When I did last year's wrap up post, I was thinking that maybe it's time to hang up the feature, that I was running our of characters to highlight. After some long period of soul searching... okay, I really only thought about it for 15 minutes or so while I was in the shower the other day, I realized that I really doubt I will ever run out of characters to talk about. Between all the books, TV shows, and movies that I love and entertained me over the last 36 years of existence, that leaves me with so many options, I'm pretty sure I'll never be able to showcase all the characters that mean something to me. So here we are, another year and month starting, and I've decided to talk about characters from TV shows I grew up with, but were first aired before I was even born. It seems like this current generation of TV watchers, are missing out on some great shows, shows that in times gone by, would have been in syndication for years. So for today's featured guest, we need to go back to 1964-1967, when the castaways of Gilligan's Island first captured the nation's attention.
Though I was born nine years after the show first aired, I'm not sure there was any point of my childhood that Gilligan's Island wasn't being played on some channel at some point in the week. It was on before and after school. I could watch it on the weekends, or at night when it was time to go to bed. I would get lost in the same episodes over and over again, never getting bored with them. I enjoyed Gilligan's antics, the Skipper's loving gruffness, Ginger's sexuality, Mary Ann's flirty innocence, the Howell's endearing arrogance, but most of all, I loved the Professor's brains and levelheadedness.
The Professor, who is actually Roy Hinkley, was a high school science teacher who held multiple degrees in the sciences. He was in Hawaii to work on a book, Fun With Ferns, and had joined the pleasure cruise to gather notes for inclusion in the book. When the castaways were stranded on the island, it was really the Professor who had the knowledge to keep them from starving and allowed them to live in relative comfort. I'm not sure if his skills came from being an expert scoutmaster, from the numerous books he had on the boat at the time of the wreck, or the vast amount of knowledge that was stored in his head, no matter what, the others owed their lives to him.
Professor Hinkley never rubbed his superiority in their faces though. He was the one that kept them on course, never getting angry, even when Gilligan screwed up, which was often. He never put himself first, and was always thinking of the group. If anyone needed help, or was missing a comfort from home, the Professor would do whatever it took to make their lives better. Now he would usually do it by combining bamboo and coconuts in a new way, but he would make sure the job was done.
I've heard his detractors whine about the fact that the Professor was able to make a radio out of coconuts, but couldn't fix the boat or build a raft for them to escape off the island, but I say to them, bite it. First of all, they did try to build a raft, but when the used it, they discovered the island was surrounded by a ring of sharks that prevented them from using it to escape. Secondly, the island was a thousand miles from civilization. Nobody was willing to take the risk that the various attempts the Professor made to fix the boat, would actually work. It's much easier to trust his skills to make their lives comfortable, than for a repaired, broken vessel that may not survive another storm. A storm that was very likely to occur during the thousand mile trip. So for all those who thumb their noses at the Professor, I thumb my nose right back.