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 V.13 No.50 | December 9 - 15, 2004 

Idiot Box

Little Buddy, Big Disappointment

“The Real Gilligan's Island” on TBS

I don't know whether I've told you this or not, but “Gilligan's Island” is the perfect television show. It is the shining, golden stupidity to which all Idiot Box offerings aspire. So, when TBS announced that it would be producing a reality show remake of the classic sitcom, I was ... let's call it intrigued.

The show debuted last week to impressive ratings, but I'm forced to admit I'm slightly less than impressed.

The show strands two groups of people on a tropical island. Each group is designed to mirror the seven castaways as featured on Gilligan's Island. There's Gilligan, the Skipper, the Professor, the Movie Star, the Millionaire, His Wife and the Kansas Farm Girl. Each role is filled by an actual professor, an actual millionaire, an actual movie star. (Although casting model/Rod Stewart arm candy Rachel Hunter--who starred in ... um, Boys Klub, TripFall and the TV movie Larva--may be pushing the definition of “movie star” a bit.)

Each week, the two teams are pitted against each other in assorted island competitions that seem like they've been ripped directly from the first season of “Survivor.” In fact, the entire show seems like an exact copy of “Survivor,” right down to the lovely high-speed shots of clouds gathering over the sunset. Just like “Survivor,' the losing team has a member booted, and the winning team gets some luxury (bedding material, fishing supplies).

Somewhere along the line, somebody forgot that “Gilligan's Island” is a comedy. “The Real Gilligan's Island” is a standard-issue back-stabbing reality show cavalcade of whiners. Where are the laughs? Where are the pratfalls? Where are the Harlem Globetrotters?

“TRGI” at least has the distinction of digging up reality TV's biggest bitch du jour. Millionaire's Wife Donna Blevins easily snatches the crown last held by Omarosa on “The Apprentice.” Sure she's fun to hate, but what TV executive actually thought her foul, nonstop homophobic comments (directed at one of the Professors) constituted entertainment? Until she and her hubby were booted off the show, her boorish comments seemed to dominate almost every moment of the show. (“At least I won't have to be stuck on an island with a gay person,” she announced in one of her more brilliant pre-ejection rants.)

As a reality show offering, “The Real Gilligan's Island” is at least as intriguing as a bad season of “Survivor.” (Say, “Survivor: Africa.”) But it fails to deliver on its premise. Aside from the costumes contestants are forced to wear, the show has basically no connection with the original. If the contestants aren't forced to cope with goofy witch doctors or Mars landers or Kurt Russell as Jungle Boy, what's the point?

“The Real Gilligan's Island” airs every Tuesday night at 6 p.m. on TBS.

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