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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Anthony Weiner Will Just Have To Wait.

I promise you I'll get to the Weiner Comps, but Anthony will most likely be around for a long time.
Sherwood Schwartz won't.
He just died at the age of 95.

Sherwood Schwartz was a television icon.
He was certainly the most influential person working in television regarding a specific generation.
Sherwood Schwartz was the creator and Executive Producer of "Gilligan's Island" and "The Brady Bunch".
These two shows had enormous appeal to the generation immediately succeeding mine.
I found this rather unfathomable at the time.
I've still never understood it.
I thought these were two of the worst shows ever to come down the pike.
The fact that the immediately succeeding generation embraced them as they did gave me the distorted impression that I was part of the last generation that had a genuine sense of humor.
And that I'll never be threatened by a future generation of comedy writers, because there won't be any.
But that kind of skipped a generation.
And a wave, a sunami, if you will, of new young really funny comedy writers took things over.
I wonder how much regard Tina Fey has for "Gilligan's Island" and "The Brady Bunch".
In my mind, these shows were never funny.
I even got the impression that they weren't even TRYING to be funny.
Except maybe when "Gilligan's Island" brought in the Harlem Globetrotters.
And then I thought it was just as a goof.
I mentioned in a previous article that some shows just strive to be FUN, as opposed to FUNNY.
I believe that these shows fell into this category.
And I suppose they succeeded in that regard.
To the point where people growing up with them can quote episodes chapter and verse.
I knew that Sherwood Schwartz was certainly capable of being very funny.
He was Red Skelton's head writer for quite a few years.
He used to write for Bob Hope.
These were very demanding men, and certainly no slouches when it came to funny.
So Sherwood must have been capable of playing hardball with the best of them.
But left to his own devices, he seemed to prefer softball.

There was one way that I did find "Gilligan's Island" funny.
If you watched it with the sound off.
You'd stare at the screen and continually be dumbfounded as to how the characters got from one location or scene to another.
But that was about it.

A couple of interesting things about "Gilligan's Island":
It only ran three seasons.
People think it must have run at least twelve.
No. Only three.
Also, it is fairly common knowledge that the actors did not receive much in residuals, and they ran out rather quickly.
So none of them got rich off of it.
Sherwood Schwartz made a fortune.
That's how it goes.
I've known several of the actors from it.
None of them begrudged Sherwood for this.
They all seemed to love him personally.
One of the great ironies is that there were others who profited quite nicely from it:
Phil Silvers' daughters.

Phil Silvers had a deal with CBS to do "The New Phil Silvers Show" in the early 1960's.
The show was not worth anyone's attention.
Certainly not anyone who had seen the Old Phil Silvers show, where he played Sergeant Bilko.
As part of the deal, Phil was offered profit participation in one of three sitcoms to appear on CBS's fall lineup that year.
One of them was "Gilligan's Island".
Another was "The Baileys of Balboa", which starred his old Colonel, Paul Ford.
I forget what the third one was.
Phil, for what must have seemed a mystifying reason to some, chose "Gilligan's Island".
And his daughters have been living high off the hog ever since.
That's why, if you notice in the "Gilligan's Island" credits, it says that it is a "Gladasya" production.
"Gladasya" was Phil Silvers' eternal catchphrase.
I consider this all ironic because one of the worst sitcoms ever done provided wealth for the family of one of the purveyors of the best sitcom ever done.

I had an opportunity to meet Sherwood Schwartz about twelve years ago.
He attended one of my plays in Los Angeles.
He attended because Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann on "Gilligan" was the female lead.
Sherwood Schwartz was a class act.
At least that night.
Whenever industry people attend plays in L.A., particularly important ones like Sherwood, they expected to be comped into the theatre.
Sometimes they'd be adamant about it.
Sherwood Schwartz arrived at the theatre.
I recognized him immediately.
I assumed Dawn had left tickets for him, as comps.
Sherwood reached into his wallet, pulled out cash, and paid full price for his tickets.
I was impressed.

Afterwards, Dawn introduced me to Sherwood.
He couldn't have been more complimentary about the play and my work on it.
He did a complete analysis on it that I, of course, thought was dead on.

As a result of that evening, Sherwood Schwartz could do no wrong.
And I'm very sad to learn of his passing.


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  1. My particular generation (I was born in 1961) didn't latch onto the original run of "Gilligan's Island", but rather the syndicated reruns. In the early 1970s, kid-friendly sitcoms (though I'm not sure they were actually concieved as children's shows)like Gilligan's Island, The Munsters, The Addams Family, and Mr. Ed played on UHF stations in the early afternoons, along with cartoons. In other words, you'd come home from school, watch Yogi Bear or The Flintstones, followed by what were essentially live-action cartoons like Gilligan. Instead of asking why, for a certain generation, Gilligan Island was so much more popular than Sgt Bilko (which I don't believe was widely syndicated in the 1970s, at least not in Cleveland), maybe the question should be: why was Gilligan so much more popular than Mr. Ed? I no longer remember! It just seemed the funnier of the two shows back when I was 8 years old.

  2. I believe Jim Backus was the only one of the cast who had a longterm residual arrangement (and a good agent) with GILLIGAN; he always referred to the series as "my annuity."

    I hope your recollection of Dawn Wells is favorable; I've had a 45-year crush on her.

  3. Dawn Wells was an absolute doll. Both personally and professionally.
    In my article "The Names Have Been Changed To Protect The Innocent", she was "Aurora".
    Pretty darned clever, hah?

  4. Thank you for preserving my long held admiration of her!

    Dawn, Aurora....a source of light whatever the name!



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Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."