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Posts Tagged ‘Gilligan’s Island’

Lost in space, the salvation of classic TV online

In Children and Family, Entertainment, Media, Opinion, sociology, Technology, television, Uncategorized on March 13, 2013 at 12:00 am

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

gsspI’ve written in the past about the lack of creativity coming out of Hollywood these days and it seems increasingly worse. Reality television flows through the airways like so much Typhoid-infested water, riddled with disease and parasites. Thankfully, like an oasis in the desert, modern technology has provided a welcome respite from the gunk that is today’s network television.

By monthly subscription, online video streaming services like Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video offer TV junkies instant access to more than a half-century of programming. Forget waiting a whole week for the next fix of Gilligan’s Island, Cheers or NYPD Blue, now I can watch anytime I want to, day or night, episode after delicious episode from pilot to finale.

These services were originally intended to provide instant access to the same movies you used to go to the video store to rent. But for those of us who prefer bite after bite of tasty episodic television, they serve up a veritable buffet of broadcast entrees ranging from exciting 1950’s westerns like Gunsmoke to angst-filled dramas of the nineties like Beverly Hills 90210.

No more will my television fix need to be delayed by thoroughly staged yet somehow unscripted shows like The Bachelor or bad refits of The Gong Show like The Voice or American Idol. If you don’t’ know what the Gong Show was, your probably too young to understand any of these other references either.

But, Danger Wil Robinson! Because of Hollywood’s continual reinvention of the wheel, when you finally rediscover your favorite old show, you have to be sure which version you’re watching. Is it the new Knight Rider or classic Knight Rider. The Hoff is a classic? Now I just feel old.

Do you recognize this vehicle? Hint - it was on a live action Saturday morning kid's show in 1976.

Do you recognize this vehicle? Hint – it was on a live action Saturday morning kid’s show in 1976.

If you prefer your TV tray filled with something more modern but still thoughtful, well-written and engaging, you can forget the networks. You’ll need to subscribe to cable or satellite services for AMC, BBC America or other high-end channels.

Award-winning programs like Mad Men, The Walking Dead, Doc Martin, Sherlock and the new runaway hit, Downton Abbey, have successfully lured fastidious viewers from Fox, CBS, ABC and NBC for several years. What’s that you say? You don’t have cable? Fear not!

All you need is high-speed Internet, a computer, tablet or even a smart phone, and these programs are just an app download away. Faster than Trump can say, “You’re fired,” you’ll be whisked off to a land where all of life’s problems are solved in a half-hour and no one called Snookie would have ever been allowed on the air.

Ah, the good old days – when the same B movie actor in a rubber carrot suit tormented the Robinson family on Lost In Space one week and sent the crew of the Submarine Seaview rocking and rolling on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea the next. Back then, no one worried whether the lines were politically correct and the very idea of product placement was barely a glimmer in some Mad Man’s eye.

With my remote as my time machine, I can go back there again with a mere click of the play button or a tap on my tablet screen. The down side is that there’s always another episode waiting out there, somewhere in the ether. I move from one to the next, losing all track of time and action. Did I feed the cat? Is this still Tuesday? Oh well, I can figure all that out after I find out who shot JR Ewing. Of course, they just went and killed him off again –this time for keeps (RIP Larry Hagman).

When the rest of the TV landscape seems empty and foreign, these characters feel safe and familiar, like old friends I’ve lost touch with. But even after just enough time to write these few words, I feel out of the loop again, so I better get back to watching. Sometimes you still wanna go where everybody knows your name.

Here On Gilligan’s Island: TV’s Sociological Snapshot

In Entertainment, Opinion, Politics, psychology, Religion, Science, sociology, television, Uncategorized on March 27, 2012 at 9:02 am

Gilligan's Island served as a humorous microcosm of American society.

By Gery L. Deer

Deer In Headlines

In 1963 television writer, producer Sherwood Schwartz created a short-lived situation comedy that, unbeknownst to audiences, provided a peak through a unique magnifying glass into the human condition. Panned by critics and adored by viewers, Gilligan’s Island became one of the most re-run shows of all time and earned a unique place in the annals of American pop culture.

Between 1964 and 1967, 98 original episodes of the show aired when it was suddenly cancelled before a fourth season could be filmed. Surprisingly, the show ran aground, not because of faltering ratings (it was always in the top 20) but instead because the president of CBS wanted to revive his wife’s favorite program, Gunsmoke, which had already drifted into the sunset.

Often taken too seriously by critics and sometimes misunderstood even by its fans, the premise of Gilligan’s was simple. Seven people set out on a scenic, three-hour cruise around theHawaiian Islands aboard the S.S. Minnow when an unexpected storm tossed their tiny ship and left it wrecked on the shore of an uncharted island.

Marooned more than 300 miles from their original course and left with only a transistor radio, a tool chest, four blankets and the clothes on their backs (which never seemed to wear out) the castaways had little hope of rescue. As if that wasn’t enough, each opportunity for escape from their tropical island nest was agonizingly thwarted – usually thanks to the ineptitude of the boat’s lovable, yet bungling first mate, (Willie) Gilligan.

Regardless of what people thought of the show, however, even today, the durability of Gilligan’s Island still leaves entertainment experts scratching their heads. It’s possible, though, that most people simply missed the point.

Gilligan’s offered us more than just 23 minutes of slapstick escapism. Along with campy, cartoon-like comedy, the program granted viewers a humorous and remarkably detailed glimpse of themselves.

Seven people, each of whom represented different social positions, were required to work together in order to survive in their shared predicament. The Skipper and Gilligan, for example, represented average, working class guys; a small business owner and his employee, if you will.

The Professor was a school teacher; the pragmatic scientist focused on getting everyone safely off the island. He also found ways to help make them all more comfortable while maintaining a discrete distance from the obvious distractions – Mary Ann and Ginger.

Sweet, kind, Mary Ann was a wholesome farm girl fromMiddle America. Television psychologists (yes, there are such people) often refer to her as the ‘linchpin’ of the story. Noticeably absent for a good part of an episode, Mary Ann would walk in at just the right moment bringing with her at least part of the solution to an impending problem, though sometimes inadvertently.

Movie starlet, Ginger, was Mary Ann’s voluptuous, big city opposite. Her Marilyn Monroe-esque sensuality was continually implied but never fully executed. Even though she was a film star, on the island she was relegated to a traditional ‘female’ role of the 1960’s, cooking and doing laundry.

Lastly, the millionaire Thurston Howell III and his socialite wife, aptly named, Lovey are obvious stand-ins for the high-brow elite. Carrying enough cash to support a small nation, the lazy yet likable couple solved problems back home with money – something that has no value on the island. Still, Howell’s business savvy and ruthless determination to return to civilization offers both foil and ally to the others.

And there you have it, seven snapshots of modern society dropped into a difficult situation where they are forced to get along for the common good. Of course a sitcom isn’t real life, but it shows us that we all have the same basic needs no matter where we are in the pecking order of society. In the end, we all require food, clothing, shelter, some level of happiness and a margin of personal satisfaction.

No one ever really finds everything they’re looking for in life, but peel away our political, religious and social trappings and we’re all the same. Just people trying to get along, regardless of whether we live on the streets of anywhere U.S.A., or here on Gilligan’s Island.

Gilligan’s Island Creator, Sherwood Schwartz, Dies At 94

In Entertainment, Media, National News on July 12, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Schwartz receiving his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (2008)

By The Associated Press

July 12, 2011

Sherwood Schwartz, writer-creator of two of the best-remembered TV series of the 1960s and 1970s, Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch, has died at age 94.

Great niece Robin Randall said Schwartz died early Tuesday.

Schwartz was hospitalized at Cedars Sinai Medical Center about a week ago with an intestinal infection and underwent several surgeries. His wife, Mildred, and children have been at his side, said his nephew, Douglas Schwartz.

Sherwood Schwartz and his brother, Al, started as a writing team in TV’s famed 1950s “golden age,” said Douglas Schwartz, the late Al Schwartz’s son.

“They helped shape television in its early days,” Douglas Schwartz said. “Sherwood is an American classic, creating Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island, iconic shows that are still popular today. He continued to produce all the way up into his 90s.”

Sherwood Schwartz was working on a big-screen version of Gilligan’s Island, his nephew said. Douglas Schwartz, who created the hit series Baywatch, called his uncle a longtime mentor and caring “second father” who helped guide him successfully through show business.

Success was the hallmark of Sherwood Schwartz’s own career. Neither Gilligan nor Brady pleased the critics, but both managed to reverberate in viewers’ heads through the years as few such series did, lingering in the language and inspiring parodies, spinoffs and countless standup comedy jokes.

Schwartz had given up a career in medical science to write jokes for Bob Hope’s radio show. He went on to write for other radio and TV shows, including The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.

He dreamed up Gilligan’s Island in 1964. It was a Robinson Crusoe story about seven disparate travelers who are marooned on a deserted Pacific Island after their small boat wrecks in a storm. The cast: Alan Hale Jr., as Skipper Jonas Grumby; Bob Denver, as his klutzy assistant Gilligan; Jim Backus and Natalie Schafer, the rich snobs Thurston and Lovey Howell; Tina Louise, the bosomy movie star Ginger Grant; Russell Johnson, egghead science professor Roy Hinkley Jr.; and Dawn Wells, sweet-natured farm girl Mary Ann Summers.

TV critics hooted at Gilligan’s Island as gag-ridden corn. Audiences adored its far-out comedy. Schwartz insisted that the show had social meaning along with the laughs: “I knew that by assembling seven different people and forcing them to live together, the show would have great philosophical implications.”

He argued that his sitcoms didn’t rely on cheap laughs. “I think writers have become hypnotized by the number of jokes on the page at the expense of character,” Schwartz said in a 2000 Associated Press interview.

“When you say the name Gilligan, you know who that is. If a show is good, if it’s written well, you should be able to erase the names of the characters saying the lines and still be able to know who said it. If you can’t do that, the show will fail.”

Gilligan’s Island lasted on CBS from 1964 to 1967, and it was revived in later seasons with three high-rated TV movies. A children’s cartoon, The New Adventures of Gilligan, appeared on ABC from 1974 to 1977, and in 2004, Schwartz had a hand in producing a TBS reality show called The Real Gilligan’s Island.

The name of the boat on Gilligan’s Island — the S.S. Minnow — was a bit of TV inside humor: It was named for Newton Minow, who as Federal Communications Commission chief in the early 1960s had become famous for proclaiming television “a vast wasteland.”

Minow took the gibe in good humor, saying later that he had a friendly correspondence with Schwartz.

TV writers usually looked upon The Brady Bunch as a sugarcoated view of American family life.

The premise: a widow (Florence Henderson) with three daughters marries a widower (Robert Reed) with three sons. (Widowhood was a common plot point in TV series back then, since networks were leery of divorce.) During the 1970s when the nation was rocked by social turmoil, audiences seemed comforted by watching an attractive, well-scrubbed family engaged in trivial pursuits.

Schwartz claimed in 1995 that his creation had social significance because “it dealt with real emotional problems: the difficulty of being the middle girl; a boy being too short when he wants to be taller; going to the prom with zits on your face.”

The series lasted from 1969 to 1974, but it had an amazing afterlife. It was followed by three one-season spinoffs: The Brady Bunch Hour (1977), The Brady Brides (1981) and The Bradys (1990).The Brady Bunch Movie, with Shelley Long and Gary Cole as the parents, was a surprise box-office hit in 1995.

It was followed the next year by a less successful A Very Brady Sequel.

Sherwood Schwartz was born in 1916 in Passaic, N.J., and grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. His brother, already working for Hope, got him a job when Sherwood was still in college.

“Bob liked my jokes, used them on his show and got big laughs. Then he asked me to join his writing staff,” Schwartz said during an appearance in March 2008, when he got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. “I was faced with a major decision writing comedy or starving to death while I cured those diseases. I made a quick career change.”

Besides his wife, Schwartz’s survivors include sons Donald, Lloyd and Ross Schwartz, and daughter Hope Juber.


Story Courtesy The Associated Press / Photo Courtesy Wikipedia