- The Washington Times - Monday, February 2, 2004

Digital ‘Gilligan’

DVD owners can now sit right back and watch a tale that’s been amusing us for the past four decades.

“Gilligan’s Island: The Complete First Season” washes ashore today on DVD, priced at $39.98.

The series, which debuted Sept. 26, 1964, is celebrating its — gasp — 40th anniversary this year.

We all know the “Gilligan’s Island” story by heart, but few recall that the pilot featured several actors other than the now-familiar Russell Johnson (The Professor), Dawn Wells (Mary Ann) and Tina Louise (Ginger). It even used a meandering calypso-style theme song instead of the traditional ballad about “a three-hour tour” that’s been heard a zillion times since the show’s debut.

The “lost” pilot is but one goodie uncovered in the new boxed set. Also included are commentaries by show creator Sherwood Schwartz and cheeky tips on how to survive on a deserted isle.

All 36 episodes of the show’s early era — in crisp black and white before turning to color in its second season — are included in double-sided discs. The plots alone of the initial episodes are enough to inspire giggles.

Seen through today’s cynical lens, the shows are camp. The crew remains lovably eccentric, even if the jokes have aged poorly and the situations are inane in the best of episodes.

It’s also puzzling that Gilligan (Bob Denver) wasn’t quickly voted off the island for the greater good, given his proclivity to sabotage their rescues on a weekly basis.

Yet for all its imperfections, the show survives largely due to its innocence. Its broad character stereotypes mean no harm. Just imagine a show today with four men and three women trapped on an island with virtually no sexual tension or amorality. You can’t.

Tanner in ‘04

The Sundance Channel is resurrecting the “Tanner ‘88” miniseries just in time for the current presidential elections.

The satirical miniseries, created by Robert Altman and liberal cartoonist Garry Trudeau, premieres at 9 tonight, with subsequent episodes airing each Tuesday at that time through April 13.

The channel also will air new “fireside chats” with the series’ participants, from Michael Murphy and Cynthia Nixon (“Sex and the City”) to the series’ co-creators, reminiscing about the “campaign.”

“Tanner ‘88” follows a fictitious Democratic candidate, Jack Tanner, as he traverses the realistic terrain of the 1988 presidential campaign. Candidates vying for our votes that year included Richard A. Gephardt, eventual nominee Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Paul Simon, Joseph Biden and Bruce Babbitt.

The show also melded fact with fiction, rubbing elbows with Gary Hart and Bob Dole.

Kattan’s big jump

Ex-“Saturday Night Live” comic Chris Kattan is leaping past the usual big-screen comedy dreck for a chance to star with Nathan Lane.

Mr. Kattan will join the two-time Tony winner in “The Frogs,” a Stephen Sondheim musical opening July 15 at Broadway’s Vivian Beaumont Theater, the Associated Press reports.

For Mr. Kattan, a regular on the NBC late-night comedy series for seven years, the move would seem to be a step up from “Corky Romano.” The gifted comic also has appeared in such other stale Hollywood comedies as “Undercover Brother” and “A Night at the Roxbury.”

“The Frogs,” freely adapted from Aristophanes’ comedy by Burt Shevelove, has been further rewritten by Mr. Lane, who will star as the Greek god Dionysus. The plot concerns a frog-infested journey by Dionysus, accompanied by his slave Xanthias (played by Mr. Kattan), to Hades. The duo are in search of a famous writer who will help them save the world from destruction.

The production will be directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, who performed similar duties for “The Producers.”

Preview performances begin June 17.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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