Last week, the ‘net was abuzz with the news that a new deal was made to finally make a Gilligan’s Island movie. A Gilligan feature has been rumored to be in the works several times over the years, usually with the hottest comedy stars of the day attached to play the iconic characters. As we all know, big-screen remakes of classic TV shows often flop at the box-office, usually because they stray too far from the elements of what made the original series popular. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of storyline this new Gilligan movie will have and how it’ll compare to the original cast movie ideas that never happened.
Gilligan’s Island follows a group of wacky castaways that have been shipwrecked on a deserted island. No matter how hard they try, their escape attempts always fail, usually due to the ineptness of S.S. Minnow’s first-mate, Gilligan. The cast of the 1960s sitcom is made up of Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr., Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer, Tina Louise, Russell Johnson, and Dawn Wells.
In addition to multiple cameos on other shows over the years, the sitcom inspired two animated series (The New Adventures of Gilligan and Gilligan’s Planet) and three reunion movies (Rescue from Gilligan’s Island, The Castaways on Gilligan’s Island, and The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island). Louise is the only castmember who distanced herself from the sitcom and has never reprised her role as Ginger.
The castaways were finally rescued in Rescue but found themselves stranded once again by the end. Despite a poor programming decision to air the reunion movie in two parts on consecutive Saturday nights, Rescue became the most-watched TV movie of the year. Over 50% of people watching television on October 14, 1978 tuned in to watch the castaways be rescued. It also inspired the slew of other TV show reunions that followed.
Not surprisingly, NBC wanted a new Gilligan series. A pilot movie was shot in which the castaways were rescued again but they end up opening a getaway resort on the island. Castaways was rushed into production and, for a number of reasons, the ratings weren’t nearly as impressive. The plan for a new series was scrapped.
A third Gilligan movie was produced and was originally going to center around the beautiful Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. Unfortunately, before the movie could be made, the Cheerleaders dropped out and were replaced by the Harlem Globetrotters. That made for a very different movie and it didn’t do well at all.
Backus became ill before production started and couldn’t do the movie. Schwartz improvised and created a previously-unseen adult Howell son, played by David Ruprecht. Shortly before production wrapped, Backus’ health improved enough for him to shoot a brief cameo.
There were talks about doing additional Gilligan reunions but they never came to fruition, likely because of the declining health and deaths of the older castmembers. Two focused on the “next generation” of castaways while the third idea was a murder mystery.
In one movie scenario, the castaways erroneously believe that civilization has been destroyed by nuclear war and they are the only remaining survivors on the planet. They mate and produce offspring. Years later, the grown children set off on a raft to search for what’s left of civilization. Since the characters were rescued in two of the reunion movies, it’s unclear how this would have fit into Gilligan continuity… or maybe it wouldn’t have mattered.
In 1993, Denver discussed another Schwartz movie script called Gilligan: The Second Generation. It would have started with the surviving castaways living on the mainland. He said, “I [Gilligan] marry Mary Ann and the Professor marries Ginger and we all have little children until there are seven like there were before. And they grow up and they want to go back to see where Gilligan’s Island was and they get a boat. They go out and there’s a big storm… and they land on the island and they do the things we did on the island. And we’re back on the mainland — the original cast — trying to find out where they are.”
Schwartz says that his favorite movie idea is called Murder on Gilligan’s Island. In this movie, one of the castaways is supposedly murdered on the island. The remaining castaways and a slew of famous detectives from literature or TV would then work together to uncover the culprit. Of course, the castaway wouldn’t have actually been killed.
Unfortunately, all but three of the original Gilligan actors have now passed away so there won’t be any more movie reunions of the original cast. With a big-screen movie and new cast on the way, it’ll be interesting to see how the new attempt compares with the original. It certainly couldn’t be any sillier — or could it?