Monday, March 06, 2017

Too Much Ginger

Apparently one of the ways the castaways on Gilligan's Island entertained themselves was through free concerts given by Ginger (Tina Louise), the only castaway in show business.

Now I never got the impression that Ginger was a singer. I always thought she was an actress — after all, the show's theme song called her "the movie star" — and whenever she spoke of the movies in which she had appeared, they never sounded like musicals.

But in the episode, "The Second Ginger Grant," that premiered on this night in 1967, Ginger was singing on a makeshift stage accompanied by music played on a turntable that had been made from material on the island (presumably by the professor, who had many talents but still couldn't figure out how to patch the boat so they could return to civilization). Mr. Howell (Jim Backus) operated the turntable, and the other five castaways sat in the audience listening to Ginger.

I guess Ginger didn't perform too frequently. The castaways had been on that island for nearly three years, and they seemed to be enjoying her show, which would probably be unlikely if they had heard her perform on one–tenth of the nights they had spent on the island. It is hard to imagine Ginger's repertoire having been expanded any during her period of forced isolation so each concert was bound to sound like the ones that had preceded it.

Nevertheless, as I say, the castaways seemed to enjoy the performance and applauded enthusiastically when it ended. Mary Ann (Dawn Wells) was jumping up and down and applauding. She stumbled over a rock and fell backwards, striking her head. When she regained consciousness, she believed she was Ginger.

Until the Professor (Russell Johnson) figured out how to resolve the problem, it was decided that they had to humor her. Ginger had to assume Mary Ann's identity with a brunette wig and the country girl clothes Mary Ann tended to wear (both she and Ginger brought far more clothes with them than one would expect on an ostensibly three–hour cruise). Meanwhile Mary Ann continued to live out her fantasy of being Ginger.

Ginger took over Mary Ann's duties on the island, including the cooking. Mary Ann apparently was a good cook, but Ginger warned her fellow castaways that "I may look like Mary Ann and walk like Mary Ann, but I still cook like Ginger Grant. Sorry about that."

Being a few inches shorter than the real Ginger, Mary Ann soon noticed that all her clothes were too long — she concluded it must be because of the tropical weather — so she set about altering them — much to Ginger's dismay.

(A little observation here. It was never mentioned how Ginger managed to fit into Mary Ann's clothes.)

Mary Ann was up all night cutting Ginger's dresses so the real Ginger felt free to hang up the laundry without wearing her wig. But Mary Ann surprised her by not sleeping as late as expected.

When Mary Ann saw the real Ginger and her red hair, she passed out. The castaways could not shake her from her trance, which the Professor said was a traumatic shock brought on by seeing the girl she thought she was. He had read of similar cases being treated through hypnosis. He was reluctant to try it, but he realized he had no other option.

He tried to use hypnosis to make Mary Ann believe she was Mary Ann, not Ginger. But it backfired in a big way. When Mary Ann was brought out of her hypnosis, she still believed she was Ginger. And Gilligan (Bob Denver), who had been observing through an open window, did believe he was Mary Ann.

That set off a delicious segment of mistaken identity.

When Gilligan had been restored to his normal self, the Professor came up with what he believed would be the solution to their problem. They should ask Mary Ann to put on a show for them. Mary Ann wanted to be Ginger, but Mary Ann had no talent. Being unable to perform would create a huge conflict in her mind, the Professor said, allowing "the real world of Mary Ann to push out the dream world of Ginger."

So that was their strategy.

And it worked. She tripped on the stage, fell, struck her head and was Mary Ann again when she regained consciousness.

That is a plot device that has been used many times in various forms over the years. It is basically the idea that if one sustains an injury that has a profound influence on him/her, sustaining the same kind of injury a second time will kind of jar everything back to the way it was. It's a plot device that Gilligan's Island used more than once.

I think it gives people a false idea of what is — and is not — possible. That is a dangerous mindset when you're dealing with the human body. That approach is always going to work in the make–believe world of TV. Not so much in the real world.

But, anyway ...

I have heard it said that "The Second Ginger Grant" is one of Wells' favorite episodes. And why shouldn't it be? It gave Wells a chance to spread her wings a little more than usual. She even did her own singing — which she did not do in the episode in which she, Ginger and Mrs. Howell (Natalie Schafer) formed an all–female band to intimidate a visiting band into returning to the States earlier than planned — and taking the castaways with them.

But that is another episode.