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On Sept. 26, 1964, Gilligan’s Island debuted at 8:30 pm on CBS. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below.
The premiere episode, launching the new half-hour situation comedy series, came in smiling with a merry melody, glamor and drenched with tropical sunshine. A sampling of nautical nonsense that promised gags, gals, guffaws also helped set stage, hopefully, for success while novelty song lyrics, voiced over picture, chorused the series idea, where it was going, why, and identified each castmember. Stars Bob Denver and Alan Hale, the musical illustration explained, were first mate and skipper, respectively, of a small, ocean-going excursion boat. Starring also were passengers Jim Backus, millionaire, and his wife, Natalie Schafer, along with movie starlet Tina Louise. Russell Johnson, the professor, and Dawn Wells were featured.
Denver and Hale, the invisible harmony group advised, were taking the others on a three-hour sightseeing- cruise out of Honolulu. The pacific glimmered. No laugh track ever chortled more gleefully. Things never looked rosier or moved faster when a sudden storm beached the boat on an island, leaving stranded rubbernecks with nothing much except a gag-loaded script. Even viewers who expected something heavier than breezy entertainment must have stayed with show from here in. It was easy to watch if not to swallow.
New comedy team, Denver and Hale, out-bumbled each other in building a raft. The intention was to paddle off in search of help, and there were some funny moments in the sequence. The rescue expedition, however, met disaster when sharks ate the raft, and for windup, other castaways mistook the comics for headhunters when the pair rejoined group. An avalanche climaxed the action and what to do next was the fade-out problem.
Creator-producer Sherwood Schwartz and writers Lawrence J. Cohen and Fred Freeman also faced the problem. How they solved it will undoubtedly provide unpredictable amusement in next week’s segment. The show’s attractive music was composed by Frank Comstock. Herschel Burke Gilbert was music supervisor. The superior photography was the work of Richard Rawlings, and the show was directed by John Rich. — Ed Olmstead, originally published on Sept. 28. 1964.
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