Sunday, October 23, 2016

Gilligan's Planet (1982-83)

Gilligan's Planet
Stars: Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr.
1982-1983
13 episodes

I never liked Gilligan's Island much and yet I probably saw most of the episodes more times than I can count. I was too young to catch the show in its original run (1964-1967) but when the show aired in the following decade in syndication I had plenty of time on my hands and wasn't very discerning about what I watched.

The renewed popularity of the show that resulted from that (eternal?) run in syndication spawned an animated series, The New Adventures of Gilligan, that also ran for three years (1974-1977) and three TV movies that aired between 1979 and 1981. The last of these, of course, is a TV movie that will live in infamy (I guess) - The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island (1981).

A year later the castaways were back on the air again, after a fashion, in Gilligan's Planet. If you know anything about the original show then the title alone should be sufficient to give you an idea of the premise. If I understand it right, the Professor has come up with a way to turn the S.S. Minnow into a spaceship, thus finally solving the problem of how to get off that miserable island. Seems a bit like overkill but what do I know?

One wonders why the old egghead hadn't taken this step a long time ago and let's not even get into the obvious engineering difficulties presented by retrofitting a ship like the Minnow, using the tools and materials at hand on a desert island. But here I am questioning the logic of a short-lived animated spinoff of a TV show whose internal logic was frequently dubious at best and that is of course is the path that leads to madness. So we'll leave it at that. Except to say that the spacefaring version of the Minnow had a very eye-catching wood paneled interior and to note that this time around the shipwreck apparently had something to do with Gilligan and a banana peel. So careless.

Gilligan's Island scholars know that this drift toward the science fictional was not all that surprising. On the original series several spaceships ended up crashing on the island (how's about them odds), including a Mars lander and one bearing a crew of Russian cosmonauts. A robot also turned up in one of the original episodes and in the aforementioned Harlem Globetrotters movie the team ended up facing off against a robot basketball team.

The Gilligan's Planet episode I screened just so happened to be the first of the 13 episode run - I Dream of Genie (1965-70). It opens with a theme song that's actually more recitation than song and pales next to the one we all know so well. One of the first things one can't help but noticing as things get underway is the planet itself. Which is a colorful affair composed primarily of green skies, pink/purplish terrain and blue vegetation. Much of latter seems to consist of unnaturally large mushrooms. Make of that what you will.

Even casual animation fans like myself will surely know of Filmation (or at least be familiar with some of their shows), the studio that graced us with both animated Gilligan spin-offs. They turned out numerous animated shows and some live TV over the course of several decades, many of which dealt with science fictional themes. These included Star Trek: The Animated Series and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. And lest we forget, such off the wall obscurities as Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down.

The plot, such as it was, is rather basic stuff, as befits a Gilligan's Island spinoff. Gilligan and his cutesy little dinosaur buddy Bumper come across a robot buried beneath a pile of rocks. The robot pledges eternal gratitude and grants Gilligan anything he wants. Never the brightest bulb in the lamp store, Gilligan comes up with gems like being able to hit a baseball farther than anyone ever has and whatnot.

Eventually the other castaways get wind of Gilligan's good fortune and it occurs to them that they should try get in on it. Conniving and scheming ensues and soon Mr. Howell has wrested away "control" of the robot from Gilligan. As one might expect he makes use of the robot's wish granting capabilities to indulge his inner greedy child.

But alas, it cannot last. Gilligan regains control of the robot and then someone makes the rather sensible suggestion that he wish for them to get off the planet. Far be it from me to spoil things, but given the legacy of Gilligan one can probably make a pretty good guess as to how it turns out.

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