I didn’t watch Gilligan’s Island for Gilligan. I watched it for The Professor.
Actor Russell Johnson, in character as The Professor, was my first television crush. I liked his haircut. I liked his simple, button-down shirt, open at the collar, with the cuffs casually rolled up once or twice. I liked the fact he was smart, but also rugged, in an academic kind of way — a bit like a white collar Indiana Jones.
In contrast to the other characters, who were little more than cartoons, he was handsome and grounded and reliable. His creativity (radios made from coconut shells, powered by a stationary bamboo bicycle?) couldn’t get them off the island, but it certainly made their stay there more pleasant.
And there was also his voice: deep, erudite, reassuring. I was too young to understand all the implications at the time, but something about that voice struck a chord with me. If VCRs had existed back when I was devoting hours and hours to watching that show, I would have fast-forwarded through the scenes with Skipper, the Howells, Mary Anne, Ginger, “and the rest” and watched nothing but the scenes featuring The Professor, just to hear that voice.
I can recall a much younger and more innocent version of Little Mark thinking that being shipwrecked all alone with The Professor wouldn’t have been a bad thing at all.
The Professor finally left the island yesterday. He was 89 years old.