Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Goodnight little buddy

The passing today of Bob Denver symbolizes a special and not easily forgotten time for many of us who grew up 40 years ago when there were but three television channels and everyone on TV seemed to either be our friends or our heroes.

But comedy was always my favorite. And watching the shows was like spending time with friends and neighbors (albeit some wacky ones). Rob and Laura (The Dick Van Dyke show), Sgt. O'Rourke and Cpl. Agarn (F-Troop), Lucy and Ricky (I Love Lucy) and of course... Gilligan.

Gilligan's Island was always special. I've never known why, but even in reruns forty years later, I can't help but laugh when I catch a glimpse of the castaways doing some idiotic thing after another. Thanks TV Land.

I don't know if it was the first, but Gilligan's Island incorporated aspects of a variety of other comedy characters into Gilligan's character. Think Dick Van Dyke, Jerry Lewis and a little Gracie Allen all rolled into one congruous whole. A character played to physical perfection by Bob Denver.

It's important to remember that only 98 episodes of Gilligan's Island were ever taped, and the show only lasted for three years. And yet here we are forty years later and it has been playing in rerun constantly ever since. It is a true cultural icon for many of us.

Who among us hasn't been asked the question: Ginger or Mary Ann?

Who among us hasn't thought about what we'd do if stranded on an island with six other people - one being a scientist who could make a radio out of coconuts but couldn't build a damn raft! Could we survive? Would we kill the Professor? Would we continue to sleep in a hammock underneath the Skipper - even if he was played excellently by Alan Hale? Would we...

Gilligan's Island was a critical failure and was only rated in the top 20 programs once during its tenure - even though there was little else of consequence on television. Gilligan's Island also destroyed the career of every actor and actress involved. Not because they were viewed as poor thespians - but because the characters of Gilligan's Island struck such a chord with the public, and became so memorable, that they were hopelessly typecast for the rest of their careers.

Some saw this as a personal tragedy. But not Gilligan...

Bob Denver never once remarked negatively about the role that made him a common household name for almost half a century. In fact, he reveled in it. He was Gilligan to the end, in every rerun and every sappy tv-movie sequel. And why not, he loved to make people laugh and he had found the role that did it and stood the test of time.

He's made me laugh for forty years. And as long as Gilligan's Island reruns and DVDs are around, I'll continue laughing.

The world could use a few more Little Buddies.



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