GILLIGAN'S ISLAND was one of my mandatory rerun shows as a kid! I watched it, like many other classic TV shows that aired in syndication at the time of my youth with regularity. Didn't really pay attention to much of the detail or innuendo or commentary. Just was a kid watching what was on. Back then, there weren't nearly as many choices as there are now.
In re-watching the series recently to gain some perspective, I realize that, no matter how silly and brainless people say this show was, it really was a FUNNY show! I'd say that it's utter lack of realism and complete focus on comedy is the primary reason for it's popularity and staying power. It never tried to be anything more than it was. Even "greater" shows can't lay claim to that trait!
The humor of GI is really broad, laced with sarcasm, wisecracking, innuendo, double-entendres, and, of course, physical comedy. There's quite a bit of ad-libbing that I realized went on. The dialogue, while simplistic for the most part, is actually engaging and still fresh in many ways. The main reason is that the 7 castaways are so well-defined and unique, illustrating that the actors really had a handle on their characters.
Gilligan, Skipper, Mr. and Mrs. Howell, Ginger, Professor, and Mary Ann are all awesome in their own way. TV icon Bob Denver played the equally iconic titular and central character Gilligan, with the then early 30ish Denver so effortlessly essaying the role of the innocent man-child. Alan Hale was also wonderful as the lovable Skipper. The Laurel-Hardy routine of he and Gilligan is a joy to behold!
I'd say my favorite character upon re-watch is really Mr. Howell. I'm amazed at how quick and natural that Jim Backus was with such a broad and somewhat cartoonish character. I'd bet he must have gotten at least an Emmy nomination for this role!
Mrs. Howell (played by then veteran Natalie Schafer) was an ad-libbing scene-stealer much like her hubby and garnered many laughs of her own. Russell Johnson must be commended for having to play the straight-laced, no-nonsense Professor amidst all the wackiness!
Glamorous Tina Louise was a childhood crush for me as Ginger and still does it for me! And hot Dawn Wells was so fresh and engaging as earnest do-gooder Mary Ann, and she did it WITHOUT ever coming across as annoying...no small feat! Of course, THE eternal question is "Ginger or Mary Ann?". They're both great in their own way and I'd take either one of them (as if I had a choice!). I can see why so many seem to prefer Mary Ann (the sweet farmgirl who would be the perfect mate) over Ginger (the sultry fantasy girl beyond reach), but it's not like Ginger was an awful person! She, like all the other castaways, in all their diversity, were presented as truly NICE people, which I find endearing as I re-visit this show. There are very few shows where EVERY character is likable. GI is definitely one of them.
When I started re-visiting this show, I couldn't believe that it ran for only 3 seasons! Honestly, it seemed like it was longer and that is because there were over 30 eps per season! Plus, the running time of each ep was longer than the average half-hour show now. So, if you equate GI to a show today, it actually would amount to about 5 seasons worth of episodes...I'll take it! I also find that I can watch GI much more so than several other shows from this era that I used to watch as a kid. It just has a warm, inviting quality and setting that I prefer. And I simply love ALL the characters! And, ironically, with it supposedly being a "silly" show, I find much of it's dialogue NOT to be silly, as some of those other shows. GI still a winner over 40 years later!
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