‘Gilligan’s Island’: The Castaways’ Radio Was Given Special Modifications to Help Calls Seem Real

by Josh Lanier

The Professor could repair the radio with coconuts, but he couldn’t fix a hole in the boat on Gilligan’s Island. It’s one of the mysteries of the show and an often-repeated joke by bad comedians. But apparently, even the Professor wasn’t on his own on this one. He got a little help from the prop department to make the radio seem more believable.

The radio was a Packard Bell AR-851. The inhabitants of the island used it to stay abreast of life back home and get weather reports. But producers wanted to make it seem more likely that they could pick up radio waves that far away over the, well, waves.

So, the prop department added a telescoping antenna and handle to make it easier to carry. They glued the accessories on top of the radio to add a little flair and realism.

Again, he was purported to fix the radio with random items found on an uninhabited island, yet the producers were worried about realism. OK.

Who owned the radio is also apparently in question. According to The Gilligan’s Island Fandom page, the radio is believed to be owned by the Skipper.

He supposedly loaned it to the castaways to use whenever they wanted. However, in a later episode, Mr. Howell claims provenance over the valuable item. In any case, the radio eventually dies before they’re rescued from the island, the page says.

The Name of the Boat on the Show Was an Inside Joke

Most people would probably assume the name of Gilligan’s Island’s U.S.S. Minnow is a reference to the fish. Or perhaps it could even be a thematic nod to the boat’s small size or eventual fate. But it’s actually making fun of the head of the FCC.

The Federal Communications Commission oversees and regulates television. The head of the agency at that time was Newton Minow, who once famously said television was “America’s vast wasteland” in 1961, Time reported. Sherwood Schwartz, who created Gilligan’s Island, as well as other famous shows including The Brady Bunch, wasn’t a fan. So, he named the wrecked ship after Minow, according to IMDB.

Ironically, Minow found it hilarious. And he and Sherwood would eventually become friends.

The show used four different boats to serve as the U.S.S. Minnow. The producers rented two of them in Hawaii to shoot the opening credits. CBS built one at their studios to use on the beach set as a prop. The show rented the fourth one when it reshot the opening credits in the second season. A subsequent owner wrecked that ship, but someone later salvaged it and restored the boat to working order. They eventually put it up for sale for $99,000, IMDB says, but it’s unclear if it ever sold.