‘Gilligan’s Island’ Creator Sherwood Schwartz Once Revealed Show Almost Didn’t Take Off

by Michael Freeman
(Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Called a classic for a reason, Gilligan’s Island remains an avidly watched sitcom despite only airing for three seasons. It may surprise you to learn then the show’s creator, Sherwood Schwartz, revealed the show almost didn’t take off.

Appearing on The Writer Speaks back in 2013, Sherwood Schwartz sat down with Del Reisman for an extended interview. Though he created both The Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island, Schwartz spoke at length about the latter and how it came to be. In the second part of the interview, he even revealed the show almost never came to be. When speaking with William Paley, the then CBS president, Schwartz called the show a “social microcosm,” which nearly killed the show before the pilot even aired.

“The first thing I said in the meeting was that Gilligan’s Island was a social microcosm,” Schwartz explained. “And he (Paley) visibly blanched and said ‘my god I thought it was a comedy.’ I said, luckily, quickly, it’s a funny microcosm Mr. Paley and I determined to never use a three-syllable word again when referring to a comedy show. But that’s what it was.”

Admittedly, when being pitched a show, if I heard “social microcosm” when expecting a comedy, I’d be a bit thrown off too. Luckily, Sherwood Schwartz caught onto it quickly enough to save himself and the result is the beloved series we have today.

If nothing else, Paley likely at least learned a new word after the faithful interview.

‘The Brady Bunch’ Star Florence Henderson Praised Sherwood Schwartz

As stated, Gilligan’s Island isn’t the only hit show Sherwood Schwartz created. If you aren’t familiar with it, chances are you’ve at least heard of The Brady Bunch. It’s clear the man has talent and it’s something the actors he worked with saw as well. A star from the latter show, Florence Henderson, once greatly praised him in an interview.

Appearing on a Television Academy interview back in 1999, Henderson opened up about the show and working with Schwartz. According to her, he wasn’t just brilliant, but personable too. “He is one of the best storytellers that I know … Funny, funny stories about his childhood, his upbringing and the show business. He’s very outspoken about the people he has worked with in the business. I have a great deal of respect and affection for Sherwood Schwartz.”

Additionally, though Robert Reed and John Rich clashed frequently with him, Schwartz was determined to remain involved with the show. “[Sherwood Schwartz] was very involved with our show, very hands-on and very territorial I think,” Henderson said. “It’s widely recorded how much he and Robert Reed fought. That was the only negative thing about the show really was the fact that Bob and especially Sherwood and John Rich did not get along … I don’t like to be around negativity when I work.”