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Sherwood Schwartz: The Brains Behind Gilligan and the Bradys

Published: 7/12/2011
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Sherwood Schwartz (Wikimedia Commons/Nicolj)

With news of the death of Sherwood Schwartz comes a flood of TV memories. Schwartz was responsible for two of the most popular shows of the 1960s and ‘70s, writing and producing Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch.

These two classics almost lost out to a career saving lives – Schwartz planned to study biology and dreamed of curing diseases. But he got sidetracked along the way and ended up writing jokes for Bob Hope. This led to a writing gig for The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, and before long, he was putting together a script for one of the most iconic TV shows of the ‘60s, Gilligan's Island. Five years later, The Brady Bunch debuted.

If laughter really is the best medicine, maybe the career choice was for the best.

While critics didn't always love Schwartz's shows (to state it kindly), he defended them as good entertainment that didn't rely on dumb jokes. He was proud of what he saw as richly-drawn characters and quality writing.

Though the premise of Gilligan's Island was a bit ridiculous, the characters were classic and the jokes well-written. And the children on The Brady Bunch faced realistic problems that were of genuine concern to young viewers – in Schwartz's words, "the difficulty of being the middle girl; a boy being too short when he wants to be taller; going to the prom with zits on your face."

The fans concurred, both at the time and long afterward. Each show had a modest run – three seasons for Gilligan's Island and five for The Brady Bunch – and both have lived on for decades through syndication, spin-offs and movies.

In an era when writers struggle to return good comedy to airwaves dominated by reality TV, Schwartz will be missed. But his comedies and their well-known theme songs (Schwartz wrote the songs as well) will live on.

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