'Here's The Story' Of Sitcom Creator Sherwood Schwartz Sherwood Schwartz, who created the TV sitcoms Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch, died Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 94. Fresh Air remembers the TV producer and writer with excerpts from a 1988 interview.
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'Here's The Story' Of TV Creator Sherwood Schwartz

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'Here's The Story' Of TV Creator Sherwood Schwartz

'Here's The Story' Of TV Creator Sherwood Schwartz

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Sherwood Schwartz, who created the TV sitcoms "Gilligan's Island" and "The Brady Bunch," died yesterday in Los Angeles. He was 94. In addition to creating the series, Schwartz wrote their memorable theme songs.

Schwartz was waiting for acceptance to medical school in 1938 when he asked his brother, who was writing for Bob Hope's radio show, if he could try his hand at a few jokes. He forgot about medical school and was soon writing for Hope, then for the "Ozzie and Harriet" radio show. He shared an Emmy Award with his brother and others when he was the head writer for "The Red Skelton Show."

"The Brady Bunch" and "Gilligan's Island" were mocked by critics, but they were both big hits that had long lives in syndicated reruns. Schwartz once said he envisioned Gilligan's Island as a social statement, with the message that it's one world and we all have to live with each other.

Here's how one episode opened. Gilligan and the Skipper are lounging on the island and listening to the radio.



BOB DENVER: (Gilligan) Hey, Skipper, they want to hear the news?

Unidentified Actor: The ill-fated Minnow made the headlines again today.

DENVER: (as Gilligan) The Minnow? The Minnow? The Minnow?

ALAN HALE: (as Skipper) Yeah?

DENVER: (as Gilligan) He said The Minnow.

HALE: (as Skipper) What? What is it?

DENVER: (as Gilligan) He said The Minnow.

HALE: (as Skipper) The Minnow?

Actor: Yes, the Minnow, a small charter vessel which carried five passengers and a crew of two. Today, a maritime board of inquiry sought to fix the blame for the loss of the vessel and passengers.

HALE: (as Skipper) Worst storm in history, that's what it was.

Actor: At the conclusion of the hearings, the maritime board decided that the captain of the ship was solely responsible for the disaster.

HALE: (as Skipper) The captain of the - me? Gilligan, they're blaming me.

Actor: It was a clear case of dereliction of duty. Fortunately, there are a few captains of charter vessels who are as completely incompetent as...


HALE: (as Skipper) Oh.

DENVER: (as Gilligan) Where are you going?

HALE: (as Skipper) I can't face anyone. I mean...

DENVER: (as Gilligan) No, Skipper...

HALE: (as Skipper) It's all my fault.

DAVIES: Terry spoke to Sherwood Schwartz in 1988.

TERRY GROSS: Now, the network was concerned that if you didn't explain within the story the premise of "Gilligan's Island" each week that the audience would be lost and they wouldn't understand why there were seven castaways that couldn't get off this island. You suggested that you could take care of that by writing a theme song that would open the show each week that would explain the whole story. That was a very clever idea, I think.

SHERWOOD SCHWARTZ: Well, it was a way to do exactly what they feared, which is dead, dull exposition. You could satisfy that particular requirement of why they're there and why they can't get off and so forth with a bouncy theme song.

GROSS: You suddenly found yourself having to overnight deliver to them a theme song. So before you came up with the song that we actually hear now on "Gilligan's Island," you wrote another song. And I was wondering if I could get you to sing the lyrics for the first song that you wrote.

SCHWARTZ: It was a Calypso song.

(Singing) Tourists come. Tourists go. Tourists rocking to and for.

It was like that. It was Harry Belafonte time, certainly not Sherwood Schwartz time.


GROSS: So instead you ended up with a parody of a sea shanty.

SCHWARTZ: Exactly. Exactly.


WELLINGTONS: (Singing) Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip that started from this tropic port, aboard this tiny ship. The mate was a mighty sailin' man, the Skipper brave and sure. Five passengers set sail that day for a three hour tour, a three hour tour.

The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed. If not for the courage of the fearless crew the Minnow would be lost, the Minnow would be lost.

The ship set ground on the shore of this uncharted desert isle with Gilligan, the Skipper too, the millionaire and his wife, the movie star, the professor and Mary Ann, here on "Gilligan's Isle."


GROSS: "Gilligan's Island" was taken off the air pretty suddenly. And I guess you didn't even have time to do a rescue episode. That means you were able to a few years later do a special two-hour rescue. But in hindsight would you have preferred doing a half-hour series ending?

SCHWARTZ: The real point is that it was better the way it turned out because when I did the two-hour show called "Rescue From Gilligan's Island," the fact that I didn't do a final episode allowed me to make a comeback with that show which led to two more two-hour shows and I'm currently negotiating for a show called "Gilligan's Island: the Second Generation," which is about the sons and daughters of the original castaways.

GROSS: And how do they end up being castaways themselves? Or are they maybe, am I being presumptuous?


GROSS: Are they not castaways?

SCHWARTZ: No, you're being correct.


SCHWARTZ: Thurston Howell IV takes Ginger's daughter and Gilligan's son and the Skipper's son and they all set out to find the island where their parents had spent so many years. And they themselves...

GROSS: And oh-oh...


SCHWARTZ: And as you laugh, and rightly so, a storm comes up and they find themselves on this island. But they're rescued by their own parents.

GROSS: You also wrote episodes for "Ozzie and Harriet." So maybe you can answer the question about Ozzie that everyone in America always wanted to know. What did he do for a living?

SCHWARTZ: He made a lot of money.


SCHWARTZ: Which is a good thing to do for a living. No, I wrote that show in radio.

GROSS: Oh. Oh, oh.

SCHWARTZ: I didn't write it in television.

GROSS: So you're off the hook.



SCHWARTZ: He didn't have a job in radio either.


GROSS: Maybe I'm being presumptuous here, but you strike me as someone who grew up in an urban area, Jewish, and here you were creating the prototype for what became the ultimate suburban goyish sitcom.


SCHWARTZ: So I'm told.


SCHWARTZ: Yes, it's a, you're talking about the white bread "Brady Bunch?"

GROSS: Well, that, too. Yeah. I was even thinking about "Ozzie and Harriet."

SCHWARTZ: Look, I have trouble. My rabbi insisted that it would've been a better name "Goldstein's Island." What's wrong with that?


SCHWARTZ: Or "The Bernstein Bunch," for that matter.


GROSS: And why didn't you write "The Bernstein Bunch?"


SCHWARTZ: Above all, I feel I am commercial in the sense that I like my work to appeal to many people, and that's my satisfaction. So, to aim at the biggest, broadest base of audience, you're better off doing "The Brady Bunch" than "The Bernstein Bunch."

GROSS: Well, let me thank you for talking with us.

SCHWARTZ: Well, thank you very much.

DAVIES: Terry spoke with Sherwood Schwartz in 1988. He died Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 94.

Here's the first version he wrote of the "Gilligan's Island" theme.


USA: (Singing) Two secretaries from the USA, sail on the Minnow this lovely day. A high school teacher is next aboard, all taking trip that they can not afford. The next two people are millionaires. They got no worries, they got no cares.

DAVIES: For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies.


DAVIES: (Singing) ...relaxing on deck on this little ship. The weather is clear and the sun is hot. The weather is clear? I think it is not. Tourists come. Tourists go. Tourists...

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