The Professor and Mary Ann

For some strange reason the tune from Gilligan’s Island has invaded my inner sanctum and, as happens sometimes, the more I try to shake it off the more it returns to haunt. And I do not even like the song. It’s the end of a work week, and I need a diversion from the routine, so I may as well get some mileage out of this.

Is there a lesson to be learned from Gilligan’s Island? Other than the vanity of life and its precarious brevity (Memento Mori), not much. All but two of the main characters in the show have passed away. Mary Ann (Dawn Wells) and “the mooovie-star” Ginger (Tina Louise) are still living.

As a youngster I did watch the show occasionally, which was about as boring as such a program could be. We only had three TV channels in those days and my regulars were Twilight Zone and — a poor second — The Outer Limits. To entice pubescent viewers to the dragged-out monotony on the “desert isle” (there are, by the way, no “desert” islands, only deserted ones), Mary Ann and Ginger were planted for “eye candy” as the saying goes. That’s Hollywood. Unfortunately, the dissipated Catholic culture of the 60s had no champions promoting good literature. Our world was sports, chintzy music, movies, and television.. No excuse, that was our free choice. And, the last two venues, generally speaking, had to have immodestly dressed women with pretty faces to gain a undisciplined young man’s attention. I say “generally speaking” because there were some good family programs on air and inspirational movies to be sure. The devout Catholic actor, Patrick Mcgoohan, for example in the 60s series “Secret Agent” and “The Prisoner”. The Legion of Decency, with the local pastor’s support, would have been more effective, I think, had it promoted counter-cultural alternatives to the rampant trash, had it launched a campaign for the “Great Books” and the study of Church history and Lives of the Saints. That’s all passé now. We have now entered the twilight zone borders of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Gilligan’s Island was Exhibit A for living room mediocrity and voyeurism in the 60s. The show, a comedy (sic ?), was patently unfunny. Jerry Van Dyke, who was first offered the role of Gilligan, turned it down saying that “It was the worst script he had ever read.” The one exception was Thurston Howell III (Jim Backus), “the millionaire.” He it was who gave the weekly comedic relief, and “Lovey,” his wife and his facilitator so to speak, was a perfect match. In real life “Lovey” (Natalie Schafer) was actually a millionaire. Gilligan (Bob Denver) played his part well enough, but he was much better as a beatnik in the Dobie Gillis series. That show, too, had an egotistical, wealthy, spoiled-boy character that added some, shall we say, satirical spice; that was Chatsworth Osborne, Jr. Remember him, baby boomers?

I did mention the stupid song earlier didn’t I?

Originally, the little ditty didn’t even mention the professor and Mary Ann. Given short-shrift, they were relegated to “and the rest” coming at the end right after “the mooovie-star.” Naturally, the professor and Mary Ann were put out about this, big paycheck notwithstanding. They complained about it to Bob Denver who took their cause to the producers of the show, and they, realizing the unintended slight, tagged them in at the end of the ballad of the lost Minnow. The little boat was named after fishbait, don’t ch’ya know. Rather ironic for a tour boat. Well, the lyrics, which rhymed poetic in the first three verses, lost both its rhythm and rhyme in the fourth and last stanza. If you must, check out the lyrics when you have nothing better to Google. Even without the plug for the two slighted characters at the end of the ditty, the song’s fast finale fell flat. (Alliteration intended) Tossing or “stuffing” in “the professor and Mary Ann” at the end was grating to say the least.

So, the lesson to be learned is this: If you suffer a humiliation (or find yourself “unappreciated” or worse than that, “ignored”) and you start craving a dose of kudos and a hefty pat-on-the-back, remember that, if you feed this beast of vanity, the harmony that will make your song a sweet melody to God, His most humble mother, and His angels will lose its concordance. You will be out of step. And, then, may I add, you won’t be able to dance. So, follow the advice of Saint Augustine and “Learn to dance, so when you get to heaven the angels know what to do with you.”

  • M.

    Mr. Kelly, this is a good reflection, born of a silly show and goofy song. And, thanks, now the theme song is in MY head.

  • Eleonore

    Great piece, Brian. I always thought this inane program just too silly and utterly impossible, but the men liked it because of the ever-present eye candy. Shows how shallow our entertainment was ( and still is).

  • Sorry about that. Try Johnny River’s Secret Agent Man. That should knock it out.

  • Thank you Eleonore. And three men couldn’t fix a boat?

  • CR89

    One of the dumbest shows of all time but it was relatively harmless, especially by today’s standards of “comedy” which almost always features hapless men, REALLY smart women and the now obligatory sodomite.

    Another equally moronic show from the 60’s was “I Dream of Jeannie,” which featured the incredibly gorgeous “eye candy” Barbara Eden, about whom there has been many a male dream, I would guess.

  • Bob C

    An interesting interlude, amongst the weighty articles you have penned, dear sir. I like both genres!

  • Carl Phillips

    Never read a review of Gilligan’s Island before, Brian, but you did a great job of summing it up. I ewas in college at the time and only watched it a few times. Remember Dobie Gillis better.