Wishful thinking: Rebooting a classic piece of TV without the cheesy comedy

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Right now, a modern retelling of a 1960’s television show is on my mind and yet modern retelling limits it unless it’s done right and framed properly. That, in itself, is a tough task.

Before I move to that and the show on my mind, let me touch on a show that was going to have a “modern” retelling 20 years after its airing in the 1960’s: Batman. Warner Brothers wanted to do a cinematic version of the caped-crusader show from the 60’s and from one of the original casting plans tells you everything about original intent on the movie: Bill Murray as Bruce Wayne/Batman. That should not be taken as “could you imagine how dark Tim Burton’s film would have been if…?” as so much “Bill Murray vs. Adam West, who wins in a Batusi dance-off?” The film that Burton made (and set the stage for modern comic book movies) was intended by the company to go campy-comedic a-la the original series on screen.

There’s another show that was exposed to the masses over the decades by way of original airings on network television and syndication in later decades after the original series ended. It’s had television-movie continuations of the series and parodies in other television shows over the decades. It was campy, it was comedic, and it was the tale of chance.

Gilligan’s Island is only known for ha-ha-ha. An idiotic-but-lucky first mate, his father-like/older brother-like Skipper, and the five passengers who were fellow castaways when the S.S. Minnow wrecked on an uncharted desert island.

Anyone who knows of this series might be grinning and happy-as-a-camper that I’d like to see it redone. Others who know of the series and know of the movie industry might be rolling their eyes and back-clicking right now because of how you can’t re-do “Gilligan’s Island” in a quality fashion. A campy-comedy won’t work with the masses (unless it’s a one-shot movie) and a reality based show/film going over-the-top on the same concept has been done in different ways over the years (The Perfect Storm, Cast Away). Typing those up right now makes me hesitant to go any further with this writing all because I know the two facts I just laid out.
I don’t want to see a campy comedy with laughs put in just-because and a reality-based, modern telling is tough. How the hell do you even start it? You could start by making conditions less-than-ideal when starting the sailing from Honolulu. Hell, going from the Hawaiian Islands might be ideally nixed and changed to American Samoa or another Pacific Island to just make the lost-at-sea, unchartered-island idea work.

Then there’s Gilligan, who is the central figure to the whole concept. He came off as a fool on the series, with so much being resolved by luck or by chance. It contrasted the show theme song that praised him and put him first (in both the opening and closing credits music).

The mate was a mighty sailor
And the Skipper, brave and sure

The first-mate and the Skipper too
Will do their very best

It is possible to do something with the series and make sure Gilligan doesn’t come off like a fool or Skipper Jonas Grumby come off like a man who simply submits and goes along with his first mate when the man screws up. Basically drop the campy caricature act. That also goes for Thurston Howell III and his wife, Lovey, (The millionaire and his wife), Ginger Grant (the movie star), Prof. Roy Hinkley and Mary Ann Summers (the Professor and Mary-Ann). Yes, ladies and gentlemen, those are the real names of the characters.

What sets me off thinking about a modern telling is the theme song, of all things. While I already cited how the song cites Gilligan before the Skipper, it’s simply the line If not for the courage of the fearless crew / The Minnow would be lost. The opening credits show the “courage” as the embodiment of the series: Luck and chance is depicted, not courage so much.

The one crime I have in writing this up is forgetting something I have seen all of one time; one broadcasting is all I was ever exposed to as a tween/teen while Gilligan’s Island re-aired in syndication (this was in the 1990’s and may have been on TBS cable network, I don’t recall for certain), It was more times than those who were around watching the original series in the 1960’s: The pilot episode to the series. (Note: Having seen portions of the pilot and promos for its airing is how I knew characters had real names and not just nicknames; they were disclosed in a radio broadcast that the cstaways picked up from the island. The names are posted on IMDB’s show listing)

The whole reason I cite the pilot is because of more reality and non-camp/comedy. It may be a very fitting item to use as a basis for a reboot of the show, or basis for a movie. Whatever, there’s also enough dirt about millionaires, movie stars, scientists/teachers and typical aspects of American citizens that gives enough fruit to flesh out stories for the passengers, let alone Gilligan and Skipper.

I doubt the film industry would ever pursue anything, though. Adhering to ha-ha-ha camp/cheese or going too over-the-top would spoil things either way. At the same time, I cite going over-the-top? Yeah, Tim Burton did that with ‘89’s Batman and set the stage for modern comic book cinema. Oh, it wasn’t written with strict ties to the comic universe which you see now in Marvel and DC films, but it also wasn’t just a campy act or send-up. It took things seriously. Just imagine what could come out if that philosophy was applied to old television shows…

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