What You May Not Know About “Gilligan’s Island”

The 98th and final episode of Gilligan’s Island was broadcast on April 17, 1967. Though never a critical favorite, the show was still a solid ratings hit, and the cast and crew had every expectation of returning in the fall for a fourth season. However, at the last minute, CBS needed to find some room on the schedule for Gunsmoke — the favorite show of Babe Paley, wife of CBS president William Paley — so Gilligan got the axe. Over half a century after that final wrap party, Gilligan’s Island is still on the air. It was sold into syndication and has been broadcasting reruns continuously in 30 different languages around the world. There are a few things you may not know about the show, so…….. 


New York University student Sherwood Schwartz got the idea for Gilligan’s Island when he was tasked with coming up with a 1-minute impromptu speech in a public speaking class. The topic: If you were stranded on a desert island, what one item would you like to have? After working for some time as a comedy writer, Schwartz decided to pitch his own idea for a sitcom, based on that question from his college class. 


Gilligan’s first name was never mentioned during the series, but according to Schwartz’s original notes, it was intended to be “Willy.” 


Jerry Van Dyke was Schwartz’s first choice to play the lead, but Van Dyke said that the pilot script was “the worst thing I’d ever read.” 


Natalie Schafer, who played Mrs. Lovey Howell — and allegedly only accepted the invitation to play Mrs. Howell because it meant a free trip to Hawaii to film the pilot — was a real-life millionaire. Even though she was in her mid-60s, Schafer insisted on doing the majority of her own stunts. 


Until her recent death, Dawn Wells was the only crew member who still received a residual for the show from Sherwood Schwartz’s estate.