Russell Johnson, “The Professor” of Gilligan’s Island, died today at 89 years old.
Gilligan’s Island means more to me than most. As my first ever TV obsession, it’s the one that started it all. I don’t actually remember my life before Gilligan’s Island– sure I remember life events, but I count my intense connection with certain TV shows as a defining characteristic of myself. Russell Johnson, as Professor Roy Hinkley, is a major part of my childhood.
I started watching Gilligan’s Island on Nick at Nite at the age of 10. It was the first time I invested myself in TV; the first time it truly became something I wanted to talk about. From Gilligan’s Island, my interests spiraled to other shows before my time: The Facts of Life, Three’s Company, Get Smart, Cheers. I was a weird little kid. While girls my age went to see Drew Barrymore, Lucy Lui, and Cameron Diaz as Charlie’s Angels, I was talking about Jaclyn Smith, Farrah Fawsett, and Kate Jackson. I was “old TV show” obsessed back then, and it took years for me to get on board with current TV. Even today, I prefer shows that are over. I want to consume their entirety. Gilligan’s Island was the first of many, but still the first; that makes it significant to me.
Russell Johnson, thank you for being part of something that made me laugh, gave me something to look forward to, and help shaped the person I am today. You’ve left being a legacy rich of pop culture references about coconut phones.