19 July 2006 | theowinthrop
How to wreck a successful sit-com combination.
I admit that I do like GILLIGAN'S ISLAND. Idiot show that it was, the cast (despite rumors of personality clashes) blended perfectly and the stories, while predictable, were funny. And I suspect that I have the support of most television viewers about this. When I watched the antics of Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr., Jim Backus, and the others I never expected it was the equivalent of Shakespeare, but I normally felt humored after 30 minutes.
GILLIGAN actually lasted three years on television in terms of new episodes (except for a couple of television movies in the late 1970s), Bob Denver moved on to a now forgotten comedy THE GOOD GUYS with Herb Edelman and Joyce Van Patton (and later Jim Backus, as Edelman's disapproving father-in-law). It lasted two years. Then Denver got offered this show. Regretfully he accepted it.
I have pointed out that there have been only three really good western sit-coms that have popped up on television: MAVERICK, BEST OF THE WEST, and F-TROOP. There were also two others of mediocrity only: PISTOLS 'N PETTICOATS and RANGO. But DUSTY'S TRAIL makes RANGO (whose sole asset was Tim Conway) look like it was written by William Congreve or George Bernard Shaw or Oscar Wilde.
Basically DUSTY'S TRAIL replaced the situation of Gilligan, the Skipper, the Howells, Mary Ann, Ginger, and the Professor being on that deserted island, and put Gilligan and the Skipper, the Howells, and Ginger into a stagecoach going west. Now the central idea of GILLIGAN'S ISLAND was the isolation of the castaways on that island, and how they face weekly threats to their existence. It works, oddly enough (still does on a serious note - the reality show SURVIVOR is identical to it, in that the last one to "survive" has not been voted "dead" and off the island by the others). But this can't be transferred to a stagecoach going through the American West of the 1870s. How can it? You have threats (natural disasters, buffalo stampedes, Indian wars, bandits), but you have plenty of settlements to go to. The writers tried to make it similar by making "Dusty" (Denver) a woefully inept guide. It's not quite the same thing. Moreover, although Forrest Tucker was a good actor (and even a good comedian) he was not as properly fussy as Alan Hale Jr. was in GILLIGAN'S ISLAND.
I saw it twice, and mercifully have forgotten the content of the episodes. Because I like Tucker and Denver I am giving this a "4", but only for them.