Part of the magic of TV lies in the beautiful sets. Sets can make an empty lot look like a spaceship, a distant country, or an island far away. But the Gilligan’s Island set had one big problem.
The Lagoon set was located in a CBS backlot. Unfortunately, the backlot was next to a freeway. Production had to constantly delay filming due to the sounds of traffic. No shoots on that set happened before 9 AM. Originally, the set was slated for CBS’s city lot in Malibu. They tried shooting two episodes there before the fog became too difficult to work with.
Traffic noise wasn’t the only problem that came with the set, however. The water got to a chilly 40 degrees in the winter months. Bob Denver had to wear a wetsuit under his costume as filming often occurred in the late Fall and early Winter months.
During the hot summer months, when filming for Gilligan’s Island was on hiatus, the water on the set became stagnant and unpleasant. At one point, Bob Denver and Alan Hale Jr. put a live fish in the water. They wanted to prove that it was hazardous to work in. They were right, and the fish promptly died. Production was initially hesitant to change out the water. In turn, the cast demanded they take a swim in the same water they filmed in.
Other shows that shot there included Gunsmoke, The Big Valley, Wild Wild West, Evening Shade, and St. Elsewhere.
The majority of the filming took place on a different set, inside a nearby large soundstage, where the castaway’s compound was. Although the pilot was filmed in Hawaii, the rest of the series was shot in various CBS studio lots in Los Angeles.
‘Gilligan’s Island’ Set Destroyed
Some classic shows, especially those like M*A*S*H who shot in a specific location, got to preserve parts of their set. That wasn’t the case with Gilligan’s Island. In 1995, the entire filming location, which was growing even more inconvenient as LA traffic continued to get worse, was destroyed and made into an employee parking lot. Definitely not the most glamorous end for the historic set.
“They’ve paved over a lot of memories, as far as I’m concerned,” Dawn Wells told The LA Times after its destruction in 1995. Luckily, those memories are somewhat preserved in many of the episodes of the iconic 1964 comedy, which are still a pleasure to watch decades after its filming.