May 15, 1981
The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island is the last made-for-television movie to reunite the entire cast of Gilligan's Island. It first aired on May 15, 1981 on NBC.
Two years since the Castaways opened their vacation resort, The Harlem Globetrotters are flying back to Los Angeles from overseas when a storm takes down their chartered plane. They survive the crash for a life raft and encounter a shark which they fend off with basketballs before sighting land and rowing ashore, not knowing it's the Island of the Castaways resort.
Meanwhile, millionaire J.J. Pierson produces a strange new element he calls Supremium to Olga Smetna, one of the scientists of his company. Found only on the island of the resort, the element is capable of producing incredible energy, and Pierson schemes to gain control of the island through the Castaways, who are silent partners in the resort.
By now, the Globetrotters thinking they're on an uncharted island have been found by Gilligan and welcomed into the resort. George, a robot prototype from Pierson's company, is sent ashore to sabotage and wreck the resort, loosening in a pin to the wall of Ginger's dance studio and tampering with the Professor's experiments with his plants. Pierson soon shows up on the island and engages Thurston Howell IV in a battle of wits. Gilligan soon meets George bringing Pierson's luggage ashore.
To get control of the island, Pierson lures Ginger into signing a phony movie contract and strong-arming Gilligan into signing away his shares before having George take him hostage. He also gets Mary Ann tipsy on champagne to get her to sign away her shares. Meanwhile, Olga tricks the Skipper into signing away his shares with promises of a job, but when he realizes what he's done, George takes him captive as well. She then offers the Professor recognition for his work, but by now, the Skipper and Gilligan have escaped and are too late to stop him.
The Castaways rush to tell Thurston to warn him, but Pierson won't sell their shares back. He wagers the fraudulent contracts against Mr. Howell's shares in a game between the Globetrotters and his robot basketball team, the New Invincibles. Sports broadcasters Chick Hearn and Stu Nahan appear as commentators, but by half-time, the New Invincibles are ahead 95 to 3. Having analyzed the New Invincibles schematics, the Professor finds them impossible to beat, but since they're not programmed to think, they won't be able to counter the Globetrotters crazy tricks. The second half has The Globetrotters running around the robots making basket after basket. Unfortunately, the referee pulls two of them out for unnecessary roughness. Gilligan and the Skipper are called in to replace them, and despite Gilligan freezing up at the basket, they win 101 to 100. Unfortunately, during the game, Pierson had all the Supremium mined out and taken to his ship. The Professor then informs Olga that Supremium is unstable out of its natural habitat just as Pierson's yacht explodes in a huge explosion, destroying all samples.
By now, Mr. Howell returns from his business trip on the mainland and checks on his son, congratulating him for his quick thinking and thanking the Globetrotters for saving the resort.
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- George The Robot.
- Gilligan freezing up at the basket.
- Bob Denver as Gilligan
- Alan Hale Jr. as The Skipper
- Jim Backus as Mr. Howell
- Natalie Schafer as Mrs. Howell
- Constance Forslund as Ginger
- Dawn Wells as Mary Ann
- Russell Johnson as The Professor
- David Ruprecht as Thurston Howell IV
- Martin Landau as J.J. Pierson
- Barbara Bain as Dr. Olga Smetna
- Scatman Crothers as Dewey Stevens
- Whitney Rydbeck as George the Robot
- Dreama Denver as the Howells' secretary
- Rosalind Chao as the Hotel clerk
- Chick Hearn as Himself
- Stu Nahan as Himself
- Constance Forslund replaces Judith Baldwin as Ginger. Forslund is four years younger than Baldwin and 16 years younger than Tina Louise.
- Cassandra Peterson, the actress better known as Elvira the Mistress of the Dark, was originally considered for the role of Ginger.
- Dreama Denver is the third relative of a cast member to appear on "Gilligan's Island." Henny Backus appeared in Gilligan's Mother-in-Law, and Patrick Denver appeared in V for Vitamins.
- In My Fair Gilligan, the Howells previously revealed they didn't have a son which makes Thurston Howell IV one of the biggest contradictions between the movies and the series.
- The movie was originally written as a vehicle for the famous Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, but it was retooled for The Harlem Globetrotters when the Cheerleaders became unavailable.
- The map of Gilligan's Island that Landau shows the robot is actually the map of the big island of Hawaii, flipped both vertically and horizontally.
- Because of health problems due to his Parkinson's, Jim Backus was only able to come and say a few lines in a brief scene in this movie.
- Considerations were made for Thurston Howell III to be recast, but Sherwood Schwartz refused adamantly to do so, feeling it would hurt Backus's feelings too much. Instead, he was simply written out, mentioned as tending to business on the mainland, with his son managing the island, replaced by David Ruprecht as the Howell's son Thurston Howell IV. Schwartz was admittedly impressed with Ruprecht's ability to maintain a Howell-like persona, without being an imitation of Backus. However, as filming was near completion, Backus called and insisted that he felt well enough to make an appearance, and Schwartz wrote him into a scene near the end.
- The day Jim Backus filmed his brief scene was a very emotional day on set, according to both Sherwood Schwartz and Dawn Wells. He was thin and very shaky as he said his few lines, but he still dominated his character as before. After he finished, he asked Dawn "Was I funny?", and she assured him that he was, but then burst out sobbing, heartbroken over his inability to tell. As Jim left the studio with his wife and caretaker, there was a thunderous applause for him, from the cast and crew, most of whom were in tears. Jim, who was also in tears, responded to the applause by blowing kisses to everybody before leaving.
- Unlike the first TV movie, which was naturally more dramatic and subdued, "The Harlem Globetrotters" contained a laugh track.
- The movie has yet to be featured on DVD.
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