Wells was very fortunate, of course, in being cast in Sherwood Schwarz‘s oppressively stupid, inexplicably popular sitcom, which except for two or three episodes I’ve avoided all my life. Okay, I may have watched five or six.
Everyone loved Maryann — the perfect tropical island fox. (Will I get re-cancelled for using that insidious term? Would it help if it was meant ironically or historically, as a verbal comment on a remnant of a bygone age when “fox” was an acceptable term of flattery?)
Born and raised in Nevada, Wells was 25 or 26 when that Sherwood Schwartz series began in ’64 (the first season was shot in black-and-white), and 29 when the show breathed its last. 98 episodes in all.
The difference in the quality between the insipid Gilligan’s Island and Bob Denver‘s previous series, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, was night and day. Credit is due, I suppose, to Schwartz for inventing and selling the idiotic concept, but the writing on the Gillis series (’59 to ’63) was 20 times better than the plotting and patter on Gilligan. Cavalier wit, cooler personality.
Why didn’t Maryann and Russell Johnson‘s professor become a couple? They could’ve had kids. How did the Gilligan characters happen to bring along such huge wardrobes (or even a suitcase) when they were only enjoying a three-hour cruise off the coast of Oahu? Why didn’t the professor build a surfboard for Maryann?
Speaking of beaches, why weren’t there more scenes in which Maryann and Tina Louise‘s “Ginger Grant” would lounge around in brightly-colored floral print bikinis and soak up rays? (Now I’m really gonna be re-cancelled.) Why didn’t Gilligan learn to surf? Or the skipper for that matter? Did everyone have their own outhouse or did they share? How did they arrange for running water again? The show wasn’t even interested in any kind of hand-made Swiss Family Robinson ingenuity.
What was the basic metaphor of Gilligan’s Island? TV sitcoms become hits because they touch a chord of some kind. Gilligan‘s chord had something to do with capturing the insular mindset and complacency among the American middle-class in the mid ’60s. Nothing about living on a remote island (and one without toilets or hot running water, remember) altered how they thought and lived. The castaways might have just as well been residing in a condo community alongside a golfing fairway in Scottsdale.
Wells certainly had her moment in the sun. I was sorry to read that things were difficult for her a couple of years ago — her Wiki page says that a GoFundMe page was set up to help Wells cope with financial challenges.
Johnson, by the way, died in 2014 at age 89.