Gilligan's Island and The Real Gilligan's Island

Gilligan's Island (1964-1967)
The Real Gilligan's Island (2004-2005)
Type: Reality Show Spin Off

   This spin off makes total sense and at the same time is insane. Gilligan's Island was THE trapped on a desert island sitcom. Classic cheesy 1960's comedy goodness. Cut to the year 2000. The reality TV boom explodes with the debut of Survivor, a reality game show where a handful of people are stranded on an island together and forced to survive and to vote someone off every few days. It was the "reality" version of Gilligan's Island.

   Somewhere, the folks who own the rights to Gilligan's Island went, "Wait a second! We should be getting in on that action!" And so was born The Real Gilligan's Island.

   Like I said, it makes sense on paper. In the execution things get funky. First of all, they couldn't just go do Survivor since that was already out there. Plus there had to be some tie to the original show. So, right off the bat, the contestants on The Real Gilligan's Island were based on the characters from the original show. Instead of random castaways, the show had (cue the classic theme music)...

   Gilligan, the Skipper too, the millionaire and his wife, the movie star, the professor and Mary Ann.

   The producers set out to find people who matched each of the character types. For Gilligan they went looking for clumsy but lovable dorks. For the Skipper they straight up looked for actual sea captains. The millionaires were millionaires... who had time to be on a goofy game show. The movie star they went after actual hot female celebrities (Nicole Eggert! Erika Eleniak! Angie Everhart! Rachel Hunter!). At this point it's too obvious but for the professor they went after real professors. And for Mary Ann they went looking for sweet Midwest farm girls who would make guys crazy with lust.

   The first twist on the show was that there weren't just seven castaways. The show wouldn't go too many episodes with just 7 people to boot off. So there was two sets of castaways. Two Gilligans, two Skippers, two... you get the idea. So, that was kind of... odd. And because of the dual castaway setup, the first part of the show had the duplicate castaways fighting it out with their double. So one episode would have the Skippers fighting it out and one going home. Then the Mary Anns and so on. It makes sense but it does away with some of the tension Survivor had. At the start of any episode of Survivor almost nobody is safe. Anything can happen and anybody might go. Who went totally depended on what the contestants did in the episode. But on The Real Gilligan's Island, on each episode only a couple of people were really at risk and those people were predetermined by the producers. Man, the best part of reality TV is that unplanned spontaneous vibe. The predetermined battles got in the way of that at the start.

   Another weird thing is that "The Millionaires" technically counted as a single contestant. It wasn't millionaire versus millionaire and then later millionaire wife versus millionaire wife. In the first season it was couple versus couple. It seemed less interesting than potentially splitting up a couple. In the second season they were smart enough to treat the millionaire and his wife as separate people.

   So phase one of the show had the contestants fighting to be the one and only version of their "character". Then once it got down to seven people the show went into a more traditional Survivor-style mode with everyone fighting to stay alive and voting each other off. Instead of writing names on pieces of paper at tribal council, the castaways headed to Voodoo Village where they voted by choosing a voodoo doll depicting one of the other castaways and putting it in a box. The vote reveal then was much like Survivor with the doll vote being revealed one doll at a time. Again, their being different phases of competition on the show was sort of odd. Like the concept of the show shifted at the halfway point.

   Here's the biggest weird factor of all though. The contestants. The original Gilligan's Island was a simple silly show adult or kids could enjoy. The Real Gilligan's Island? Not so sweet and innocent. First off, people got hurt. I mean, it's reality TV. That'll happen. But there seemed to be more of them on this show than usual. Between the two seasons there were heart problems, injurious falls, a super model nearly cutting a finger off and a contestant so seriously in danger of drowning that the show's host had to jump in and rescue him. Again, this stuff can happen on a reality show. But this is Gilligan's Island!

   On top of that is the contestant's behavior. Again, the point of reality TV is to have people rubbing each other the wrong way. But this just got extra ugly. Were not talking people slowly getting on each other's nerves. Were talking people walking in and right off the bat saying ugly things. For example one of the professors was gay. Huge ugly homophobia very quickly showing up. Now, it's a free country. Somebody thinks homosexuality is wrong, that's their right. But I'm pretty sure there is a way to be opposed to it without behaving in a vile way yourself. You know? So ugly that other anti-gay people out there are going, "Yikes. Maybe I'll switch to pro-gay just because I don't want to be associated with that nastiness." Then you get stuff like people peeing too near the huts so their is a stink, people cursing each other out in all sorts of other ugly ways... I mean... is that really Gilligan's Island?

   Not to say the show didn't engage me. I watched. I was fascinated. But too often it was a really unwholesome fascination. And, boys and girls, if ya can't find wholesome on Gilligan's Island, something ain't right.

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