I once wrote here that on the question, "Mary Ann or Ginger?" I am a definite Mary Ann guy.
But when I was a kid my adoration for Mary Ann was chaste and innocent and practically unconscious, like Linus' crush on Miss Othmar. You had to be careful back then. Girls, after all, had cooties.
What I really was was a Gilligan guy.
We all were. We watched the show for Gilligan. We laughed at Gilligan. We rooted for Gilligan. We cringed for Gilligan. And, those of us who had smart super-competent dads whom we felt we could never please or measure up to or hope to ever be half as capable as, we identified with Gilligan and his goof-ups.
Gilligan, cest moi.
Don't worry. I'm not about to wax nostalgic. And I'm sure not going to try to make the case that Gilligan's Island is an underappreciated comedic masterpiece or that Bob Denver was one of the greatest comic actors in television history. His Gilligan was a physical comic's dream come true, but Denver wasn't anywheres near as good as the best, Dick Van Dyke and David Hyde Pierce. He was talented though. He proved he could do more than Gilligan in all those Gilligan has a dream episodes that the show's writers resorted to when they couldn't think up any more ways for Gilligan to screw-up another rescue attempt---
(Gilligan as Dracula: I vill hide in the alcove.
Ginger as Dracula's bride: Ve don't have an alcove...
Sound effect: crash.
Gilligan (off camera):Ooof.
Ginger: You schnook.)
---or a new character to strand on the island for a short time (My favorite was Wrong Way Feldman but there are plenty who argue for Tongo the Ape Man.) only to forget all about the castaways or how to find the island once they got back to civilization.
I don't think I've seen a whole episode of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis; those of you who have can tell me if Denver's Maynard G. Krebs was a better measure of his talent. Seems to me that Maynard was pop culturally more significant. Without him there'd have been no Shaggy of Scooby-doo fame and no Zonker Harris, and without Shaggy and Zonker we wouldn't have The Big Lebowski's the Dude. To me, though, Denver will always be Gilligan. Unfortunately, to Hollywood producers he was always Gilligan too, so we never got to see if his Dracula, his Jekyll and Hyde, his Russian spy, his Hamlet, and his pirate-fighting swashbuckler were pleasant diversions or signs he could have been a contender.
The show itself can still crack me up when I remember certain episodes---the Hamlet episode, for instance, when Phil Silvers as a famous Broadway producer washed up on the island and the castaways put on a musical version of Shakespeare's tragedy for him, which he swiped and made a smash hit, the reason, of course, that he never revealed to authorities that the passengers and crew of the S.S. Minnow were alive and well. All the songs were sung to music from Carmen and every now and then I like to burst out in the Skipper's big number as Polonius.
(To the tune of The Toreador Song):
Neither a borrower
Nor a lender be;
Do not forget,
Stay out of debt;
And take this good advice from me:
Guard that old family treeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
There's just one other thing
You ought to do:
To thine own self
So, I'm a bit sad to hear he's gone. But I'm curious about something about my reaction to the news of his death.
Denver was 70. That shouldn't come as a surprise. I knew that when he did the show he wasn't as young as Gilligan was supposed to be---19, I think---and 30 sounds about right. 30 plus 40 equals 70. I can do the math. The trouble I'm having is that I can't make myself believe that it applies to him.
I have the same problem with the Brady Kids and the casts of Barney Miller and Cheers.
But at the same time I don't have the problem with movie actors. For instance, it didn't come as any shock at all to me when I read yesterday that Mary Badham is 52. But I cannot believe that both Joannie and Chachi are over 40.
And when Gregory Peck died two years ago I wasn't suprised by either his age at the time, 87, or his death.
But the news of Bob Denver's death floored me. My reaction to both his age and his passing was and is still: Impossible!
There is something about TV that is out of time. Movies always seem part of their times. In fact, they are windows back into their time. But television shows seem always to take place in the present. We've been watching a lot of old Dick Van Dyke shows lately, thanks to Netflix, and although the black and white world of Rob and Laura looks as old-fashioned as my parents' wedding album (not surprisingly), and many of the characters' attitudes towards life, work, sex, marriage, and the suburbs were 10 years out of date when the show was being made, the Petries' imaginary world still feels like the world I live in now, while a movie made in the early 60s, even one in color, like---just to pick another comedy about young marrieds that's just as dated in its attitudes about men, women, sex, and marriage---Barefoot in the Park, feels very much like a period piece.
Anybody else have this experience?
I think, if it isn't just a sign that I watched way too much television when I was growing up, it must have something to do with the difference between the way old movies are presented and old TV shows are shown---old movies are usually broadcast in a historic context (implied or made explicit as on AMC) while TV shows are just there.
If you have a theory or can articulate what I'm bumblingly trying to express here, please leave it in the comments.
Otherwise---or additionally---answer me this: What was your favorite TV show when you were a kid and if you're embarrassed to admit what it was why?
Updated message in a bottle: Over at The Passenger , Neal catches the creator of Gilligan's Island attributing a little too much political and cultural significance to the antics of Gilligan and the rest of the Castaways.
And Russell Johnson, who played the Professor on Gilligan's Island, has his own web page. Dreama Denver, Bob's widow, is the webmistress.