Cast, Away

Salt Lake City Weekly | November 23, 2004
Cast, Away

TBS goes back to the beach with The Real Gilligan's Island ... but ... why?


Two of the most popular shows on TV right now, Survivor and Lost, involve regular folk trapped on a tropical island, facing daunting life challenges and many consecutive bad-hair days. Granted, both involve completely fabricated situations and barely believable characters, but they’re still entertaining and, as they say at T.J. O’Pootertoots, smack of “a taste that’s oddly familiar.” (An obscure Ben Stiller Show reference; the DVD set makes a great holiday gift, hint hint.)

Since there’s obviously money in remaking Gilligan’s Island, it was only a matter of time before someone got around to actually remaking Gilligan’s Island—and as a reality show, to boot.

Leave it to TBS, the “Very Funny” cable channel that brought you the recent reality-TV masterstrokes Outback Jack and He’s a Lady, to hatch The Real Gilligan’s Island (debuts Tuesday, Nov. 30), an idea that probably just barely edged out The Real Barnaby Jones and The Close-Enough Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo in the boardroom.

The obligatory reality-show twist of The Real Gilligan’s Island is that there are two sets of castaways, comprised of culled-from-thousands civilians, plus two celebrities (well, sort of) rounding out the mix. Every week, the Gilligan, Skipper, Ginger, Professor, Mary Ann, Millionaire and His Wife counterparts will compete against each other in challenges inspired by “plots” drawn from the 90-odd Gilligan’s Island episodes originally aired between 1964-67 (subsequent Rescue and Harlem Globetrotter movies not included).

“It’s Ginger versus Ginger, Mary Ann versus Mary Ann, Professor versus Professor and so on until we have our final seven,” producer Mike Fleiss (he to thank/blame for The Bachelor) says. “Then the game changes.” Again, don’t get your hopes up for the Harlem Globetrotters.

Another twist is that most of the castaways cast for The Real Gilligan’s Island have something in common with their characters: The Gilligans and Skippers have nautical experience, the Mary Anns are farm girls, the Professors are university professors, the Millionaire couples are actual millionaire couples. But, then there are the Gingers, Rachel Hunter and Nicole Eggert: Unless you count stellar features like The Demolitionist (Eggert played a … cyborg cop) and Best Actress (an even bigger stretch: Hunter played an actress), neither could even loosely be called a Movie Star, and certainly not a redhead a la Original Ginger.

Then again, for the purposes of looking hot—figuratively and literally—in evening gowns on a sweltering tropical island, their cumulative Baywatch/Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue experience is an essential quality you’d never find in a too-good-for-basic-cable film diva. That not-so-fresh feeling? They’ve lived it, Julia!

Which brings us to the Less Talk/More Rock portion of the column: Right up there with “Is there a God?” and “Was Charles ever really in charge?” is the classic pop-cultural question of, “Who’s hotter, Ginger or Mary Ann?” Ginger, of course, had the glamour and the curves, while Mary Ann had the sweetness and the innocence—a vexing choice for years. The Professor, on the other hand, was just dead-sexy, period. And the Skipper? Television’s first Bear.

The Real Gilligan’s Island clouds the issue yet more, as the Mary Anns are actually more slutty-gorgeous than the Gingers, and even the Mrs. Howells are MILFs. Since all the boys who grew up watching Gilligan’s Island are now running Maxim, Stuff, FHM, Sausage and the rest of those glossy dude mags, it makes perfect sense: Why choose when you can just wait for the January issue?

By this point in the column, I was hoping to have come up with a reason why The Real Gilligan’s Island even exists, some Grand Statement on the state of TV programming and how it keeps feeding upon itself instead of striving for new ideas and innovations. No such luck, but at least I dropped my holiday hint for a Ben Stiller Show DVD (twice!).

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