For a year (1966 to 1967) Gilligan’s Island aired on a prime time slot on Monday nights. By the time the show was in its 3rd season, the sitcom’s ratings had fallen well out of the top-30 programs. The show’s relatively low ratings and stiff competition and demand from both fans and NBC, caused the studio to quietly cancel the show while the cast was away on vacation.
To add insult to injury, some of the cast had purchased properties near the set due to the long-term nature of the production. Sherwood Schwartz had confirmed that the series would be renewed for a fourth season. Not exactly the best way to end an iconic TV show that would go on to make history, but life sometimes acts in funny ways.
Set in the sixties
Try as the producers might to make the show timeless; it was clear to everyone watching, especially after the fact that it was set in the sixties. Chief among the details that nail it down in the decade is the fascination with Polynesian culture. A few years later, the Howells or Ginger would like much more likely to jet to Las Vegas instead of taking a three-hour cruise.
The Skipper is a WWII naval veteran and was relatively youthful in his forties. The sets were studio-bound, there was an implausible laugh track, and the Howells are clearly the millionaires of the past when it would take a billionaire to get the same effect now.
A horse helped Alan Hale Jr. get the part for Skipper
During casting for Gilligan, Schwartz couldn’t find a perfect fit for the role of Skipper, as he was eventually the last character to be cast. The problem was the trouble of finding an actor that can combine qualities of being strong and tough while also being relatable and loveable through a caring personality.
When Alan Hale Jr. got the call that he’s invited to audition for Gilligan’s Island, he snuck off the set of Bullet for a Bad Man in Utah the day after filming and traveled to Los Angeles using various methods, from hitchhiking, airplane, taxis and even horseback riding, just to audition for the part of Skipper. Thanks, Alan!
The show was filled with small and funny errors
Filming a show on a deadline is never an easy task, and you have to cut some corners if you want to make sure everything happens on time and within budget. This caused some funny bloopers throughout the show, such as that time Bob Denver forgot to take off his wedding ring during the filming of the episode “They’re Off and Running.”
Another funny blooper actually occurred in the very first episode. During the boarding and sailing of the S.S. Minnow, we hear the classic theme song playing with the words “Five passengers set sail that day.”, this was clearly a mistake since you can clearly see 8 people on the boat. Finally, during the episode “The Friendly Physician” you can actually see buildings over the tree line that surrounds the lagoon. Did the show try to reveal a hidden message about civilization? Most likely, they simply forgot that filming a show in a small LA studio has its downsides.
Gilligan almost had a pet dinosaur
Sherwood Schwartz wrote in his book Inside Gilligan’s Island, which details the creation and aftermath of the show, how a CBS board meeting almost resulted in Gilligan finding and adopting a pet dinosaur on the island. The idea was pitched by CBS programming executive Hunt Stromberg Jr. Stromberg but quickly rejected due to budget constraints and frankly, the idea just being plain insane.
In his book, Schwartz recalls Stromberg’s passionate plea, “Just picture it! Gilligan and his pet dinosaur! It’s our answer to ‘Mr. Ed!’”. We can’t say that we see this with the same enthusiasm as Stromberg, but you never know; this might just have been the best (or worst) decision in all of sitcom history.