Watching Gilligan in color

After reading Inside Gilligan’s Island (written by series creator Sherwood Shwartz – who, as it happens died just this month) several weeks ago, I checked out the first season on DVD from the library. It was fun to watch the old shows again, especially as my son Al enjoyed them so much also. Everything looked so familiar, it also brought to mind the cat-clawed red sofa I used to sit on (we called it a davenport, though I don’t know if it was made by the A. H. Davenport Company) and the braided rug on the living room floor.

After watching the entire season, Al remarked that he wished to could get the next season. Yesterday I brought that home from the library (it’s great what you can get through interlibrary loan), and Al and I watched the first three episodes of season 2. From what I had read in Shwartz’s book, I knew that it was filmed in color (the first season was filmed in black and white to save money until they were sure they had a hit). But it was still startling to see all those familiar scenes in bright colors.

I knew, growing up, that what I saw in shades of gray could be seen in color if you had the right kind of TV. Occasionally, as a visitor in other people’s houses, I would see a program in color and marvel at how different it looked. In our home, though, even a black and white TV was considered a luxury. Besides, my mother considered it a health hazard.

She believed – apparently in common with many parents of that era – that it was dangerous to sit too close to a color television. When my sister and I visited Uncle Morgan and Aunt Margaret (actually our father’s aunt and uncle), we sat a good deal closer to their color TV than she would have considered safe (I’m not sure their small living room would have allowed sitting that far away), but they didn’t seem to have any worries over the matter.

The drawback to a color TV, as far as I was concerned, was that it was hard to get the color adjustment right. Often the colors were too red – or not red enough, after you tried playing with the adjustment button. NBC might call it “in living color,” but it sometimes didn’t look all that lifelike. At least with a black and white TV you weren’t distracted by unnatural skin tones. I never owned a color TV until I got married, and I was pleasantly surprised then to find colors looked pretty good and rarely if ever needed adjusting.

Since I only saw reruns of Gilligan’s Island in black and white, it probably never occurred to me that people watching the same reruns on a color TV would see some in color, others in black and white. By the time we got a TV, filming and broadcasting in color was the norm. It didn’t occur to me that shows made just a few years earlier might have been done only in black and white.

Even expecting to see colors, it still came as something of a shock to hear the familiar strains of “The Ballad of Gilligan’s Island” and see blue water in the harbor. I knew that Gilligan would have a red shirt, and the Skipper a blue shirt, because Schwartz had praised the choice of those items of clothing that fit those two characters so well and became so closely associated with them. But the blue of the Skipper’s shirt was so bright! And what was Thurston Howell III doing in red pants? And, in another scene, a yellow jacket and hat?

I’m not sure I like these “new” colors. Would a billionaire really have worn such things? Would most people think that Mary Ann actually looked good in the orange outfit she wore for the Miss Castaway beauty contest? And that awful pink color of lipstick the women are all wearing! Was that considered a good color in the 1960’s?

I did read one customer review of the Season 2 DVD set that suggested the colors were off, somehow. The Skipper’s shirt was supposed to be navy blue, not royal blue, he said. And Gilligan’s shirt was too orangey. The review wondered if someone, trying to tweak the colors to make them more intense, had instead changed things so that the colors were actually altered.

I’d like to think that is the case. I don’t see how anyone could think orangey pink lipstick looks good. I’d be with Gilligan choosing Gladys the ape as Miss Castaway. Besides being a native of the island (as Gilligan points out, beauty pageants generally have a residency requirement), she’s probably pretty good-looking for an ape. And she isn’t wearing pink lipstick.

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