No witty blurb from our Judge Dennis Prince here. Instead, please join him in a moment of remembrance for the much-loved "Gilligan," Mr. Bob Denver, who sadly passed away September 2, 2005.
Our review of Gilligan's Island: The Complete Second Season, published February 16th, 2005, is also available.
"…a three-hour tour…"
This marks the end of an original three-season tour and the third DVD-boxed set release of this 40-year phenomenon. And, sadly, the world's own "Little Buddy," Bob Denver, has recently passed away as of this writing.
It's another year with our shipwrecked collection of unwitting hut-mates.
Facts of the Case
After surviving their first two years on an uncharted Pacific island, our seven stranded castaways continue to ponder and pine after the day they'll be rescued from their tropic island nest. All are well although not particularly well-adjusted. Despite his best efforts, Professor Roy Hinkley (Russell Johnson) cannot assemble enough bamboo, tree sap, and salvaged supplies to gain the troupe exit back to civilization. The Howells, Thurston (Jim Backus) and Lovey (Natalie Schafer), continue to be befuddled over why their vast wealth and holdings cannot buy them passage back to their posh preoccupations. Kansas farm girl, Mary Ann Summers (Dawn Wells), yearns for the open plains and the chance to cook another homemade meal while glamorous movie starlet, Ginger Grant (Tina Louise), simply knows stardom is well within her reach, if only she could reach Tinseltown. Skipper Jonas Grumby (Alan Hale) harbors a nagging sense of responsibility for the castaways' conundrum and continues to work alongside the Professor to fashion some sort of rescue plan. All the while, the young and naïve ship's mate, Willie Gilligan (Bob Denver) does his best to be of use to his island mates but typically bollixes up the others' efforts, be they matters of personal improvement, communal adjustment, or extrication from their sandy-beached boundaries. And while he justly garners the scorn of the others or a whap of the Skipper's cap, Gilligan is nonetheless given unconditional love from the others and reciprocates in turn as they make the best of this topic island mess.
"…where you're sure to get a smile,
from seven stranded castaways
here on Gilligan's Isle."
While this might mark an expected point of downturn for any television series (either then or now) as it struggles to maintain a freshness that has often gone stale halfway through it's first year, Season Three of Gilligan's Island includes some of the best and most recognizable episodes of the show's total 98-episode canon. Although the overall premise was to remain the same—weekly attempts to escape the island while fending off all manner of perils and predicaments—Producer Sherwood Schwartz managed to infuse something slightly different: frequent jaunts away from the limited landscape. In this final season, we see the castaways transported to spooky castles, prehistoric plains, salty pirate ships, and even behind the Iron Curtain. Utilizing numerous episodes that include dream sequences (with that patented wavy dissolve into the realm of REM), Schwartz was able to help the stranded shipmates escape their hutted habitat and stretch their legs amid other interesting surroundings—even if just for a little while.
Of course special guest stars were still plentiful in this season, including visits from the likes of Rory Calhoun ("The Hunter") and Phil Silvers ("The Producer"). The hi-jinks are just as campy as ever—maybe even more so—as here we'll encounter Gilligan as a blood-thirsty vampire, Mary Ann convinced she's truly Ginger, the Professor becomes a mindless zombie, and all combine their literary and lyrical efforts to bring the Bard to Broadway in a musical rendition of "Hamlet." Specifically, here are the wacky episodes included in this gatefold-contained collection:
Disc One, Side A:
• "Up at Bat"
Disc One, Side B:
• "Man with a Net"
Disc Two, Side A:
• "And Then There Were None"
Disc Two, Side B:
• "Lovey's Secret Admirer"
Disc Three, Side A:
• "The Secret of Gilligan's Island"
Each episode is presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame format as originally televised and each looks richer and more sparkling than ever before. Granted, this isn't any sort of full-on restoration effort yet the clarity and colorfulness of each episode is to be applauded, especially given the fact they're nearly four decades old. Yes, there are occasional elements of visible source print damage or film dirt but, truly, the renderings here are clean, crisp, and remarkably colorful. (The tropical island flora never looked so lush.) Since Warner Bros. smartly decided to spread the 30 episodes across five sides of the three discs, these transfers are thankfully free of unwanted compression artifacts. The audio even manages to escape the confines of the tropical island home, the Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track emerging as clean, clear, and always intelligible (with ambient sound effects being nicely captured and the ever-present laugh track appropriately audible yet never overpowering).
The extras on this set, unfortunately, are a mixed sack of coconuts. Most enjoyable is the audio commentary by series Creator and Producer, Sherwood Schwartz, over one of the season's highlights (and a long-running fan favorite), "The Producer." During the 25-minute episode, Schwartz delivers a non-stop offering of personal recollections, remembrances, and even philosophical postulations that are truly engaging and interesting. Unfortunately, this is the only episode with a commentary and the availability of more would have been highly appreciated. Schwartz's "Season Introduction" is interesting, too, if not a bit too pithy, running just over three paltry minutes (including snippets from Season Three episodes as well as clips from a current interview with Russell Johnson). The real sour coconut milk comes out of the pointless documentary, "Gilligan's Island—A Pop Culture Phenomenon," a 12-minute hodge-podge of show clips with interspersed interview clips from those involved with 2005's forgettable The Real Gilligan's Island reality bore.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The long-standing rebuttals of Hollywood critics and even CBS executives over the show's "inane and imbecilic" nature have been well documented over the years yet never have impeded the audience appeal, either during initial airings or the decades of syndicated showings. Yes, the show is magnificently madcap and infectiously infantile, and that's where its charm is to be found. Don't expect a thoughtful or even adult-level comedy here; this is sheer escapism at its finest (and clearly much needed and welcomed during the tumultuous era of the late-60s).
It's a bitter-sweet ending to this tropical island adventure now that the final 30 episodes have found their way to DVD. Applause to Warner Bros. for maintaining a high quality in regards of transfer quality and product packaging (much better than if simply wrapped in a banana leaf and bound with a tropical jute fibers). Now, fans can enjoy Gilligan for decades more to come without having to navigate the choppy waters of interruptive commercials and upstaging banner promos and watermarks. Special recognition goes to Sherwood Schwartz, a veteran television producer who unfailingly maintained a creative integrity and family-friendly stance in the face of any studio executive or on-stage actor (see The Brady Bunch). Also, a standing ovation is due to the seven stranded actors, they who will forever be remembered for their untiring dedication to the slap and silliness that made Gilligan's Island the pop-culture success that it has been, is today, and likely will forever be. Special recognition to those castaways who have left us—Alan Hale, Jim Backus, Natalie Schaefer, and, most recently, Bob "Gilligan" Denver.
As posted Bob Denver's Gilligan Fan Club site:
We mourn the passing of Bob Denver, the finest human being we've ever known—devoted husband, adoring father, doting grandfather to beautiful Elana and kind friend to the people who were lucky enough to be part of his life.
Bob passed away on September 2, 2005, peacefully and easily, surround by his family—Dreama, his wife of 28 years, and his children Patrick, Megan, Emily and Colin.
Finally, for you Gilligan and DVD fans who'd like to honor the life and legacy of Bob Denver, the www.bobdenver.com web site has information about how you can contribute to Bob's long-running charitable organization, the Denver Foundation, dedicated to providing assistance to the handicapped individuals.
There is no crime in being silly. This court recognizes and welcomes the opportunity to escape with the castaways and, therefore, finds no guilt in this enduring three-year, three-hour tour. Case dismissed.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Season Introduction by Creator/Producer Sherwood Schwartz
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