Monday, November 21, 2016

Spoofing the Spies

"They're going to kill me for knowing too much. That's the first time I've ever been accused of that!"

Gilligan (Bob Denver)

One of the things I liked best about Gilligan's Island was the way the characters got to do spoofs on things and played other roles in addition to the ones they normally played. Sometimes the episodes were spoofs on familiar stories, like "Jack and the Beanstalk" and "Cinderella," and sometimes they were spoofs on the pop culture of the time.

That was what the episode that aired on this night in 1966, "The Invasion," was about. To be more specific, it was a spoof of the popularity of secret agents in the movies and on television in the 1960s. I guess that was a byproduct of the Cold War with James Bond on the big screen and I Spy and Get Smart on the small one.

On Gilligan's Island the plot was set up one day when Gilligan (Bob Denver) was fishing — and hooked a briefcase with the words "Top Secret" written on it. All the castaways wanted to see what was in it, but the Professor (Russell Johnson) prevented each one from opening the briefcase, which was presumably locked.

But at one point, the Professor pounded his fist on the briefcase and the top sprung open. The Professor immediately slammed the top shut — but not before observing that it contained files of secret military plans.

The briefcase had handcuffs attached to it, and Gilligan quickly handcuffed himself to the briefcase — before realizing he had no way to unlock himself.

And the Skipper (Alan Hale Jr.) noted that, whenever military agents came looking for the briefcase, they would find Gilligan attached to it — and assume he knew too much.

Later that night, while he was sleeping, Gilligan dreamed he was a secret agent (with the briefcase handcuffed to his wrist, of course) and most of the castaways were spies trying to get it from him. The one exception, as I recall, was the Professor, who played Gilligan's superior officer.

Mr. Howell (Jim Backus) played the head of the evil organization trying to get the briefcase from Gilligan, and Mrs. Howell (Natalie Schafer) played his assistant. Mary Ann (Dawn Wells), Ginger (Tina Louise) and the Skipper all played evil agents.

Some of the elements from secret agent/spy movies and TV shows that Gilligan's Island used in its spoof were:
  • In the dream, Mr. Howell was bald, just like the criminal mastermind in the James Bond movies.
  • Ginger said, "Sorry about that, Chief." If you have ever seen Get Smart, you know that was one of Maxwell Smart's catchphrases.
    Another one of his catchphrases was "Would you believe ..." Ginger used that one, too — but in another episode.