The Real Gilligan's Island runs aground
By ANDREW RYAN
Tuesday, November 30, 2004
There's an odious milestone accomplished this evening: The debut of The Real Gilligan's Island (TBS, 8 p.m.), which officially marks the first known merging of a reality show and an idiotic sitcom. Rarely is TV this dumbed-down.
It's dumb and dumber, I suppose, since this concept is based on Gilligan's Island, a low-concept sitcom surely aimed at a dull-witted viewership back in the sixties. It was a hit, of course.
The original Gilligan's Island concerned a group of people stranded on a remote desert island. For three painful seasons the castaways struggled to get off the island and failed time and again, despite the presence of a scientific genius, the Professor, who could convert a coconut into a shortwave radio but couldn't fix a small hole in the hull of a boat.
It's honestly disheartening to realize how much effort has gone into mounting this reality spinoff. The series comes from original Gilligan's Island creator Sherwood Schwartz and reality-TV show kingpin Mike Fleiss, and they clearly went to some trouble. Here is what happens when a one-note idea is strained through a desperate, dying genre.
The reality setup features two teams of contestants -- located after an exhaustive global search -- who allegedly hold the actual occupations of the original Gilligan's Island characters.
Hence, we have two real-life Gilligans, two skippers, two professors, two millionaires and their wives, two farm girls called Mary Ann and two movie stars named Ginger, both in tight dresses. All the contestants are no-names, save for the movie stars, played by ex-Baywatch babe Nicole Eggert and swimsuit model Rachel Hunter, who was once married to Rod Stewart.
Unlike the original sitcom, which took place entirely on an L.A. soundstage, the reality show was filmed over three weeks on an island near the Gulf of Mexico. The people on the two teams are introduced with mini-profiles as they're first dropped on the island. The idea is to put them through a rugged Survivor-style boot camp, which means rationed food, sunburns and bug bites, the usual routine. Each is wearing the same silly wardrobe of the original Gilligan's Island cast, which somehow makes the experience even more demeaning.
But that inevitable, oh-so clever hook: The contestants can earn better food, and theoretically get off the island, through competing in a series of wacky challenges based on plotlines drawn from the original series. Hopefully, they'll re-enact the occasion when the Harlem Globetrotters dropped by the island. I do believe that won a Peabody Award.
As with previous TBS reality outings, like the despicable Outback Jack and the more recent He's a Lady, expect the worst in the weeks to come. The promos aired so far for The Real Gilligan's Island are fixated on three angles: One of the millionaire's wives, a faux Mrs. Howell, is a high-toned bitch. Both of the Mary Anns bend over -- a lot. And one of the Gilligans is gay. That's reality, skipper.