‘Gilligan’s Island’: Gilligan Actor Bob Denver Explained How Fans Changed Over the Years

by Matthew Wilson

“Gilligan’s Island” may have just lasted three short years. But the sitcom developed a legion of passionate fans across the country. For some, they watched the show for the first time years after it went off the air.

In a 1994 interview with the Los Angeles Times, late actor Bob Denver, who played Gilligan on the show, discussed how his interactions with fans have changed. They were not as surprised to see him as they were early in his career. The actor credited that fact to re-runs of “Gilligan’s Island” on TV.

“Yeah, since ’59. Can you believe it? It kind of fascinates me,” Denver told the outlet. “The last couple of years, instead of people doing big takes (when they see me) and saying, ‘Oh my God.’ They just look up with no take at all and say, “Hi, Bob.” I’m the neighbor they know. This face has been so long in their houses.”

Thanks to syndication, “Gilligan’s Island” captured its place in the pop-culture conscious. Similar to other repeating shows like “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Gunsmoke,” many fans consider it a television classic.

But unlike some of those shows, the sitcom wasn’t a critical darling when it aired. Denver, in a separate interview, said critics hated the show when it aired. Perhaps, repetition is key to a long life in regards to TV shows. Over the years, the show has garnered something of a critical reappraisal among its supporters.

‘Gilligan’s Island’ Saves A Fan

And in perhaps one of the strangest stories Denver ever heard from a fan, “Gilligan’s Island” actually saved a young girl’s life. Her mother told Denver that the 9-year-old ended up in a coma after a car collision. Since “Gilligan’s Island” was her favorite show, she played episodes from the series every afternoon at the hospital. Eventually, her daughter woke up to watch the episode.

“She was in a coma for a long time,” Denver said. “She said one time, ‘Here is your favorite episode.’ And the little girl opened her eyes, sat up, and said, ‘OK, Mom.’ She came out of the coma just to watch the show. I said, ‘You are certainly welcome.’”

Bob Denver enjoyed the interaction he got from fans for appearing on the show. “Gilligan’s Island” became more successful than the cast dared dreamed in the years after it went off the air. Though he passed away in 2005, Denver’s work as Gilligan lives on for new audiences to enjoy.