.

Gilligan's name

Gilligan's full name has been a subject of debate among fans of the series for decades. Officially it was never revealed, nor was it ever said for certain whether Gilligan was his first or last name. Bob Denver once conjectured that the character's full name was Willy Gilligan and some sources have taken this as official confirmation. This comes from a claim by Bob Denver on a talk show that Sherwood Schwartz once mentioned that Gilligan had ever needed another name it would be "Willie". There is no evidence, however, other than Denver's claim, that Schwartz ever made this statement.

In one episode of the series, The Professor is heard to possibly give a last name for Gilligan. When introducing him to a native girl, The Professor says "Gilligan ... " adding, as the girl looks on uncomprehendingly, "...Hohople", which causes her to laugh. One website (see link below) suggests that this episode confirms that the character's full name is Gilligan Hohople; however, it can also be suggested that The Professor was simply translating the name Gilligan into the woman's language, although this is unlikely, since names are rarely translated from one language to another.

The website ( has explained that the "Hohople" reference is the Professor asking the girl if she finds Gilligan handsome, which also is unlikely since there is no context in the scene for the Professor to ask such a question. The Professor's tone of voice, however, as he says "Hohople" to her, does seem to be that of asking a question, rather than making or completing a statement, whatever the particular question may have been. Indeed, he pauses and says, "uh", between "Gilligan" and "Hohople", very much like one would would pause when trying to think of exactly what one is going to say next.

For those who believe he was giving Gilligan's full name, this could be taken to mean that he was simply having momentary trouble remembering what Gilligan's last name was. However, one would tend to doubt that someone with the Professor's encycolopedic mind would forget the name of one of only six people with whom he spends every single day of his life. Indeed, when taken together with the fact that his tone of voice seems to indicate he's asking the woman a question, his pause and "uh" would seem much more likely to be caused by his taking a moment to try to think what the correct words were, in the woman's native language, to ask her whatever it was he wanted to ask her.

When viewing the Slave Girl episode in its entirety, some people have noted strange editing during and near this scene, perhaps indicating that the broadcast version of the scene omits dialogue that might have given the Professor's words a clearer context and meaning.


      • Jim Backus –   Thurston Howell III
      • Bob Denver –   Gilligan (possibly Willie Gilligan or Gilligan Hohople)
      • Alan Hale –   Skipper Jonas Grumby
      • Russell Johnson –   Professor Roy Hinkley Jr.
      • Tina Louise –   Ginger Grant
      • Natalie Schafer –   Eunice "Lovey" Wentworth Howell
      • Dawn Wells   –   Mary Ann Summers


The success of Gilligan's Island spawned a number of spin-offs:

  • Dusty's Trail, another Sherwood Schwartz production, put similar characters on a wagon train heading west. Bob Denver starred as Dusty (Gilligan's counterpart), but the other characters (wagon master, rich couple, saloon girl, school marm, and engineer) were played by a different cast. Only 26 episodes were aired in 1973 and 1974.
  • The New Adventures of Gilligan was a successful animated remake that aired from 1974 to 1977. The voices were done by the original cast except for Ginger and Mary Ann, voiced by Jane Webb. An additional character was Stubby the Monkey, voiced by Lou Sheimer.
  • In a successful 1978 made-for-TV movie, Rescue From Gilligan's Island, the castaways did successfully leave the island, but they had difficulty reintegrating into society. During a reunion cruise one year after their rescue, fate intervened and the group found themselves marooned on the exact same island. It starred the original cast except for Tina Louise, who refused to participate and was replaced as Ginger by Judith Baldwin.
  • In a 1979 sequel, The Castaways on Gilligan's Island, they were rescued once again, and the Howells converted the island into a getaway resort. (Ginger was again played by Judith Baldwin).
  • Gilligan's Planet was an animated science fiction version starring the voices of the Gilligan's Island cast except for Tina Louise (Dawn Wells played the voices of both Mary Ann and Ginger). They escape from the island by building a spaceship, and get shipwrecked on a distant planet. Only 12 episodes aired in 1982.
  • Gilligan's Island: Underneath the Grass Skirt (1999)
  • Gilligan's Island: The E! True Hollywood Story (2000), a backstage history of the show, featuring interviews with some of the stars or their widows.
  • Surviving Gilligan's Island: The Incredibly True Story of the Longest Three Hour Tour in History (2001) was a docudrama where Bob Denver, Dawn Wells, and Russell Johnson reminisce about the show.
  • On November 30, 2004, the TBS network launched a reality series entitled The Real Gilligan's Island which placed two groups of people on an island, leaving them to fend for themselves a la Survivor — the catch being that each islander matched a character type established in the original series (a klutz, a sea captain, a movie star, a millionaire's wife, etc.). While heavily marketed by TBS, the show turned out to be a flop with a very "Survivor"-like feel, but little of the Survivor success. A second season begins June 8, 2005.

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