SURVIVING GILLIGAN'S ISLAND aired on CBS Television
Starring Bob Denver, Dawn Wells and Russell Johnson
The opening of the movie has Dawn Wells getting on a plane. Dawn gets recognized a lot. So much so, in fact, that routine flights start with airplane passengers serenading her with the theme song to Gilligan's Island, the show she was a part of for its brief three years. No one can forget her character, the sweet Midwestern Mary Ann, or, for that matter, Ginger the Movie Star, Skipper the...Skipper, and good old Gilligan. Heck, all seven of those characters have been burned into our memory for life.
At first, the future of Gilligan's Island was tentative at best. Sherwood Schwartz, an established television writer yet to create his greatest opus (The Brady Bunch) tells CBS network execs he wants to create a sitcom that showcases a "social microcosm." He gets blank stares in return. They just don't think it's good enough for prime time.
As docudrama footage of present-day actors give a behind-the-scenes feel, Wells, Johnson, and Denver glue the story together with their narration. To add to the campiness, they speak to us from behind Gilligan's Island set pieces, like a bamboo oven that Wells uses to cook pies. As they tell us bits of trivia about the inception of the show, we get a feel for the original cast members' point of view. Natalie Schafer (the snooty but endearing "Lovey" Howell), for example, thought the show would never take and was horrified when it did. On the other hand, Alan Hale Jr. (the Skipper) was so enthused about the show, he wore his skipper's hat everywhere. Plus, Tina Louise (Ginger) is portrayed as a total diva.
These fascinating tidbits, plus the sincere re-enactments of Gilligan's Island's trials and tribulations, make this a solidly watchable piece of nostalgia. The actors portraying their screen doubles are overwhelmingly so well cast, they save this movie of the week from...well, being a cheesy movie of the week. There's a great wrap up at the end of the production with Well's own home movies from the set that makes for a poignant finale to this reminiscence. These grainy pictures from the past make you wax nostalgic for the old days, when island castaways had a full wardrobe and wore makeup all the time.—sigh --
The DVD disc is loaded with extras. The cutesy menu leads you from one hut to another, featuring a redux of Well's home movies, over 20 tropical recipes and a picture gallery of cast pictures from the movie of the week.
Also interspersed throughout the disc menu are "fun facts" about the present-day production and the original Gilligan's Island. Behind the Scenes Comparisons reveals director's-eye-view footage split-screened with the final result. Also a behind-the-scenes look are outtakes from the present-day production were fun—the cast did a lot of goofing around, and these are very entertaining.
The Castaway Trivia Game was fun and for Gilligan fans, should be quite a test of their knowledge. Buffs will really get excited about the detailed listing of all 98 episodes of the original Gilligan's Island—airdates, synopses, guest stars, the whole bit.
And last but not least of the extras were casting sessions of Surviving Gilligan's Island's actors, which are always fascinating. A good cast selected here, and kudos to the casting directors—the actors combined with a relatively straightforward script made for fun but substantial viewing.
As far as specs, the disc sounded just good, with a 2.0 Dolby Digital Surround setup. There was a nice use of side speakers, no hum or hiss, and good detail in the sound mix.