Gilligan’s Island, though still hated by the critics, had respectable ratings and had been renewed for a fourth season. Gunsmoke, a venerable and once very popular western, had been cancelled after a long run. The story goes that when CBS Executive William Paley and his wife found out that their favorite show Gunsmoke had been cancelled, they were outraged. Shortly thereafter, room was made in the Monday night schedule for a new season of Gunsmoke and Gilligan was cancelled. The cast and crew had already wrapped after the end of season three so Sherwood called his cast to tell them the surprising and sad news personally. Sherwood has said that if he knew they were being cancelled, he would have written a rescue episode.
As a result of the circumstances, the final episode of Gilligan’s Island was not unlike most others. It was entitled “Gilligan the Goddess” and aired on April 17th 1967. In the episode, three natives come to the island and see the female castaways. The native King announces that in exchange for one of the ladies becoming his “White Goddess,” he will rescue them all. To help them get rescued, the women compete to be the “White Goddess” until they find out the winner will eventually be thrown into a volcano. The castaways balk at this and the natives leave… and return with poisonous blowguns. With the idea that they may be able to signal a passing boat once they’re off the island, the male castaways all dress up as women and attempt to be chosen by the king. “Gillianna” is the winner. Later, the Skipper overhears that the king intends to throw a dummy into the volcano and keep “Gillianna” as his queen. Gilligan plays hide and seek with the king and secretly takes off his outfit. Finding the discarded wig and clothes, the king is convinced his goddess dissolved before his very eyes and the natives quickly leave the island in fear. End of series.
So it looked like the castaways would be forever marooned on that tiny island in rerun perpetuity. Well, it turned out that reruns would be what would save the shipwrecked friends. Stay tuned to find out how.