Welcome to a new Sitcom Tuesday! Today we’re finishing our series on the best episodes from perhaps the most iconic show of the 1960s – Gilligan’s Island (1964-1967, CBS). All three seasons have been released on DVD and are available for free streaming to Amazon Prime members.
Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale — a tale of a fateful trip that started from this tropic port aboard this tiny ship. The mate was a mighty sailin’ man; the skipper, brave and sure. Five passengers set sail that day for a three-hour tour. A three-hour tour. The weather started getting rough. The tiny ship was tossed. If not for the courage of the fearless crew, the Minnow would be lost. The Minnow would be lost. The ship set ground on the shore of this uncharted desert isle with Gilligan, the Skipper too, the Millionaire and his wife, the Movie Star, the Professor and Mary Ann. Here on Gilligan’s Isle!
Gilligan’s Island stars BOB DENVER as Gilligan, ALAN HALE, JR. as Skipper, JIM BACKUS as Thurston Howell III, NATALIE SCHAFER as Mrs. Howell, TINA LOUISE as Ginger Grant, RUSSELL JOHNSON as Professor, and DAWN WELLS as Mary Ann.
The third and final season of Gilligan’s Island maintains the direction in which the series was shifting during the excellent second season — surrealism. The stories are sillier and more imaginative than ever, and while rescue is still the prominent goal of most installments, there’s more scope in the variety of plot lines. Though there are more “blah” episodes here than in Season Two, many all-time classics come from this collection of episodes. So, this is still a very solid season of Gilligan’s Island, that, although maybe not as uniformly strong as the prior year, is not indicative of a show in declining quality. The cast is still superb, and one wonders what would have happened to the series had they not been canceled before production was to begin on the fourth season. (Was Tina going to leave? The rumor is her character would have been replaced, but I think they’d have done a Bewitched and just replaced Tina with another Ginger.) Anyway, I have picked ten episodes that I think exemplify the season’s strongest installments. For new fans, this list will give you a place to start. For seasoned fans, there might be a few surprises.
Here are my picks for the ten best episodes of Season Three. (They are in AIRING ORDER.)
01) Episode 71: “Pass The Vegetables, Please” (Aired: 09/26/66)
The castaways unknowingly eat radioactive vegetables after a crate of seeds washes ashore, giving them exceptional capabilities.
Written by Elroy Schwartz | Directed by Leslie Goodwins
Above, when I referred to some of the Season Three episodes surreal, this is the episode to which I was most referring. A series classic — one of the craziest premises of all time — this episode produces some incredible laughs as the effects of the radioactive vegetables give Gilligan super strength, Mary Ann exceptional eyesight, and Mrs. Howell unlimited energy. The whole thing makes little sense, but who cares? This is a 1966 episode of Gilligan’s Island; realism isn’t a priority. Especially when there are laughs like these!
02) Episode 72: “The Producer” (Aired: 10/03/66)
The castaways try to convince an obnoxious producer to return to civilization by staging a musical adaptation of Hamlet.
Written by Gerald Gardner & Dee Caruso | Directed by Ida Lupino
This is another one of the series’ most memorable episodes, and while it is a touch more in keeping with reality than the above, it still presents a wonderfully kooky grasp of imaginative storytelling. Phil Silvers lands on the island as a really annoying producer (a.k.a. his usual persona), and after he insults Ginger’s acting, the gang decides to put on a musical. But with limited resources, they’re foced to stage Hamlet. Yes, a musical Hamlet. See it to believe it. (Mary Ann is Laertes!)
03) Episode 76: “Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow” (Aired: 10/31/66)
Gilligan wakes up one day to find that his hair has turned white. Later, he’s even more shocked when he wakes up and finds it gone.
Written by Brad Radnitz | Directed by Tony Leader
I find this to be one of the funniest episodes of the season. Gilligan wakes up and finds his hair has turned white. Despite everyone’s insistence otherwise, he fears that he’s growing old prematurely and starts acting like a senior citizen. The castaways try to dye his hair while he sleeps, but the next morning he wakes up bald. This is where the real laughs begin. And when the Skipper goes bald too — downright hilarity ensues. Also, the George and Martha Washington wigs: comic gold.
04) Episode 79: “The Invasion” (Aired: 11/21/66)
The castaways’ curiosity peaks when a locked briefcase washes ashore, and Gilligan puts himself in potential jeopardy.
Written by Sam Locke & Joel Rapp | Directed by Leslie Goodwins
A lot of the episodes that are centered around dreams are hit and miss for me, but this one I like because it’s focused — it’s a parody of spy films. The plot involves a locked attache case that everyone’s dying to peak inside. (Making for a very funny bit with the devious Howells.) Gilligan accidentally locks the case to his wrist via handcuffs and fears the authorities will be after him — cuing a very funny dream sequence. (Even Professor gets some jokes!) Again, such imaginative television.
05) Episode 89: “Gilligan’s Personal Magnetism” (Aired: 02/06/67)
Gilligan and his bowling ball are magnetically attached after he is struck by lightning. But the Professor’s cure has an unintended side effect: invisibility.
Written by Bruce Howard | Directed by Hal Cooper
After a string of episodes that were good (but not great), this installment returns us to the world of surreal, but in a very well done, funny, and classically Gilligan’s Island way. As if the lightning that binds a bowling ball to Gilligan’s finger wasn’t absurd enough, the Professor’s remedy makes Gilligan go invisible. The laughs come here — especially when Gilligan still tries to torment the Skipper after unknowingly re-materializing.
06) Episode 92: “The Second Ginger Grant” (Aired: 03/06/67)
Mary Ann hits her head and thinks she’s Ginger, so now Ginger must pretend to be Mary Ann until Professor can cure her.
Written by Ron Friedman | Directed by Steve Binder
The second of two episodes in the entire series that revolve around everyone’s favorite Kansas farm girl (after Dorothy Gale, of course), this episode is another one of the funniest of the season. Mary Ann hits her head and thinks she’s Ginger. So Ginger pretends to be Mary Ann — bring on the bad cooking. But when Professor tries to hypnotize Mary Ann back into reality, Gilligan accidentally falls under and thinks he’s Mary Ann. Denver, Louise, and Wells are wonderful in this outre and high-laughs episode.
07) Episode 93: “The Secret Of Gilligan’s Island” (Aired: 03/13/67)
The castaways find a stone map that they think may help them find a way off the island.
Story by Bruce Howard & Arne Sultan | Teleplay by Bruce Howard | Directed by Gary Nelson
Honestly speaking, I would prefer to include this episode with the honorable mentions, but since I needed one more to make that perfect ten, I decided this was the one to be upgraded. The story has little logic and there are only a fair amount laughs — until the wonderful caveman dream sequence. One of my favorite bits of the season, Gilligan’s pre-historic dream elevates this otherwise middle-of-the-road episode to hilarious heights. Watch this one only for the dream.
08) Episode 95: “It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane (It’s Gilligan)” (Aired: 03/27/67)
A jetpack lands on the island and the castaways prepare to use it to help signal the searching navy ships.
Written by Sam Locke & Joel Rapp | Directed by Gary Nelson
This was actually the last episode of the series to be produced, and I think it’s one of my favorites. It’s funny, everyone has things to do, and the focus is properly returned to the idea of getting rescued. The premise is very ’60s with its superhero-like jetpack (that doesn’t look very safe), and the entire story builds until it gets to the inevitable: Gilligan putting on the jetpack and flying in the air himself. The way he foils the rescue is funny and satisfying. Well-structured installment.
09) Episode 97: “Bang! Bang! Bang!” (Aired: 04/10/67)
The castaways unknowingly put to use modeling clay that turns into plastic explosives upon hardening.
Written by Leonard Goldstein | Directed by Charles Norton
Here’s another episode in which the ensemble works incredibly well together. We’re definitely in silly territory — but this time there’s a legitimate sense of danger as the Professor unwittingly uses the government’s top secret explosive clay (that, naturally, has washed ashore onto the island), to fill one of Gilligan’s cavities. There’s a monkey involved in this one — but don’t worry — this time it’s not a man in a suit. Surprisingly funny episode.
10) Episode 98: “Gilligan, The Goddess” (Aired: 04/17/67)
The castaways prepare for potential rescuse when natives from a nearby island come searching for a White Goddess. Guess who gets the job.
Written by Jack Paritz & Bob Rodgers | Directed by Gary Nelson
The final aired episode of the series is classic Gilligan’s Island — silly, silly, silly, but incredibly funny. The story is an engrossing one and the steps that lead to the inevitable — Gilligan as the White Goddess — are amusing. Additionally, King Killiwani is one of the most uproariously hysterical guests that the series ever had, and he really makes the tired “Gilliana” bit work magically. Maybe not the series finale that everyone wishes it to be, but it’s funny enough to make you laugh quite often. Excellent episode!
Other notable episodes this season that didn’t make the above list include: “Voodoo,” in which a native uses voodoo dolls to torment the castaways, “Man With A Net,” in which the castaways contend with a quirky butterfly hunter, “The Kidnapper,” in which Don Rickles plays a man who kidnaps the castaways one-by-one for ransom, “Gilligan Goes Gung Ho,” in which Gilligan channels his inner Barney Fife and ruins a rescue, “Court-Martial,” in which the Skipper feels guilty about his responsibility in the shipwreck, “The Hunter,” in which the show spoofs The Most Dangerous Game in a scary episode that is narratively sound but devoid of humor, “Lovey’s Secret Admirer,” in which Schafer shines in an episode all about Mrs. Howell (and a cocoanut lie detector), and “Splashdown,” which continues the series’ fascination with space travel.
*** The MVE Award for the Best Episode from Season Three of Gilligan’s Island goes to…..
“It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane (It’s Gilligan)”
Come back next Tuesday as we begin looking at the best of a whole new series. And tune in tomorrow for a new Wildcard Wednesday post!