As the filming of the third season was winding down, Gilligan’s Island creator Sherwood Schwartz was told that by CBS execs that the sitcom had been renewed for a fourth year. This didn’t come as much of a surprise since the show was well-rated, despite being aired opposite the popular Monkees series. Though the critics hated Gilligan’s Island and the network was embarrassed by it, the public loved it.
According to his book, Schwartz called his cast with the good news and took Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr., Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer, Tina Louise, Russell Johnson, and Dawn Wells to lunch to celebrate. With higher salaries in their future, the actors made various plans and Wells and Johnson even purchased houses.
After several weeks, Schwartz thought it was odd that he hadn’t received the paperwork from the CBS Business Affairs office. He later found out that Gilligan had been removed from the schedule to make room for another season of Gunsmoke. He then had to call his cast with the bad news.
It seems that Gunsmoke had dropped in the ratings and had been cancelled after many years on the air. It was, however, one of network president Bill Paley’s wife Babe’s favorite shows. Paley looked at the prospective 1967 schedule and wondered where the venerable Western was and the programmers quickly scurried to make room to bring it back. The cast of Gunsmoke got to renegotiate their contracts for more money and the Gilligan actors were out of work.
The actors were all typecast by the show and some found it very difficult to find work for many years. Still, in part because so many viewers still loved the show, they all agreed to return for various Gilligan TV movies, animated shows, and reunion projects. All except Tina Louise. The actress wasn’t exactly happy being part of the comedy and did all that she could to distance herself from the show when it left primetime.
After Gilligan’s Island was cancelled, the full cast only reunited one time, on The Late Show. This series aired on the new FOX network and was originally called The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers. This was the program that lured Rivers away from her job as guest host on The Tonight Show.
The FOX network had high hopes but, after a good debut, the program dropped in the ratings. It was cancelled before the end of its second season and Rivers left in late 1987. A number of guest hosts came in to finish the show’s run and one of them was comedian Ross Shafer.
While few people were still watching The Late Show, Shafer hosted a couple shows devoted to classic TV series. One of them was a complete Gilligan’s Island cast reunion, with Schwartz attending as well. It was held on May 18, 1988 and took place on a specially-created set.
On last week’s edition of Stu’s Show, Peter Funt said that he wanted to include the special reunion on a new Gilligan’s Island DVD project. Unfortunately, FOX wanted too much money for it to be included.
Fortunately, someone has posted the video on YouTube. The quality isn’t perfect but it’s still great to be able to see the one and only full Gilligan’s Island reunion.