HOLY SHIT! GILLIGAN IS DEAD!
Bob Denver, beloved by millions of couch potatoes, shuffled off this mortal coil to the big island in the sky on September 2. His death is something Mr. Surly has a hard time contemplating. How can someone who has lived for so long in reruns and the collective imagination of my generation be irretrievably gone? It tears at one's heart when the flesh and blood analog of a fictional character who has so profoundly influenced my peers passes.
Gilligan's Island will always remind me of my childhood and a safer, simpler time -- a time when there were only three television networks and you and all your friends all watched the same shows, not because you liked them necessarily, but because there was nothing else on. Everybody watched reruns of Gilligan's Island, Star Trek, Land of the Lost, Happy Days, the Munsters, the Three Stooges, the Little Rascals and probably a hundred others, creating a kind of forced community. Don't think so? Do you remember the episode where theatrical producer Harold Hecuba comes to the island and the castaways stage a musical version of Hamlet? Can you sing a few bars of "Neither a Borrower or Lender Be." If you're under 40, I bet you can. Bob Denver's death though is another reminder to me that childish things are now past for even my generation with its extended adolescence and a sure sign that my own mortality is waiting to meet me sometime in the future.
Though shared knowledge of bad television reruns is pretty lame foundation for any community, it is not the only thing that binds my peers together, it is simply the most common. If it were the only thing to bind us together though, I would defend it as better than nothing. Teens growing up today I suspect may have nothing that they ALL share. I sense that children who have the opportunity to pursue thousands of different competing niche interests, whose associations are determined by carefully arranged "playdates" are likely to share very little with the majority of children in their town, not even mentioning the nation. So I don't see today's teens shedding too many tears say when Ashton Kuthcher buys it (sooner rather than later would be OK with me) -- I don't think "Punk'd" is going to punctuate anyone's formative years. What does that bode for the future though? Is there still a common culture in America around which national communities can unite? Are we all just going to stay at home and watch pay per view, disconnected from the rest of society? I really don't know.