What happens when a maladroit lackey, an entrepreneur and his wife, a polymath, a store clerk from Kansas, a motion picture starlet, and a ship captain get stranded on a desert island? The next edition of Survivor, right. Okay…I didn’t fool you. It’s Gilligan’s Island. And the first season is on DVD, all 36 episodes (including the infamous pilot)! Is this cause for celebration? Perhaps for some…
Gilligan’s Island ran for 3 seasons, and close to 100 episodes, on CBS from 1964 to 1967. Th… show grew more popular in syndication, and it spawned three T.V movies, an animation series, and a musical. Is the show any good? There are a lot of fans out there. I’m not one of them, sorry to say. But that’s okay. Not everyone likes salmon either.
The plots of these episodes range from the silly (a superstitious Skipper believes Gilligan has turned into monkey), the mystical (Gilligan finds a magical stone), and the offensive (a Japanese soldier, complete with stereotypical coke bottle glasses, tries to take the Islanders captive). The hokey narratives, however, are not the reason for Gilligan’s Island long lasting popularity.
The foundation of the show is the core relationship between the Skipper and his “little buddy”. Comparisons can be made, I guess, between Laurel and Hardy and Abbott and Costello. Unfortunately, the gags and double takes do get a bit repetitive. Along for the ride are the snobby Howell couple, the female quotient (Mary Ann or Ginger – the debate still rages), and the Professor (who could fix and build almost anything – except a new boat, apparently). People got to know these characters like family; and perhaps this is the reason why the show never died. It’s kept alive…now in DVD format.
The first season was shot in black and white. So the good news for Gilligan’s fans….all the episodes look great. I’m not impressed by the show itself, but for the picture quality… I must tip my hat. But I was most stunned by the look of the “lost” pilot episode. I was expecting a sandy, sea worn artifact, but the episode looks almost brand new. Kudos to the preservation and/or restoration crew. Blacks are rich and solid in all 36 episodes. There is some grain, but that’s mostly evident during stock footage shots, and edge enhancements are almost non existent. There is slight shimmering from episode to episode, but even the Professor would be hard pressed to find a lot of faults with this presentation. The aspect ratio is a full frame 1.33:1.
Mono all the way. But the dialogue is crisp and clear. And you can impress your friends by the playing famous “theme song” by The Wellingtons. It’ll sound great on your center speakers. My only complaint is that the phony laugh track, which I already find annoying, seems to be out of balance, at times, with the rest of the audio presentation. But maybe that’s because I have a major gripe with canned laughter. But I do feel I’m right on this one. Check it out for yourself.
Unfortunately, there is no dubbing in other languages. It’s just English. Damn…that would’ve been fun…seeing the Skipper freak out in French.
There is a nice, but not comprehensive, host of supplements here.
My favorite feature is the pilot episode. As previously mentioned, it looks great. It makes for a really nice curiosity piece. Gilligan, the Skipper, and the Howell’s were played by the same actors, but the other castaways were different characters and played by different actors. The show wouldn’t have lasted if these differences were kept intact. Check it out for yourself. And then there’s the different theme song! Oh…what an atrocity. It sounds like a bad children entertainer’s version of a calypso tune. The theme song we all know, and that’s not saying much, is far superior.
We also have a commentary track, on that pilot episode, with show creator Sherwood Schwartz. It’s an entertaining, thoughtful listen. C’mon…the guy has made a major contribution to pop culture (he also created The Brady Bunch). Schwartz does seem genuinely proud of Gilligan’s Island and touches on the reasons for its success. But he does take full credit for the disastrous original theme song, which is good. Schwartz also tries to make the point that Gilligan’s Island is a show with a message; it has something to say about the human capacity to “get along”. I’m not biting here. It’s a goofy show on an island. Let’s not fool ourselves. There is also an interesting trivia track on the “Two on a Raft” episode.
There’s a short featurette on how the show and the major characters were developed. It’s a menu interactive feature, so you can have fun clicking the coconut cursor around. The feature also reveals, finally, the first name of Gilligan. Don’t worry…I won’t spoil it.
The dumbest feature is the “Gilligan’s Island” Survival Guide. This 7 minute segment is hosted by a modern survivalist (trying way too hard to be funny) who tries to point out the ridiculous behavior by the castaways. The attempt of this segment is to poke fun at the show itself. No poking fun is necessary. The segment comes off looking stupid.
Speaking of annoying, I wish there was a feature where you could turn off the fake laugh track. Food for thought on Seasons 2 and 3.
The menus have a nice picture of the cast. They’re also colorful and try to give off that whole deserted island look. And the theme song, if you’re not sick of it already, plays constantly. So don’t leave it on the main menu while you go do stuff around the house. It might drive you mad.
If you love Gilligan’s Island, this is a no-brainer. If you hate Gilligan’s Island, it’s also a no-brainer. If you’re somewhere in the middle…it’s a memorable piece of modern pop culture. So…I leave it up to you. Picture and sound are excellent. Supplements are respectable. The DVD comes in a nice package. So I’m guessing…the next seasons are coming out…and maybe a few of those TV movies. The one I’m hoping for is when the Harlem Globetrotters visit the Island (no joke) and they play a “Big Game” against robots. Oh well…one day. Until then…the tribe has spoken.
Special Features List
- Rare pilot episode with commentary by creator Sherwood Schwartz
- Tropical Trivia Tidbits
- Gilligan’s Island Survival Guide – a funny look at how not to survive on an island
- Before the 3 Hour Tour – profiles on your favorite castaways