Not to be a brand stickler, but when a “castaway” collapses from an apparent heart attack during the premiere, it’s hard to see how this misbegotten “Survivor” clone dovetails with TBS’ “very funny” slogan. No matter, though, since the idea of transforming “Gilligan’s Island” into a reality show is surely an attention-grabber, which is all the semi-desperate network hopes to achieve. In fact, can’t wait for the next generation of sitcom reality — say, “The Real Bosom Buddies,” a perfect companion to the channel’s “He’s a Lady.”
“Gilligan” creator Sherwood Schwartz earns an exec producer credit for providing the title, but rest assured, this is Mike Fleiss’ show. Moreover, project comes at a time when the producer could use a hit, with “The Bachelor” needing a dose of Nielsen Viagra and most of his other concepts (anyone remember “Are You Hot?”) having been voted off of television.
The problem is that once you get past the title, there’s really no show here, nor — beyond whimsical music that works overtime — is there any comedy. What’s left, then, is a group of annoying people who, for much of the first two hours, sit around bickering. In terms of any sort of emotional investment in these cartoon “characters,” well, fuhgeddaboutit.
The big twist involves having parallel teams of castaways competing to see who stays and goes, which meant finding two pseudo-movie stars (Rachel Hunter and Nicole Eggert) to be “Ginger” and suffer along with everyone else.
The tension, such as it is, mostly arises from one of the millionaire’s wives, Donna, an abrasive homophobe (one “professor” is openly gay) who bears more than a passing resemblance to a blond Kaye Ballard. In a true achievement, she manages to make her counterpart — former KTLA entertainment reporter Mindy Burbano, now Mindy Stearns — seem relatively appealing.
Memo to KTLA’s Sam Rubin: As long as you don’t turn up in “The Real Leave It to Beaver,” all is forgiven.
In true “They Shoot Reality Contestants, Don’t They?” fashion, a brief wakeup call comes when one of the pseudo-Skippers faints and “turns blue” after the first physically demanding “challenge,” which, if memory serves, was lifted directly out of “Survivor.” Yet it’s not clear what transpired or how serious the episode actually was, and the image of emergency personnel is fleeting at best. In Fleiss’ world, the apparent mantra is “We edit, we decide.”
Whether anyone at TBS feels particularly good about being associated with such nonsense, the network is emitting what amounts to its own distress signal that, loosely translated, reads, “Notice us, please notice us!”
Given the absurdity of the concept, viewers will inevitably be lured in occasionally by the promotional value of such high-profile stunts. Yet unlike the inhabitants of “Gilligan’s Island,” “real” or imagined, the audience TV can happily escape such a desolate wasteland with a mere flick of the remote control.