11 tiny details you never noticed in the first season of Gilligan's Island
Even a Professor might overlook these fascinating little details.
The first season of Gilligan's Island stands out in one obvious way — it was produced in black & white. The red of Gilligan's shirt and the blue of the Skipper's top and Mary Ann's shorts are so ingrained in our memory, it's easy to forget that. The Technicolor paradise of that uncharted isle perfectly captured the vivid, pop look of television in that era.
So the debut season of the sitcom, which kicked off in 1964, has a different tone overall. Of course, the trademark slapstick, dream sequences and quirky guest stars were all there. Even without color, these were colorful characters.
Because Gilligan's Island goes for such big laughs, you tend to overlook the little details in the dialogue and sets. That's where we come in.
Here are 11 interesting little tidbits you can spot watching the first season. Did you ever notice one of them?
1. You can spot different castaways in the first episode.
"Two on a Raft"
The pilot episode, "Marooned," filmed a year before the series' debut, had significant differences from the final product. Instead of Mary Ann and Ginger, there were two secretaries. A different actor played the Professor, who was actually a high school teacher. Though the pilot would not air on television until 1992, some of the footage turns up in "Two on a Raft," the first episode aired. When the Skipper awakens and climbs out of the ruined Minnow, you can see the actors from the pilot sleeping aboard the boat. Yep, those two are not Ginger and Mary Ann.
Image: Warner Bros.
2. The first episode is the only one to mention the Skipper's name.
"Two on a Raft"
Everyone knows Alan Hale Jr. as the Skipper, and that suffices. But the character did have a real name, Jonas Grumby. Nobody on the island uses it, but the audience does her it coming from a radio broadcast in the first episode. A news report describes Grumby as an "old salt."
3. Ginger slept in the nude.
"Home Sweet Hut"
In the second episodes, the castaways jump out of bed in the middle of the night. Most of them are wearing their pajamas. However, when Ginger first appears, she modestly covers herself with a flap from the tent. When we finally see her, she is covered in a bedsheet. The implication is that the movie star sleeps au naturale. Seems innocent enough today, but in 1964 this was risque stuff that some slipped past the censors.
4. Ginger wears a dress made from Gilligan's duffel bag.
Typically, when dressed, Ginger sparkles. We see her sporting a glittering gown in most of the first season. However, she does have one much newer custom look in her wardrobe. She sometimes can be seen in a white dress with S.S. Minnow down the left thigh. She recycled the material from Gilligan's duffel bag. Those are some sewing skills for a deserted island.
5. The set from Gunsmoke makes an appearance.
"The Sound of Quacking"
In one of the earliest dream sequences, the castaways go Western in Gilligan's cowboy fantasy. The scenes were shot at CBS Studio Center on the Gunsmoke Dodge City sets. You can clearly see a building labeled "Dodge House," as well as the Marshal's office.
6. Jim Backus makes a reference to one of his other jobs.
"The Sound of Quacking"
Half a century later, some of the pop culture references fly over the audience's head. Take Thurston Howell, for example. In this episode, just before Gilligan releases the duck, the millionaire declares, "It's the only way to fly!" This was the catchphrase of Wally the Bird, the mascot of Western Airlines. Jim Backus voiced the animated character in TV commercials. Backus would use the catchphrase again in the film It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
7. …and Backus later references another one of his TV commercials.
That Wally the Bird reference was not the only inside joke made about Backus' commercial work. One episode later, Mr. Howell declares, "The little old vine-maker, me!" This was a riff on another advertising catchphrase. In commercials for Italian Swiss Colony Wines, a character named Ludwig Stössel would say, "The little old winemaker, me!" Backus provided that voice, too. Later in season one, in "How to be a Hero," the Skipper says, "That little old hero-maker, me!"
8. Mrs. Howell repurposes a duck cage for baggage.
"Big Gold Strike"
The duck's cage from "The Sound of Quacking" was put to good use. Two episodes later, Mrs. Howell is using it to carry her luggage.
9. Two different sets of coordinates are given for the island.
"X Marks the Spot" / "Big Man on a Little Stick"
Just, where is Gilligan's island, you wonder? Well, it's hard to pinpoint for a couple reasons. For starters, two different sets of coordinates are given in season one. In "X Marks the Spot" a radio report explains that the island lies at 140º latitude, 10º longitude. A few episodes later, when a surfer lands on the island in "Big Man on a Little Stick," the professor tells the dude to remember the island is located at 110º longitude, 10º latitude. The first coordinates can be tossed out, as the latitude and longitude are flipped. The problem with the second set is that the Professor never specifies whether those numbers are North/South or East/West. Not only did the guy fail to fix the boat, he was rather vague with geographic coordinates.
10. The voice of Bugs Bunny plays a parrot.
"New Neighbor Sam"
In this episode, the castaways hear what they believe to be the conversations of gangsters hiding out on the island. Turns out that it is merely a parrot. The voice of the bird was provided by cartoon legend Mel Blanc. He must have loved uncredited parrot work. He also voiced a similar bird in the Perry Mason episode "The Case of the Perjured Parrot."
11. The show has the same composer as Star Wars.
The young composer might have gone by Johnny back then, but you recognize the name. John Williams later score Jaws, which would make a pretty awesome crossover with Gilligan's Island.
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