Sherwood Schwartz almost lost his place on “Gilligan’s Island.” Hard to believe that a show’s creator could be fired, but it was close.
Schwartz, who came up with the crazy idea of seven stranded castaways, was not able to turn around scripts into filmed episodes fast enough for CBS executives’ taste, according to an article on ME.tv.
There were times, according to show director John Rich, that executives tried to insert their own “good ideas” into “Gilligan’s Island.” How bad was the situation with Schwartz? It was so bad that CBS programming executive Hunt Stromberg was setting up a replacement for when Schwartz was fired.
CBS Execs Look To Replace Schwartz On ‘Gilligan’s Island’
Actually, Stromberg’s dream appeared to take on reality. Schwartz fired one producer on the show, replaced that person with himself, and still had not one bit of film to show.
“Bewitched” series creator and writer Sol Saks said that Schwartz found himself in a meeting with “a bunch of suits.” No one could really get behind Schwartz’s concept for a show. Ultimately, Stromberg said in a meeting that Schwartz was out and would be replaced.
Who would take over the show creator’s position? Stromberg lined up William Froug, who already was an executive producer on “Gilligan’s Island,” to take over for Schwartz. Saks said a meeting was in place for the takeover to happen.
“They put Bill Froug in his place because Bill had produced, and Bill told me this story,” Saks said. “They set up a meeting, he and Sherwood, where he was going to tell him as diplomatically as possible that he was to leave the show.”
Ratings Save Schwartz’s Bacon, And Job, From Firing Line
All those plans, though, went up in smoke. Froug ended up calling Stromberg, who pushed for him to have that meeting with Schwartz.
Apparently, Saks said, all that changed when Froug told the CBS executive that “Gilligan’s Island” came in No. 4 in the Nielsen ratings.
“Cancel the meeting! Cancel the meeting!” were Stromberg’s orders to Froug. Schwartz found himself safe and secure in his position, something Rich said should never have been questioned.
‘Gunsmoke’ Forces ‘Gilligan’s Island’ Off After 3 Seasons
Meanwhile, Schwartz kept the passengers on the S.S. Minnow busy for three seasons on the CBS show. The network was going to give “Gilligan’s Island” a fourth season, but “Gunsmoke” happened to win out that ratings’ competition. The very popular western was still pulling in solid numbers, yet the network faced a scheduling quandary.
Would they keep Gilligan, the Skipper, and Ginger over Matt Dillon, Doc, and Miss Kitty? Nope. CBS gave “Gunsmoke” the go-ahead and canceled “Gilligan’s Island.” The castaways never made it off the island during the original TV series’ run. In a subsequent TV movie years later, those castaways were rescued.
As for Schwartz, he went on to create “The Brady Bunch” for ABC. It was another show that was panned by critics but loved by a young audience. It lasted for five seasons, two more than “Gilligan’s Island.”
A writer by trade, Schwartz found himself with two successful shows that fans still watch in syndication all over the world. That’s a pretty good feat for someone who almost lost their job pretty quickly.