Today is the 104th birthday of the screenwriter and producer of some of my favorite TV show reruns as a kid: Sherwood Schwartz. The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.
NAME: Sherwood Schwartz
OCCUPATION: Screenwriter, Television Producer
BIRTH DATE: November 14, 1916
DEATH DATE: July 12, 2011
PLACE OF BIRTH: Passaic, New Jersey
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California
REMAINS: Buried, Hillside Memorial Park, Culver City, CA
EMMY The Red Skelton Show (1961)
TELEVISION HALL OF FAME (2008)
HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME 6541 Hollywood Boulevard
BEST KNOWN FOR: Sherwood Schwartz was an Emmy Award-winning screenwriter and creator known for the comedy classics Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch.
Famed television producer and writer Sherwood Schwartz was born on November 14, 1916, in Passaic, New Jersey. Schwartz created two of TV’s most enduring comedies, Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch. He got his start in 1939, working as a writer on Bob Hope’s radio show. During World War II, Schwartz served in the U.S. Army and wrote for the Armed Forces Radio Service.
While the concept for Gilligan’s Island may have been a bit high-brow, the comedy itself was usually of the slapstick variety. The kind, but bumbling Gilligan (Bob Denver) was always getting into some type of trouble, much to the Skipper’s dismay. And for allegedly uncharted island, the castaways had the most unusual visitors, including a jungle boy, an adventurer, a movie producer, a surfer and two Russian cosmonauts. While many critics saw the show as fluff, audiences loved it. The show ran for three seasons.
Schwartz’s next series, It’s About Time, premiered in 1966, but was short-lived, lasting only a season. It featured two astronauts who accidentally end up returning to Earth during the Stone Age. Comedy legend Imogene Coca played one of the prehistoric people that the astronauts encountered. Tackling a simpler premise, Schwartz fared much better with his next effort, The Brady Bunch. Debuting in 1969, the show looked at the life of what would be called now a blended family. Carol Brady (Florence Henderson), a widow, had three daughters from her first marriage while her new husband, Mike Brady (Robert Reed), a widower, had three sons from his first marriage.
The Brady Bunch drew much of its humor from the everyday events related to this familial merger. For instance, in one episode, the kids get into a squabble over the phone so Mike installs a pay phone. Another episode was about a family camping trip with the girls pitted against the boys—in fact, the “battle of the sexes” appeared as a theme in a number of episodes. The Brady Bunch ended its original run in 1974, but was revived briefly as The Brady Bunch Hour in 1977. It also inspired the 1972 animated series, The Brady Kids.
In many ways, The Brady Bunch was a family affair for Schwartz. His son, Lloyd, was a producer on the series and his son, Elroy, wrote a number of episodes for this show as well as for Gilligan’s Island. Both Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch have enjoyed great success in syndication for years, with generation after generation tuning in the reruns of these classic shows. For fans of the show, they have been able to see their favorite characters again through a number of television movies over the years, including Rescue from Gilligan’s Island (1978), A Very Brady Christmas (1988) and The Brady Bunch in the White House (2002).
With help from son Lloyd, Schwartz transformed his beloved island sitcom into Gilligan’s Island: The Musical. It debuted in 1992 at the Flat Rock Playhouse in North Carolina. His daughter and her husband, Hope and Lawrence Juber, wrote the production’s score. The next year, another play by Schwartz, Rockers, also premiered at the Flat Rock Playhouse.
In 1995, Schwartz helped breathe new life into the Brady Bunch franchise with a big screen adaptation of the show. The Brady Bunch Movie starred Shelley Long and Gary Cole as Carol and Mike Brady. Set in modern times, the Bradys remained true to their wholesome, squarish 1970s selves, which caused much hilarity as they interacted with contemporary characters. The film was so popular that spawned a sequel, A Very Brady Sequel (1996) to be exact. Schwartz served as a producer on both projects along with his son Lloyd.
More recently, the Gilligan’s Island concept was used as the basis for a reality show. Beginning in 2004, The Real Gilligan’s Island ran for two seasons on the TBS cable channel and featured real-life skippers, millionaires, and others working in teams and competing to get off the island and win prizes.
Sherwood Schwartz died in Los Angeles, California, on July 12, 2011, at the age of 94. He was survived by his wife, Mildred, and four children.
WRITER AND PRODUCER:
The Bob Hope Show 1938–1942
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet 1940s
The Alan Young Show 1940s
I Married Joan 1952–1955
The Red Skelton Show 1956–1962
My Favorite Martian 1963
Gilligan’s Island 1964–1967
It’s About Time 1966–1967
The Brady Bunch 1969–1974
Dusty’s Trail 1973–1974
Big John, Little John 1976
Harper Valley PTA 1981–1982
Together We Stand 1986–1987
Author of books:
Inside Gilligan’s Island: From Creation to Syndication (1988, nonfiction)
Brady, Brady, Brady: The Complete Story of The Brady Bunch as Told by the Father/Son Team Who Really Know (2010, media studies)