Bob Denver never expected Gilligan's Island reruns to stretch into the '80s, let alone the 2020s
A show featuring a group of shipwrecked passengers and its crew, stranded on a small island, has been in reruns for over 55 years. Gilligan's Island is widely regarded as one of the most successful television series during Hollywood's golden age of TV.
Bob Denver, or Gilligan himself, knew how successful the show was while it was on the air, but couldn't have dreamed the show would last, and have the level of popularity, as long as it has. Even in 2023, the goofy, funny and unrealistic series remains a classic television staple.
As fans of the series know, the most common trope is that so many people could come to the island and leave, but the castaways couldn't manage to escape, not one time.
During a 1982 appearance on Late Night with David Letterman, Denver said the cancellation of Gilligan's Island didn't allow for a natural ending, with the only feasible one being the castaways finally departing the island.
"It was just a scheduling problem again as usual with the network and we didn't do a final show. We never got rescued," Denver said. "All the kids kept watching the show, then they'd go to the dentist [for example] and come back and miss one. That's the one they thought we got rescued on." Well kids, don't worry. You didn't miss that episode, it never happened.
Years later, most of the cast reunited for the TV movie, Rescue from Gilligan's Island. As the title depicts, the shipwrecked crew finally got rescued, some 14 years after Gilligan's Island premiered.
Denver joked, "For all the mothers who said 'Finally! Will you just put one on so I can tell my kids you finally got off the island!'"
Of course, the group staying on the island even though there were ample opportunities to be rescued was part of the storyline. Three seasons-worth of planning how to not get off the island and keep the show going was part of the fun for Denver.
"We really had a hard time staying on the island and writing plots that would keep us there," Denver said. If that statement was taken out of context, nobody would believe it!
"Every week we had a big special effect. We had rockets, we had mountains, you know volcanoes, caves and it was always fun to do. Each week was different."
Denver faced typecast issues, and after playing a standout role such as Gilligan, it was no surprise. Unlike many actors who face the issue, Denver welcomed it. When David Letterman asked, "are there times now you wish you were not the man who was on Gilligan's Island?"
"No, not at all," Denver responded. "I had a good time doing it. I just didn't think it would rerun for 16 years. I [would've] made a better deal," he cracked.
The accrual of television royalties from reruns has changed quite a bit since the days of Gilligan's Island, as Denver and the cast didn't see much after the show went off the air.
"I got paid off in two years. By 1968, that was it."
We wonder what Denver, who passed away in 2005, would say if he knew Gilligan's Island was running and performing well in 2023!