How ‘Gunsmoke’ Kicked ‘Gilligan’s Island’ Off the Air

by Matthew Wilson

What was good news for “Gunsmoke” fans everywhere ended up being a death sentence for the popular show “Gilligan’s Island” in 1967. The western and its renewal were actually responsible for keeping the skipper and his crew stranded on the island.

For three seasons, “Gilligan’s Island” was popular among viewers. During its first two seasons, it ranked among the top 25 shows on the air. And during season three, the show fell to 47th but still held a large percentage of viewers. CBS thought the ratings were high enough to produce a fourth season. Production was along the way when “Gunsmoke” entered the picture.

According to Looper, CBS had to choose between “Gunsmoke” and “Gilligan’s Island” on what to keep. And well, Matt Dillion and the gang rode together once more. Initially, the network had canceled the popular western after 12 seasons on the air. But the public uproar was immense as a result. Even the U.S. government got involved in the renewal efforts. The Kansas Legislature and the Dodge City Commission both petitioned CBS to have the show renewed.

Additionally, Alan Hale Jr. who played the Skipper on “Gilligan’s Island” supported renewing “Gunsmoke” even if it meant his own show should go instead. Fortunately for the western, CBS Chairman William S. Paley’s wife enjoyed Matt Dillon and his adventures. She convinced her husband to uncancel the show, and Paley moved it to the Monday night timeslot, replacing the island-themed show.

The New Adventures of ‘Gilligan’s Island’

After the show was canceled, it returned in animated form in “The New Adventures of Gilligan” in 1974. The animated cartoon featured all the characters from the original show. And many of the actors returned to voice their characters for the two-season run. The cartoon series got even more outlandish with “Gilligan’s Planet” in the 1980s. Now the crew went from being crashed on an island to being stranded on an entirely different planet.

But for fans wanting to see a return to live-action, they would have to wait for “Rescue from Gilligan’s Island” in 1978. That was the first of three TV movies that continued to explore the castaways’ adventures. Each felt more outlandish than the next, however. And none quite captured the magic of those original three seasons.