Sunday, June 30, 2019

Remember That Time The Harlem Globetrotters visited Gilligan’s Island?

Taking a fond look back at one of the weirdest — and, regrettably, lamest —  TV-movies of all-time

By: Jimbo X

Every now and then, we have moments in our lives were we question our own sanity. We see something so bizarre, so surreal and so unbelievable that we can’t help but wonder if our eyes are deceiving us. These are the sights that makes us wonder if we’re experiencing sudden onset psychosis, or perhaps suspect that our Shasta Tiki Punch soda has been spiked by mind-altering hallucinogens. These are those rare — extremely rare — occasions where we monetarily wonder if reality itself has been torn asunder, and that the basic laws of the universe have all of a sudden stopped dead in their tracks.

And for me, there may NEVER be an experience of the sort comparable to the summer of 1998, when — completely out of the blue — I stumbled upon The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island.

I’m about 12 or 13 years old, just switching channels on my 12-inch Sanyo. It’s a whirlwind of QVC, CNN and ESPN until, all of a sudden, I’m assailed by the singular vision of the Harlem Globetrotters playing basketball against giant robots while Gilligan and the Skipper cheered them on.

Needless to say … I put down the remote for that one.

Of course, conceptually, there’s been weirder things put on TV. But the sheer power of the visual positively floored by middle-school-aged ass. There’s no way this is a “regular” episode of the TV show, I remember thinking at the time. Of course, this was before the Internet was really a thing and you could just pull out your phone and type in “WTF are the Harlem Globetrotters doing on Gilligan’s Island” and figure out what’s going on in literally 10 seconds. And I sure as hell didn’t feel like putting it on The TV Guide Channel and waiting a good 10 minutes for the listings to scroll around to the right programming so I could find out what the hell was going on. So I just sat there, not really believing my eyes, as the goddamn Globetrotters played basketball against robots on Gilligan’s Island.

More like Ginger and the Fap-tain, amirite?
Folks, I can’t overstate how much of an impression this experience had on me. I honestly, legitimately, sincerely thought something “broke” during this episode. Like, either I had been exposed to some mind-fucking chemical leak or I had experienced a brain hemorrhage-induced mirage or aliens had taken over the local cable company and started showing us extra-terrestrial propaganda or something.

I think it was the very first time in my life I had ever seen something SO weird that I had a hard time accepting its existence as legitimate. Indeed, as a 30-year-old, I don’t think I can call to mind another episode that so frazzled my brain. Which sorta’ begs the question: does the whole package make some semblance of sense when taken as a whole, or is the entire TV-movie just balls-out, mind-breakingly bizarre from start-to-finish?

Well, all I can say is thank goodness for The Internet Archive and whichever person with way too much time on their hands decided to record the whole goddamn movie off TV and upload it to the Interwebs. Indeed, had it not been for the incredible foresight of some probable autist, the movie itself may have been lost to the ravages of time altogether. And for that, brave, unknown, unsung uploader, we here at The Internet Is In America is forever grateful for your sacrifice/Asperger’s.

The opening theme song is sort of an extended version of the classical theme, as it recounts the incidents that took place in the previous TV movie "Rescue From Gilligan's Island," with the lyricist letting us know that the Howells decided to return to the island to open up a five-star resort. We're then given a nice long gander at the cast, which includes all of the returning series veterans as well as the likes of Chick Hearn, Martin Landau, Scatman Crothers, David Ruprecht (a.k.a., that guy who hosted FUCKING SUPERMARKET SWEEP on Lifetime back in the day) and, of course, the classical Harlem Globetrotters line-up. The producers wisely wasted no time letting us know there are goddamn MARTIAN ROBOTS in the movie, too, as we're given a teaser of George the Robot and The New Invincibles right before the movie proper begins.

So Gilligan and the Skipper are hanging out on a hammock, and it doesn't take long for Gilligan to slapstick his way all over the set, fucking everything up for everybody. Oh, and in case you were wondering, this movie does indeed have a laugh track.

Cut to the Globetrotters taking a chartered flight to, where the hell ever, when all of a sudden their plane starts to malfunction. They make a bunch of references to Jaws 1-3 and then Scatman Crothers shows up and tells everybody the plane is going "due down," but the guys are taking it pretty well knowing their plane is about to crash into the ocean and they're all probably going to die and shit. From there, we cut to MARTIN LANDAU AND A FUCKING ROBOT talking about taking over Gilligan's Island and turning it into some sort of clandestine, black ops torture site or something along those lines. He tells the robot he found a new element called "Supremium" in a cavern on Gilligan's Island, which, of course, means he has to KILL EVERYBODY on said island to get it. Then those hot evil German blonde MILF comes out and shows a giant glowing rock that she says could power the entire state of Idaho for two months in the middle of winter. We cut back to Gilligan, who is using one of those Supremium rocks as a night lamp, naturally. Then George the Robot starts spying on him and DROPS A TARANTULA on his sleeping body, apparently with the hopes that it bites him and kills him and shit. Of course, Gilligan ends up dropping the spider on Skipper by accident, which gets you kinda' thinking, if the robot wanted to kill the two, why didn't he just zap them with a death laser or something? You know, or just stab them or poison them with carbon monoxide — I mean, just about ANYTHING seems like it would have been more efficient that sending MUH spiders after some niggas.

It's still more entertaining than watching the Spurs play, though.

We cut back to the Globetrotters, who are paddling an inflatable raft across the ocean when oh shit, the get attacked by the WORST looking shark prop in history, which they promptly defeat by feeding it basketballs. Well, shit, what else did you expect them to do? Then Gilligan starts complaining about the Skipper making him do all the shitty jobs at the resort, and then a bunch of hot white hos come out and Skipper says he doesn't mind checking out the latest weather report for them, because THAT's what gets you the pussy. So the Globetrotters finally land on an island of some kind, and I'm just going to take a wild guess here and assume it's an island of the Gilligan's variety. Then Gilligan runs around carrying two water buckets on a long pole and fucking up people's sand castles and we all laugh. Actually, we do the opposite of laugh, which is not laugh.

Now it's time to catch up with the Howells, including Thurston Howell IV, which I think was introduced in this TV special. So they turn on their television and there's a report on the missing Globetrotters, whom Mrs. Howell isn't aware of, because racism, probably. Eventually Gilligan stumbles upon the Globetrotters playing basketball with coconuts while Scatman Crothers sings "Sweet Georgia Brown" and they think he's some sort of wild animal and he gets chased back to the Howells' hut. Also, holy shit, does Ginger look hot AF in this special. If you thought Tina Louise was boner-inducing on the regular TV show, wait 'til you see Constance Forslund in this 'un ... you may or may not have to jerk, I'm not gonna' bullshit you. Then we go back to Martin Landau's evil lab where the Hot German MILF has distilled Supremium Juice out of the regular Supremium rock. She demonstrates its potency by dropping one splotch of the juice on a toy car and making it go super-retard fast. Then they decide to use George the Robot as a guinea pig, and after a Supremium juice injection he starts running around and crashing through walls like he was an android strung out on crystal meth and it's funny ... except it really isn't.

So the Howells decide to throw the Globetrotters a welcoming parade and the Thurston the IV acts like a Jew because the Globetrotters aren't paying for their stay. Then Ginger leads a Jazzercise class and she starts shaking her ass while wearing a fleshy pink spandex track suit and OHGODMUHDIKRIGHTNOW. She's like a proto-Catherine Hendricks 'cause her thighs or so big and she's got some big milkers. Fuck, why didn't I remember THAT part of the movie from when I was in middle school?

Oh yeah, the plot. So George the Robot is running around trying to do more sabotaging and whatnot and he tricks the professor into accidentally poisoning his plants. Then Ginger re-enters the scene and HNNNNGGG. Oh shit, I'm going to have to watch the entire Constance Forslund filmography now ... you know, for archival purposes. Then George calls Martin Landau and tells him that all of his shitty attempts to kill the inhabitants of Gilligan's Island hve been epic failures and then Gilligan and the Skipper try to put a wall together and hijink ensue. We finally get some exposition on Martin Landau's character, who apparently is one of Thurston Moore III's arch rivals, although Mrs. Howell is apparently thirsty for him. Then the German MILF asks the Professor to see "his facilities" and then Martin Landau bets $10,000 that it will become dark as night in the next minute. Apparently, there was a solar eclipse that afternoon the IV wasn't aware of ... that dumb motherfucker.

Now Gilligan is doing more wacky stuff, which culminates with him running into a robot doing laps in a rowboat at like, 100 miles an hour. Then Scatman Crothers eats a coconut raw and Gilligan challenges the Globetrotters to a game of eight-on-eight, and I LOL at Ginger's jersey listing her measurements on the back of it. Well, not you need me to tell you this, but the castaways get BLACKED by the Globetrotters bad, especially the part where Gilligan gets the ball stuck behind his shirt and runs around helplessly like a hunchback for a couple of seconds. Of course, Landau and the German MILF are spying on them, but we don't learn what their plans are quite yet. Cue a nightclub performance from Ginger, which, as I mentioned earlier, may or may not constitute nostalgic fapping material. So Landau tells Ginger he has a part for her in this movie he's producing but she's kind of on the fence about leaving all her friends at the island but she signs the contract anyway. Then the Professor says he's figured out Landau's scheme and that he's trying to kill 'em all. Then George the Robot says he'll give Gilligan $4 million and gold and diamonds to hand over the deed to the island, but he doesn't sign it so the android hogties him and leaves him a cave to die. Well, that's a lot more morbid than I was anticipating.

Well, when one team is made up of nuclear-super-powered robots, I suppose you have to let a little bit of traveling slide ...

Then Landau gets Mary Ann drunk and instead of raping her, tricks her into signing a contract handing the island over to him. Then the Skipper is hanging out with some blonde skanks, then the German MILF asks for his assistance. Wait, hold on, they just said her name is "Olga," so she might ethnically be Russian instead of German. Of course, my penis can't tell the difference between a Kraut and a Slav, so I guess there's really not much to discuss here. Then he and Landau play this really fun-looking board game with ships all over the place and he thinks he gets the high score on it and is more than happy to apply his John Hancock to a random piece of paper Landau hands over to him. Then the Skipper tries to fight the robot and he gets tied up in the cave, too. "Gilligan, you could never run out of sap," the Skipper says. Wait, is that a reference to semen? Because it might be. So Gilligan uses some cocount juice to free himself from the death trap and then he and the Skipper try to push a rock sealing the entrance to the cave. Except Gilligan is already OUTSIDE the cave, because he found this opening off to the side and ... you know, not even my smart-ass commentary can make this stuff funny, so I'm not even gonna' bother.

Then the German/Russian MILF tries to seduce the Professor with a grant and a lifetime subscription to Scientific American, but Gilligan stops him from signing the deed. Or, he would, if he wasn't sinking in quicksand. So the Professor has to rescue him, and then all of the castaways get together to discuss how they all get gypped by Landau and his cronies, and then Landau says that he's willing to give back control of the island to the castaways IF the Harlem Globetrotters can beat his team "The New Invincibles" in a basketball game.

Well, as described at the beginning of the article, the "New Invincibles" are these giant robot Martian motherfuckers fueled by cave juice with these humongous box heads that make them look like GoBots villains. Chick Hearn is doing the play-by-play duties for the contest, which makes the whole thing even more surreal. "They've got to have a weakness," one of the Trotters says, to which another responds "yeah, corrosion." That actually might be the funniest line of the movie so far, so that ought to tell you what we're working with here.

They do the player introductions, and if you know who any of these people are, you're in the great minority of humanity and are in fact probably *A* minority. So Landau is coaching/controlling the robots from the stands and Gilligan is still doing stupid annoying shit. They do the tip-off in slow motion and the Invincibles jump out to a quick 6-0 lead, thanks to those robots' keen ball-stealing abilities. Oh, and those robots are some cheating motherfuckers, too, with one of the bots tripping one of the Trotters. Also, LOL at the fat black ref, who is both black and fat. And also a ref.

Then the Trotters get hit with a double charge penalty and now the Invincibles are up 14-1. We have a montage of baskets and before you know it, the score is fuckin' 93-1. Now, I'm not saying they are making the comeback attempt in the second half REALLY unrealistic, but good shit.

It's officially the end of the second period, and Harlem is only done, I don't know, 100-3 or something like that.

So the Trotters decide to stop playing one defense and do the usual Globetrotters comedy shtick and they manage to cut the lead to 95-48 with their sports-entertainmenty antics. Of course, all of it requires a substantial amount of traveling the ref doesn't call for some reason, but come on, like anybody's expecting logic to rear its unwanted head at this point. Eventually, the Trotters' nonsense manages to tie the game up and two of their best players get kicked out of the game on technical fouls, including one for calling the fat, black ref fat, but not a black ref. Two players down, of course the coach has to put the Skipper and Gilligan in the game with just 20 seconds left in regulation. So the robots make back-to-back free throws to regain the lead 100-99. So the Trotters set up a three-man wall, the robots respond with a five-on-one on Curly, Gilligan gets the ball on an (illegal) rolling pass and the Trotters LITERALLY throw Gilligan through the hoop, while he's holding the basketball, to score the buzzer-beater. Alas, Landau and the German MILF claim to have hijacked all of the Supremium anyway, so it don't mean shit that they don't own the island no more. Then the Professor reminds them that Supremium is highly unstable, and what do you know, the ship carrying it fuckin' explodes right on cue, killing at least dozens of innocent shiphands. Then Thurston the III FINALLY shows up and he says the Trotters are free to stay at the hotel, at no charge, anytime they want ... just as long as it's off-season. Then Chick asks Skipper how he made the shot and he coolly says "practice" and then everybody gives them three hip-hip-hoorays and yep, that's the end of the movie, fellas.

Who says white men can't jump ... or be lawndarted into basketball hoops, for that matter?

Well, I guess you don’t me to tell you this, but that kind of sucked. Of course, I don’t think any of us really expected a cheesy, TV-movie from 1981 meant to cash in on the nostalgic appeal of an even older TV show to still hold up almost 40 years later, but I genuinely expected this to be way more entertaining. I mean, it’s the Harlem Globetrotters playing basketball against robots on Gilligan’s freakin’ Island — you have to go really out of your way to make that concept suck in execution.

Considering it was written by no less than four people, according to the Wikipedia, I guess it’s only natural that the entire premise would just deteriorate into pure crap. And not that you care, but the flick was directed by this guy named Peter Baldwin, who also directed a ton of TV shows like Sanford and Son and Benson and the 1997 Rodney Dangerfield vehicle Meet Wally Sparks, which gets no respect … primarily, because it’s a really, really terrible movie.

Regarding the cast, all of the TV show regulars — Bob Denver, Alan Hale, Russell Johnson, Natalie Schafer and Dawn Wells — all reprise their iconic roles, although Ginger was swapped out for Constance Forslund, who — as I’ve noted several times throughout this article already — makes my wee wee do interesting things.

The supporting cast, obviously, is astonishingly stagger for a TV-movie, with legit, all-time actors like Martin Landau and Scatman Crothers slumming through the material — no doubt at a time in their respective lives in which they REALLY needed the money. The German/Russian second-and-command was played by Barbara Bain, who's probably best remembered for her role as Cinnamon Carter on the original 1960s Mission: Impossible series, and if you’re ready to have your mind blown wide open like in Scanners, chew on this, folks: the guy inside the George the Robot suit was none other than Whitney Rydbeck — a.k.a, the guy who played ROY THE PSYCHO AMBULANCE DRIVER in Friday the 13th Part V!

But really,the MVPs of this movie have to be real-life-sports announcers Chick Hearn and Stu Nahan, who at the time actually were the play-by-play tandem for L.A. Lakers games (and if Stu’s voice and visage looks REALLY familiar, it’s because he’s the guy who played the commentator in the first five Rocky movies, too.) Everybody else in the movie may have been phoning in their performances, but these two days definitely brought their A-game to material everybody else onset clearly considered C-grade.

And I suppose I’d have to say something about the Harlem Globetrotters themselves, considering their name is in the title and all. Well, let’s just say the play basketball better than they act, and since none of these guys could cut it in either the NBA or ABA, they probably weren’t that good of basketball players to begin with. Needless to say — such material works far better in Scooby Doo form than live-action.

So yes, it may not be as mind-warping in context as it was back in junior high sans context, but I was plum disappointed by the overall product. I mean, it’s a movie about the host from Supermarket Sweep tag-teaming with Bob Denver and Curly Neal to beat the guy from North and Northwest and his army of cave-rock-powered robot basketball players … it’s literally the definition of a can’t-lose prospect, but the producers still somehow found a way to screw it up.

I’ve seen worse TV-movies, of course, but there’s no reason for this one to be as lame as it is. Still, it does have a few groan-inducing laughs, and the sheer weirdness of it all certainly keeps you glued to the screen, even though you know the story isn’t really going anywhere interesting.

But on the plus side? It’s got Constance Forlund, in peach spandex, doing aerobics exercises and shaking her mommy bags all over the screen in several scenes. And that, I assure you, is something certainly worth going out of your way to experience … whether or not said experience is of the one-handed or two-handed variety.


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