When actor Bob Denver heard the premise of “Gilligan’s Island” from the show’s creator, he really had doubts if CBS would ever air it at all.
Let’s give a little background on Denver, though. He already appeared on a popular sitcom, playing Maynard G. Krebs on “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.” Dwayne Hickman played Gillis on the show. Krebs was a beatnik-type of a character whose catchphrase was a high-pitched “Work!” when anyone mentioned getting a job around him.
“Dobie Gillis” ran from 1959-63 on CBS, so Denver already had some name recognition from that show. “Gilligan’s Island” executive producer Sherwood Schwartz wanted Bob Denver to play Gilligan on his new situation comedy. But Denver couldn’t believe what he was hearing about the show.
Bob Denver Starts Laughing Over ‘Gilligan’s Island’
He remembers having a meeting with Schwartz, according to an interview with Peter Anthony Holder.
“And when he and I got done talking, I was on the floor laughing when he told me the premises of some and the guest stars and things,” Denver said. “I said, ‘Are you sure the network is going to let you do this?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I have permission to shoot the pilot.'”
Denver told Sherwood Schwartz it would be great and they shook hands. He said that was it about the deal.
“Then we shot the pilot of the island of Kauai in the Hawaiian string there,” Bob Denver said. “I still couldn’t believe it when I was in Hawaii for two weeks shooting a half-hour situation comedy that was so stupid and silly.”
Denver Ends Up Playing Gilligan For Three Seasons
Denver added that “if it didn’t sell at least I got a nice, you know, two weeks. I stayed an extra two weeks so I had a month on the island. I figured that was really nice. If it didn’t sell, fine.”
You know the rest of the story, don’t you? The show’s pilot made it on CBS’s executives’ radar, sold, and became a hit. Bob Denver joined Alan Hale Jr., Jim Backus, Russell Johnson, Dawn Wells, Natalie Schaefer, and Tina Louise on the island. For three seasons, their antics simply left people laughing.
In fact, the show was lined up for the fourth season but CBS faced a problem. Would the network cancel its long-running successful western “Gunsmoke” to make room for “Gilligan’s Island”? It was a scheduling issue. The network brass knew, though, that they would receive a ton of flak for removing “Gunsmoke.”
Therefore, “Gilligan’s Island” left CBS’s airwaves and entered into the world of syndication. Those seasons, though, have been running on TVs around the world for decades now.