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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Goodnight, Professor

Back in the early 1980s the first thing I did after returning home from school was to turn on the television and watch Gilligan's Island reruns. It remains one of my favourite shows, for under its slapstick patina lies...well, a lot more slapstick, silly puns, sight gags and tomfoolery - but also a fair helping of social satire. Critics called it a tremendously dumb show back in the day, but I watched the series on DVD again a few years ago and I think it holds up tremendously well, mostly due to its use of classic archetypes extremely well-played by the talented cast.

The Professor, aka high school teacher Roy Hinkley, was my favourite character. Everyone on the island had their foibles, the Professor included, but of all the castaways he had the clearest head, the most common sense, and of course the smarts to get the other castaways out of whatever jams they'd gotten themselves into that week. Thanks to the Professor the castaways had all the comforts of home - record players and washing machines and even a car made out of coconuts, bamboo and whatever other natural resources the island could provide. While the other castaways were superstitious (sometimes to crippling degrees), the Professor demanded rational explanations - and he was pretty much always right. Calm, collected and kind, the Professor was one of my childhood heroes.

Today Russell Johnson, the actor who brought the Professor to life, passed away at age 89. Like many fans around the globe, I'm grateful for the laughter and inspiration Johnson's portrayal provided; he made a lot of people happy, and that's a great legacy for anyone. I don't believe in an afterlife, but nonetheless I'd love to be wrong, for I like to imagine the Professor enjoying a genuine tropical paradise somewhere out there in the great beyond. 

1 comment:

"Jeff Of Command, Part II" said...

Reading this, I suddenly got hit with a flash of insight. The Log Lady's husband died, and his spirit (arguably) became interred within the piece of wood she is compelled to carry.

Josie Packard died of heart failiure, and her spirit, too, is trapped in a piece of wood.

Next time you are under a palm tree, be sure to look up and wink. HINT: if the Professor had any knowledge of The Black Lodge, he's right now trapped in a coconut.

In any case, The Professor was one of my favourites, too. His re-runs will live forever.