Despite raving fans and the eventual iconic status of the show, not everyone believed in the success of Gilligan’s Island. One of the show’s largest naysayers was actually Jim Aubrey, the then-president of CBS, which produced the show.
For some reason, Jim decided that it would be a good idea to try and compete with Gilligan’s Island by launching a spinoff series based on his original premise for the show of the Bailey family. The family lived at a beach resort and would often find themselves in conflict with their wealthier neighbors. The show was canceled after its first season and Aubrey was fired from the network. Tough break, but that’s what you get when you try to out Gilligan’s Island.
Gilligan almost had a pet dinosaur
Sherwood Schwartz wrote in his book Inside Gilligan’s Island, which details the creation and aftermath of the show, how a CBS board meeting almost resulted in Gilligan finding and adopting a pet dinosaur on the island. The idea was pitched by CBS programming executive Hunt Stromberg Jr. Stromberg but quickly rejected due to budget constraints and frankly, the idea just being plain insane.
In his book, Schwartz recalls Stromberg’s passionate plea, “Just picture it! Gilligan and his pet dinosaur! It’s our answer to ‘Mr. Ed!’”. We can’t say that we see this with the same enthusiasm as Stromberg, but you never know; this might just have been the best (or worst) decision in all of sitcom history.
Gilligan’s actual name might be Willy
In case you haven’t noticed, nobody ever refers to Gilligan as anything other than just Gilligan. Clearly, the first mate has a full name, and Schwartz insists that his full name is Willy Gilligan. The name was apparently chosen almost randomly from a Los Angeles phone directory. So it could very likely have been “Kevin” or “Michael” instead.
Bob Denver, the actor behind the iconic character, asked Schwartz to never refer to Gilligan as Willy and has apparently fully embraced the mystery that is the real and full name of the inept and accident-prone first mate of the S.S. Minnow, Gilligan. Do you think “Willy’s Island” would have made for a less mysterious show?
One actress turned the show into a source of passive income (that still works today)
When the original actors signed on, their contracts guaranteed them a certain amount of money per episode plus payment for the first five repeats of each one. Well, Dawn Wells, whose husband was a talent agent at the time, gave her a smart tip that would work in her favor.
The studio happily agreed to this clause because they figured that nobody’s going to watch this show more than 50 years past its original airing time. To our amazement, it seems that the only ones still receiving royalties from the show are the family of the late Sherwood Schwartz and Dawn Wells. This is the kind of stuff that you don’t learn in school, kids.
Production notes from space
For “Gilligan's Planet,” the theme song was recycled from “The New Adventures of Gilligan,” with updated lyrics to explain the new setting. Sherwood Schwartz, who was heavily involved with the “New Adventures” series, was not as involved for the second animated series.
Two of the show's primary writers, Tom Ruegger and Paul Dini, went on to be huge writers in animated television. Ruegger was part of “Animaniacs,” “Pinky and the Brain,” and “Tiny Toon Adventures,” while Dini did a great deal more, including “Batman: The Animated Series.” He was even part of the writing team for several of the Batman Arkham games from Rocksteady, and the show “Freakazoid.”