Monday, September 26, 2016

Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch

Today marks the anniversary of the debuts of two iconic television series: Gilligan's Island made its debut on CBS-TV on this date in 1964, and then five years later to the day, The Brady Bunch made *its* debut on ABC-TV.

Of course, both shows were created and produced by Sherwood Schwartz. According to Russell Johnson in his book, Here On Gilligan's Isle, Schwatz graduated from university with a master's degree in psychology. He was originally a writer for comedians like Bob Hope, Red Skelton, and Phil Silvers. Then in Spring 1963 he began thinking about how people who *had* to interact would do so. Eventually he came up with the idea of castaways stuck on a deserted island, and finally, he got the series Gilligan's Island made.

Gilligan's Island is given a lot of bad press, but go ahead and put in one of the DVDs and sit back and just watch it as escapism entertainment. You'll find that it has some pretty good episodes with some funny and also, surprisingly, poignant moments. Yes, there are some really BAD episodes, but mostly they are fun. The dream sequence episodes, especially, are awesome. I should write up a Magnificent Seven post on that show. I wonder if I could narrow it down to just seven "best" episodes?
After only three years Gilligan's Island was cancelled. The reason? Because CBS executives never really cared for it. The cancellation was sudden; Schwartz has said that he intended to have the castaways rescued for the last episode(s), but was not given the chance. The show went into syndication soon afterwards, and has been on the air basically ever since.

As for The Brady Bunch, I have always loved that show. I seem to recall watching the last season in real time. I would have been about ten or so in 1974 and not going out on Friday nights, so I think that might be right. Regardless, I remember this show a lot more fondly than other shows of about the same time, such as The Partridge Family.
As an adult I read that Robert Reed, who played Mike, hated it. I can see where he would have, but at the time I thought it was just "fun." Sure, some episodes are stupid, but many have real heart. I can still remember the episode where Jan smashes the family photo hidden in the garage because she didn't want to wear her glasses. That one always spoke to me, as I got glasses in high school. Her step-father goes to punish her by taking away her bike, and she tells him that he can't; she sold her bike to pay for the new photo. That's deep, especially for a kid.

According to Lloyd Schwartz, one of the producers, Robert Reed would not have returned to the series if it had come back for a sixth year. He did not care for the quality of the scripts, so was a constant thorn in the side of the Schwartzs. Luckily (?) for the fictional Bradys, the series was cancelled before Mike was killed or recast.

Most of the Bradys at a recent TV Land Awards show with their host.
Here's to two great, truly classic television series. I think I may go watch an episode or two right now...!

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