September 07, 2005

So long, little buddy (Bob Denver, 1935-2005)

I guess the ghost of the Skipper took his cap and swatted him out of this world. Bob Denver, the titular character of the classic cornball sitcom Gilligan's Island, died last Friday at the age of 70.

Critics branded Gilligan's Island as one of the stupidest TV shows ever. But for those of us who grew up in the 70s and early 80s watching countless after-school reruns, that didn't matter. Frankly, the TV could use a little more of that kind of stupidity, and a lot less of the Jackass kind. They don't make 'em like they used to. And they don't make leading actors like they used to, either. Gilligan is an icon. Who's going to care about Ashton Kutcher 40 years from now?

While many serious actors would want to distance themselves later in life from such a lowbrow character as Gilligan - and Denver was a serious actor despite his decidedly non-serious résumé - he embraced the lovable goof's notoriety, and even adopted Gilligan's trademark white hat as his own trademark.

By the way, for those of you keeping track, the four principal cast members in the Gilligan's Island ensemble are now gone: Jim Backus (Thurston Howell III) died in 1989, followed by Alan Hale, Jr. (the Skipper) in 1990, then Natalie Schafer (Mrs. Howell) in 1991. Tina Louise (Ginger) is still with us, and so are "the rest" - Russell Johnson (the Professor) and Dawn Wells (Mary Ann).