Here and Hereafter: Sherwood Schwartz, 94
People come and go. Today we note the passing of Sherwood Schwartz, creator/producer of “Gilligan’s Island” and “The Brady Bunch.” Those who watched these extremely popular television series — “Gilligan” was a mid-60s slapschtick hit; “The Brady Bunch” a corny family show that ran five seasons until 1974 — will appreciate the Washington Post obit that refers to Schwartz as “TV’s master of memorable cheese.” As one who avoided both shows like the plague, I am yet moved by how Mr. Schwartz described the earlier series, set in a time-warped imaginary place he called a “social microcosm”:
“I knew that by assembling seven different people and forcing them to live together, the show would have great philosophical implications.” Mr. Schwartz compared the “Gilligan’s Island” experience to what would “eventually” happen in the Middle East, when “the Israelis are going to have to live with the Arabs.”
Kudos to Sherwood Schwartz for such powerfully cockeyed, yet sincere optimism. In my world, Gilligan, the Skipper, Ginger, Mary Ann, the Professor and the millionaire couple played by Jim Backus and Natalie Schafer are, in a word, one person, living in a 7 bodies, in a time that now seems tinted by a rather sweet, uncomplicated homogeneity. The real world is far more colorful, challenging and dangerous. I wish there had been Asian Americans on the Island, or people struggling with disabilities; I wish the Brady kids had played with African American kids, or had to compete with Muslim or Hispanic youth for those jobs they seemed to get so easily. Yet, for what it’s worth, the life’s work of Sherwood Schwartz — who was born in Passaic NJ in 1916 and died in Los Angeles CA on July 12, 2011 — expressed one of the most important Old School Rules: let’s try to get along.