TGIF in September

In the wee hours of Thursday morning (or late Wednesday night), CBS aired the end of the Andre Agassi v. James Blake quarter final game. It was great watch – I don’t exactly understand tennis, but watching the game was fun. Agassi and Blake are such gracious players and great people. It was hard to decide who to root for – I rooted for both. Kudos to Agassi for ultimately winning, but they’re both winners in my book.

Hmm. This MSNBC article on the passing of Bob Denver (“Gilligan”) is very illuminating:

Gilligan… was industrious but inept. And his character was as lovable as he was inept. Viewers embraced the skinny kid in the Buster Brown haircut and white sailor hat. So did the skipper, who was played by Alan Hale Jr. and who always referred to his first mate affectionately as “little buddy.” [….]

“As silly as it seems to all of us, it has made a difference in a lot of children’s lives,” Dawn Wells, who played castaway Mary Ann Summers, once said. “Gilligan is a buffoon that makes mistakes and I cannot tell you how many kids come up and say, ‘But you loved him anyway.”’

Umm, what? Mary Ann had a last name? As the theme song goes: “Gilligan, the Skipper too, the millionaire, and his wife, the moo-vie star, the professor and Mary Ann, here on Gilligan’s Isle.” I mean, the only characters I always thought had last names were the Howells (Thurston Howell III, the millionaire, and Lovey Howell). Well, okay, so I was only a kid when I used to watch endless summer reruns of Gilligan’s Island; I mean, it never really occurred to me that “Skipper” wasn’t really the guy’s name, rather than his rank (like “Captain” or something). But, the article reveals that not only did Mary Ann had a last name, so did Ginger (Grant), and the Professor had a full name (Roy Hinkley, Jr.). This Washington Post appreciation of Gilligan by Paul Farhi notes:

(“Gilligan’s” creator, Sherwood Schwartz, set out to skewer that elitism from the start by naming the S.S. Minnow after FCC chairman Newton Minow, who had denounced American television a “vast wasteland.”)

Schwartz believed his tale of lost souls was a sly microcosm of the earth. His philosophical implication — if something so slight as “Gilligan” can be said to have a philosophy or implications — was that the castaways were humanity itself: seven disparate, archetypical humans (the smart one, the sexy one, the rich one, the girl-woman next door, etc.), flung together randomly and thrown into a hostile, inescapable environment with only their talents to contribute to a common good.

Denver, of course, played Everyman. The lovable loser, the bumbler. Schlemiel against nature. Week after week, you could count on Gilligan to foul up whatever complicated escape plan his fellow castaways had constructed. Not that he was malicious. Quite the opposite — he was good-hearted and loving, always concerned for the welfare of his fellows (remember: “If not for the courage of the fearless crew, the Minnow would be lost”). But despite Gilligan’s best intentions, cruel fate always intervened.

Farhi also noted that Gilligan’s full name was Willy Gilligan – Gilligan was his last name?! And the Skipper? He was Jonas Grumby. What? Weird, but not entirely inappropriate (grumbly ol’ Skipper yelling “Gilligan!”). Hmm.

And, then there’s this classic “Peanuts” in the newspapers of 9/8/05 (and originally published in Sept. 4, 1969), in time for the 1st day of school (for NYC kids anyway):

Sally is sitting at her desk; teacher is (as usual) unseen, off-panel.
Panel 1 – Sally: Yes, ma’am? My name?

Sally stands up, by her desk, still facing the unseen, unheard teacher. Sally looks stern.
Panel 2 – Sally: My name is Sally Brown, and I hate school!

Panel 3 – Sally stands still, looking at the unseen, unheard teacher. Deadpan. Silence.

Sally remains standing still, by her desk, still facing the unseen, unheard teacher.
Panel 4 – Sally: Please, don’t cry…

Poor teacher. 😉 Also, I swear this might have been among the rare instances where Sally actually uses her last name. I mean, Charlie Brown was always “Charlie Brown,” and Sally (although obviously she’s “Sally Brown”) was always “Sally.” (and, by the way, interesting that the Browns and the Van Pelts (Lucy, Linus, Rerun) are the only ones with last names; Schroeder, Peppermint Patty, Marcia, Franklin, Pigpen (and even the vanished Shermy) never exactly had last names, so far as I can discern from the Peanuts website.

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