A network executive wanted the castaways to escape Gilligan's Island after the first episode

Creator Sherwood Schwartz knew the island was the star of the show as much as any of the actors.

The Everett Collection

A running gag on Gilligan’s Island is that the castaways never escape the little patch of jungle they landed on during their three-hour sightseeing tour. Even though a variety of objects and visitors wash up on the island, Gilligan and crew are never able to get back to civilization.

But if an unreceptive network executive had gotten his way, the castaways would have fixed the boat and left the island after the first episode! According to a 1965 TV Guide article, creator Sherwood Schwartz pushed back, saying, “That’s an idea for a show, but it’s not my show.”

Schwartz is well-remembered as the mind behind iconic comedies like Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch. But in the early Sixties, his biggest claims to fame were the many sketches he wrote for Red Skelton.

After coming up with an ensemble comedy inspired by Robinson Crusoe, Schwartz had no trouble getting executives at CBS onboard (no pun intended) – or at least most of the CBS executives onboard.

Network president Jim Aubrey didn’t like the idea of a series stuck on a deserted island. Aubrey told Schwartz, “If you guys are in love with a deserted island, we wreck them there the first week. The second week they have a new adventure, they fix the boat and they’re off someplace else.”

When Schwartz told him that would have to be some other show, Aubrey took it literally. He turned around and greenlit The Baileys of Balboa, a sitcom about a family who gives tours on their charter boat and, wouldn’t you know it, get into different adventures every week. Except the show only lasted 26 weeks – less than a third of Gilligan’s eventual run.

Sherwood Schwartz stuck to his original vision for the show, knowing it was a winner. He told TV Guide after Gilligan’s successful first season, “Today, the network, the sponsors and the advertising agency think the star of Gilligan’s Island is – the island.”

Schwartz also reveals he picked the name Gilligan out of the phonebook because he liked how it sounded. “I wanted a name that automatically meant that it was a comedy show,” he said. “I wanted a happy name that was also funny, a name that would inspire this attitude in the viewer. I also believe in hard letters. G is a hard letter. The G’s and the L’s are crisp.”

After battling the CBS brass over other specifics (they weren’t too keen on the now-iconic theme song) and filming two different pilot episodes, Schwartz was able to get Gilligan’s Island on the airwaves. It was an immediate ratings success, even if Sherwood was almost fired from his own show early on.

One specific thing Schwartz credited for the show’s popularity? The costumes. “I’m an enormous believer in uniforms. One of the big reasons for the success of many shows is identification – the sheriff with the badge and the hat, the doctor with his white jacket, as opposed to the newspaper-reporter shows. These have failed because the actors look like other people. Whether you like my show or not, you tune into Gilligan’s Island and in one second you know what show you’re looking at.”

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Croft1 15 months ago
Speaking of cast member "uniforms" it was standard on several of the early tv shows, not merely for character identification but also for financial reasons. A good example would be Bonanza. Every wonder why those well-to-do Cartrights always wore the same clothing's? It was so stock footage could be used over and over throughout the years without refilming scenes. So the boys riding across the meadow in season ok ne where the same boys in season six or seven or eight. But the point about a character being easily identifiable is also valid. You see a big white hat you know it's Hoss. You see a red shirt with a white collar and you got yourself a Gilligan.
McGillahooala 15 months ago
MeTV, you just had this story a few months ago.
dmarkwind 19 months ago
"The second week they have a new adventure, they fix the boat and they’re off someplace else.” Sounds like what Lost in Space turned into after a season or so.
daDoctah dmarkwind 15 months ago
Actually, after the first few episodes, the ones taken from the original pilot that lacked both Dr Smith and the Robot, the first season of Lost in Space should have been called "Lost on one planet for an entire year".
kidhickey 20 months ago
I found that sort interesting , where a person wanted the cast away for leave the Island soon after the show first started , that sort of reminded me another show that MeTv show's 2 am Monday Morning The Fugitive, i remember that series when they were selling it on VHS Video Tapes , and it included a unreleased show for the end of season one , where the Fugitive get's killed , if the show looked like it was not going to go well , now with DVD packages of the shows of The Fugitive , you will not find that show included on any DVD packages from what i can see , well at the time i didn't have enough money to buy that VHS package that contained that unreleased show of the Fugitive , well another interesting show fact , All in the family started back in the late 1960's with 2 or 3 polite shows at different times, i believe it might have been on 'abc' net. called those were days not All in the family , and Archie's Son In Law was Irish not Polish Person .
F5Twitster 20 months ago
"Except the show only lasted 26 weeks – less than a third of Gilligan’s eventual run."

You mean lasted only 26 weeks. If a sentence demands use of the word "only" (which should be placed as close as possible to what the word is meant to diminish), trust an American to put it in the wrong place in the sentence.
Devon F5Twitster 20 months ago
At least you don’t have to read it in German. You’re welcome!
CaptainDunsel Devon 15 months ago
I believe it was Mark Twain who said that he had a book in German but he couldn't read it, because the last 12 pages were missing and all the verbs were there.
RetiredNavyMan 20 months ago
There are TWO MeTV stations located in the Los Angeles viewing area. I use Zap2it as a TV Guide and I use Charter-Spectrum as my TV provider. Zap2it lists both stations under Spectrum TV. However, when I go to the Spectrum Ap on my Roku and look up MeTV I only find one. I like the shows on the other station but I can't watch them. Also, many of the good shows I like are broadcast late at night or very early in the morning like Mannix, Cannon, and Barnaby Jones. Why is that? I get tired of seeing Westerns with all the killing and shooting. What about 77 Sunset Strip or The FBI. The A-Team is OK but is that all you have? Also, what about JAG, MacGyver, Hercules, The Legendary Journeys or other shows? Sticking with westerns all afternoon is dull. I've seen enough shooting and killing on TV.
sputnik_57 RetiredNavyMan 20 months ago
I wish shows like Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock were on afternoons and evenings instead of early am hours. Or perhaps on weekend afternoons. I would like to see Peter Gunn and Naked City on weekend afternoons. The only way I have to record TV shows is my old VCR and I'm not rigging that up again.
Big3Fan 20 months ago
May the Schwartz you. I'm glad he was.
hyppymom 20 months ago
Always cracked me up that the guys, with the exception of Mr. Howell, always wore the same thing whereas the ladies had full wardrobes. I always figured, if I were going on a boat tour, I would pack a bag of extra clothes, just in case. Lolz 😆
Michael hyppymom 20 months ago
Wasn't there a recent story about that? "Uniforms" so you could instantly recognize the characters.And I wondered at the time how that explained the women's clothing. Therewas a broad difference between the three women's clothing, but not uniforms.
NickG 20 months ago
Imagine thy also wanted Richard Kimble to find the one arm man on their first episode as wee
daDoctah NickG 15 months ago
Imagine if we didn't have to wait through ten seasons to find out how he met their mother....
mlauenstein NickG 15 months ago
And by the end of episode two he needs to get his arm back.
eddiecantorfan 20 months ago
Long Live The 🍯 Honeybees!!
Kramden62 eddiecantorfan 15 months ago
When my younger sister and I watched this episode of "Gilligan" in the 70's when it was in reruns, we would kid each other about their song, "You Need Me." I even recorded the song from the TV onto my tape recorder and my sister and I would laugh ourselves silly!
eddiecantorfan 20 months ago
In the Gilligan's Island episode
about Gilligan and the diary he
was keeping Mary Ann Summers
was reading Gilligan's comments about the castaways Mary Ann
did not read Gilligan's comments about her.
Pacificsun 20 months ago
A really nicely written article, about a very articulate creator/producer. These shows become a hit because of their vision and sticking to it. I hadn't thought about the "uniforms" but he's right. Even Kolchak wears the same searsucker, faded blue suit and panama hat on his show. It's easy to remember these characters that way, even if the actor morphs into role.

IF they had left the island and attempted more adventures it would've become more like Fantasy Island (IMO). Not that their local ever changed, but that the circumstances of their predicament and fantasy did. For that to work the show has to have a very distinct identity which of course was anchored by Ricardo Montalbán and Hervé Villechaize. And IMO the show wouldn't have worked/sustained without them either.

It's so much fun reading about the thinking behind these shows! Great topic, MeTV Staff. Thank you.
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