Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Year's Lessons from Gilligan's Island

Years ago, I bought a book - Worst Television Shows Ever (1980) by Bart Andrews. And Gilligan's Island was one of them. This 1960s sitcom was never expected to survive beyond its pilot. But it made it three years - as long as the original Star Trek - then spun off into infinity in syndication. The critics were wrong. Again. So there.

This dates me. But I remember Gilligan's Island before it went into the endless time loop of reruns. In its first season, one particular episode really spoke to me - Diogenes, Won't You Please Go Home? - and it still does some 45 years later.

Precursor to WikiLeaks?

Gilligan was hiding something and those nosy castaways just had to find out what it was. It was a diary. A secret diary. No big deal. Right? Then his fellow castaways got anxious. What if this secret diary were made public, kind of like the mini version of the WikiLeaks of the 1960s?

The Skipper worried that he would be blamed for the shipwreck and tarred as a bad captain - a career ender for him once they got off the island. The Howells and Ginger fretted about their reputations and public images. Perhaps Gilligan's stories would be fodder for the tabloids?

Each saw the worst of themselves and they were afraid of being exposed for who they really were. And they hated Gilligan for that. Yet, through their anger, the castaways attested to Gilligan's character of truthfulness and honesty.

What to do?

The solution. Spin. So the castaways worked on their own diaries, rewriting history to make themselves look heroic - larger than life. And when they would be rescued, their favorable record of events would be told.

Why the title - Diogenes, Won't You Please Go Home?

The Greek philosopher, Diogenes of Sinope, it was said had "searched with a lantern in the daylight for an honest man." He never found this man. But he found plenty of rascals and scoundrels.

The psalmist in the Old Testament beat Diogenes to it.

I said in my haste, All men are liars.
Psalm 116:11 (King James Version)

And in the 21st century, House echoes that same cynical conclusion - Everybody Lies.

We all had many centuries to think it over, and apparently the consensus agrees with the psalmist.

Back to this episode from the 1960s, none of the castways' stories (except Gilligan's) would have survived the "No Spin Zone" of Diogenes. And if Diogenes had found himself on their island - like so many others fantastically did - it would have been a waste of this cynic's time, so he might as well go back home.

At the end of the story, Mary Ann found the secret diary and leaked it to the others. Gilligan sincerely wrote complimentary things about his fellow castaways:

The Skipper - his bravery in keeping them safe during the storm and shipwreck
Mr. Howell - his humility though he was rich and famous
Mrs. Howell - her grace
Ginger - her inner beauty beneath the glamor

The Professor summed up their feelings to Gilligan: "We see ourselves as we are, but you see us like we would like to be."

For 2011 and into eternity - may we all put behind us our shortcomings and press ahead in becoming the men and women we would like to be and were meant to be.

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
1 John 3:2 (King James Version)

Question:  Is there any episode in a classic sitcom that has spoken to you?

Picture from Wiki Commons: one of the uninhabited islands of Lakshadweep


  1. Isn't that just how Jesus sees us? Great post.

  2. Thanks, Jan.
    I kept thinking about how Jesus saw Simon Peter.
    Peter say himself as a sinful man, but Jesus saw him as "the Rock."