Alternate Universe

We often imagine how things might have turned out if instead of X, we’d done Y or Z, and so on.  Imagine how TV show Gilligan’s Island might have turned out with this cast:

  • Raquel Welch for the role of Mary Ann
  • Jayne Mansfield as Ginger
  • Carroll O’Connor as Skipper
  • Jerry Van Dyke as Gilligan, and
  • Dabney Coleman as the Professor.

Whoa.  In fact, all the above auditioned for those parts in the show, but were rejected.  And here’s Mary Ann in the alternate universe:

For the record, I’ve only ever watched a few episodes of Gilligan’s Island  because boredom, and not since because brain bleed.  With the above cast, I might have been tempted to watch more, and not just because of Raquel.

Here’s an exercise.  Put your favorite modern actors (at any age) into those roles, and imagine how the show would have changed.

Here are my suggestions, by way of example, which I think would have made the show not only more grown-up, but more watchable (and funnier):

  •  Helena Bonham-Carter for the role of Mary Ann

  •  Kate Walsh as Ginger

  •  Bob Newhart as The Skipper

  •  Robin Williams as Gilligan

…but I can’t beat

  • Dabney Coleman as the Professor.

Go on, it’s your turn (and it’s harder than you think).


  1. Trying to be period-correct here.

    Ginger – Ann-Margaret or Barbara Eden
    Professor – Bob Newhart
    Maryann – Donna Douglas or Sally Field
    Skipper – Lorne Green
    Gilligan – Don Adams
    Mr Howell – George Burns
    Mrs Howell – Gracie Burns

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