Sometimes inspiration comes from the unlikeliest places. That was the case for Sherwood Schwartz, the creator of Gilligan’s Island. The famed writer and producer pitched the idea for Gilligan’s Island years after he finished his bachelor’s degree at New York University. A prompt given to the renowned producer during his undergraduate journey led to the creation of Gilligan’s Island. Schwartz wasn’t even planning on entering the entertainment business then.
A public speaking prompt inspired Sherwood Schwartz to develop ‘Gilligan’s Island’
Schwartz pitched the idea for Gilligan’s Island to CBS executives in the 1960s. They were instantly interested in it. The idea was certainly a unique one. In the show, seven people live together on a deserted island after their boat capsizes. The series was presented as a comedy but offered a detailed look at the complexity of different social statuses and how people can work together when needed.
Schwartz came up with the idea after remembering a prompt given to him by a professor at NYU. In his book, Inside Gilligan’s Island: From Creation to Syndication, Schwartz revealed that while he was an undergraduate student, a professor asked him to give a speech about one item he would bring with him to a deserted island. The exercise was to get students thinking, but that professor wouldn’t have guessed the prompt would lead to a cultural phenomenon like Gilligan’s Island. Schwartz didn’t think so either at the time.
Sherwood Schwartz didn’t plan to go into the entertainment industry
While a public speaking prompt helped Schwartz develop Gilligan’s Island, he didn’t initially plan to enter the entertainment industry when he entered New York University. He was set on becoming a doctor. A cast member had their sights set on medicine, too.
During an interview with the Writers Guild Foundation, Schwartz revealed that he had initially planned on becoming a doctor when he was accepted at NYU. He even entered the elite university as a premed student. There were hints along the way that medicine wasn’t his calling. Schwartz recalled that during a prerequisite English course, his professor suggested he leave his premed course of study. The teacher recommended becoming a writer instead. Gilligan’s Island was not yet on Sherwood Schwartz’s radar.
Schwartz wasn’t compelled to change paths, at least not initially. He even moved to California to pursue a master’s degree in medical science, hoping to garner a coveted spot in medical school. It didn’t happen, but he got his start as a comedy writer instead. From there, his career developed. While Schwartz never became a doctor, his son did. One of his four children became an ophthalmologist.