Surviving Gilligan's Island

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Surviving Gilligan's Island:
The Incredibly True Story of the Longest Three-Hour Tour in History
Directed byPaul A. Kaufman
Written byDuane Poole
StarringBob Denver
Dawn Wells
Russell Johnson
Jon Wellner
Kristen Dalton
Samantha Harris
Eric Allan Kramer
Steve Vinovich
Aaron Lustig
E. J. Peaker
Release date
October 14, 2001 (U.S. premiere, CBS)
Running time
100 minutes

Surviving Gilligan's Island (publicized as: Surviving Gilligan's Island: The Incredibly True Story of the Longest Three-Hour Tour in History) is a 2001 made-for-television docudrama film based on the 1964–1967 television sitcom Gilligan's Island.

Originally airing on CBS on October 14, 2001, the film stars three of the four cast members from the 1960s series who were still alive at the time: Bob Denver, Dawn Wells, and Russell Johnson. These performers tell their stories, while other actors re-enact old scenes from the series and dramatize behind-the-scenes moments.

The plot of this docudrama depicts the attempts of Gilligan's Island producer Sherwood Schwartz to make Gilligan's Island a hit television series. It portrays the network's initial rejection of the series as well as the filming of the pilot episode. This film also reveals the changes which each cast member went through after the pilot episode received negative feedback. Denver (who played Gilligan), Wells (who played Mary Ann), and Johnson (who played The Professor) share stories about the show and its status in pop culture. Footage from the original series is unveiled in addition to the recreations.

This film also addresses the question of whether Ginger or Mary Ann is more attractive. An informal poll of twenty-one people is conducted, in which Mary Ann wins by a single vote.

Cast member Tina Louise, who portrayed Ginger in the series, does not appear. She had consistently refused to participate in any Gilligan's Island-related spinoffs or projects since the original series ended. This docudrama presents Louise to have been under the impression that the series was supposed to revolve around her own character's adventures as a shipwrecked castaway (despite the series' title.) It also chronicles Louise's repeated efforts at removing herself from her contract, and the subsequent side effect it would have on the strained relationships between herself and her costars.

This docudrama covers the period from the concept and casting of the first series pilot in 1963 through to its cancellation in 1967; it then touches on moments in the 1970s and early 1980s, including the production of the Gilligan's Island reunion TV movies, and ends with a sequence discussing the deaths of original cast members Alan Hale, Jim Backus and Natalie Schafer, and the present-day (as of 2001) activities of Wells, Denver and Johnson.

This film has been released on both VHS and DVD in one region only. Special features of the DVD release include the casting of the performers, a trivia game, and other information about the behind-the-scenes look at the cult classic series. As of 2015, this DVD is out of print.


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