Monday, October 17, 2005


Someday, Lilly might read this (she doesn’t yet, though she reads a lot of other things now), and she’ll realize that I’ve inflicted Gilligan’s Island on her as a conscious decision. For months now, I’ve been ordered various old TV shows from Netflix, and season 1, disc 1 of that notoriously juvenile show came late last week.

Like everyone else my age, I watched the show on afternoons after school. I picked it up willy-nilly, not by updating my queue via Internet connection, getting a small disc in the mail, and popping it into a machine connected to the TV. I haven’t seen any of the shows in about 30 years, but they linger in memory as certain TV does. Lilly may or may remember this or anything else I’ve shown to her recently, but I’m going to offer her the opportunity, if that’s the word. Besides, the show is for kids, and sure enough it made her laugh.

What I really wanted to see on the disc, though, was the “lost pilot.” This was Gilligan’s equivalent of Star Trek’s “The Cage,” that is, a pilot that never made it on the air because the concept was retooled too much by a second pilot. In fact, Gilligan’s “lost pilot” was better than the actual first episode for a number of reasons, though the premise was pretty much the same, and no less silly. Among other things, the story had slightly more cohesion, the single girls (not Dawn Wells and Tina Louise) wore more fetching swimwear, and there was a scene in which Gilligan managed to dump a box of ammunition in a campfire, with the shells streaking off in all directions as he and the Skipper ducked for cover. A nice bit of special effects for TV in 1964.

Also, the theme song, which was as memorable as anything else in the series, wasn’t the same in the “lost pilot,” but a sort of calypso number sung by a soloist that tells more or less the same story but using almost completely different words and tempo. For instance: “Tourist come, tourists go/Tourists touring to and fro/Five nice tourists/They take this trip/Relaxing on deck of this little ship.”

Turns out that one Johnny Williams did the music for Gilligan's Island. He did a lot of TV work, it seems, before he hit the big time as John Williams.


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