‘Gilligan’s Island’: 1979 Reunion Film Was Actually Meant to be a Pilot for a Series Similar to ‘The Love Boat’

by Evan Reier

As Gilligan’s Island grew in popularity thanks to syndication, the folks behind the classic show wanted to keep telling stories.

So in the late 1970s and early 1980s, three films came to fruition. The first arrived in 1978 and was titled Rescue from Gilligan’s Island, which featured the castaways finally getting off the island, only to struggle back in society and end up back on the island.

A year and some change later, The Castaways on Gilligan’s Island was released. While the previous film first aired in two parts on NBC, this one aired as a whole. But one may not realize is that Sherwood Schwartz and the rest of the show’s heads had a different plan for the film.

According to IMDB, the film was essentially supposed to be a pilot for a series similar to The Love Boat.

The idea of the castaways playing matchmakers and entertaining guest on their island sounds like a brilliant idea. The Love Boat was beloved by fans for the romance, goofs and plethora of guest stars.

But as any Gilligan’s Island fan knows, the obvious hump is: why would anyone go to the island? And if they did, why aren’t the castaways getting rescued? Well, it’s actually clear what the plan was in the film’s plot to create a scenario where it works.

Gilligan’s Island Brings in a Resort

The film’s first act starts with a botched escape attempt from the island and saving from the U.S. Navy. Back on the mainland, Mr. Howell comes up with the idea of turning the island into a resort.

After the resort is built, the castaways run and work the resort. This is where the pilot begins in earnest, and you can see The Love Boat’s influence in the show. For example, much of the plot revolves around the cast interacting with visitors, similar to The Love Boat.

For example, a couple is struggling to enjoy themselves due to the husband being a workaholic. The workaholic just so happens to be portrayed by Happy Days star Tom Bosley.

Meanwhile, Gilligan helps a kid who has run away from his parents and is making mischief at the resort. Of course, the other castaways are up to their own antics.

It’s unclear why the film wasn’t transitioned into it’s own show. Perhaps it was because The Love Boat was pretty much at its height of popularity at the time. There could have also been production or casting issues for a full-fledged show.

Either way, it would’ve made for great entertainment, at least on paper. But instead, the fans of Gilligan’s Island got another film, The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island. Other than that, the final castaway-related spin-off was Gilligan’s Planet, an animated show that only lasted 12 episodes.