Would my life have been better or worse without Sherwood Schwartz? I ask that because–unlike thousands of others who work in television–his contributions really did impact my life. As a kid, I watched every episode of Gilligan’s Island, and even when I had seen a particular episode before, I would still watch it again anyway. I guess I had nothing better to do.
For some reason, the episode where the castaways were spelling out “S.O.S.” with burning logs for a spacecraft flying overhead, but Gilligan’s bumbling turns it into “SOL,” which happens to be one of the astronaut’s names, sticks in my memory more than it should. But there were a hundred other episodes just like it, and I would still watch any of them, to this day. If I still watched much television, that is.
But the theme song is what really made Gilligan’s Island unique. I remember going on my first field trip at school, in Mrs. Hasara’s kindergarten class, and on our way we started singing the Gilligan’s Island theme song. The memory of how cool that was is still with me nearly four decades later (although “cool” isn’t how I would have described it until the Fonz came along). Remember the scene where John Candy led a group of strangers in singing the Flintstones theme in “Plane, Trains, and Automobiles”? It was like that, but with five year olds.
Gilligan and the rest of the castaways would have been enough to cement Sherwood Schwartz’s place in TV history, and in my own life as well. But then he followed it up with The Brady Bunch. Are you kidding me? The two shows I probably spent the most time watching as a kid, and the same guy was responsible for both? Amazing.
So back to my original question: Did Sherwood Schwartz make my life better or worse? Better, in the sense that I still carry all of these memories around with me as a grownup, and because all of the “What have you learned today?” moments that Mike Brady had informed my worldview on some level? Or worse, because I could have spent all those hours at something more constructive than following the lives of characters I had nothing in common with? Reading books, maybe? Developing a talent for something? Really, almost anything might have been better than feeding the television beast.
In the end, the fact that Sherwood Schwartz had such an impact on my life is remarkable enough. Television was the medium I grew up with, for better and for worse, and his stamp on that medium is beyond question. And when you can say that, then it’s been a life well-lived.