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November 14: Living Together on Television

Lawrence Bush
November 14, 2016
Sherwood Schwartz, who created Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch television shows (and wrote the theme songs for both), was born in Passaic, New Jersey on this date in 1916. Training as a biologist in the late 1930s, he was brought onto Bob Hope’s joke-writing staff his brother, Al Schwartz, who worked for Hope’s radio show. Hope “liked my jokes,” said Sherwood, “used them on his show and got big laughs. . . . I was faced with a major decision -- writing comedy or starving to death while I cured those diseases. I made a quick career change.” Schwartz also wrote for The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and other radio shows, and television’s I Married Joan and The Red Skelton Show. Of Gilligan’s Island, which told stories of seven castaways on an island, Schwartz said in 1996 that he had always intended the show to deliver a social message: “It’s one world, and we all have to learn to live with each other.” The Brady Bunch, too, told the story of a “mixed” family (thanks to divorce/bereavement and second marriages); Schwartz conceived of the series when he read in the early 1970s that 30 percent of American marriages involved a child or children from a previous marriage. Schwartz lived to 94. “Schwartz weathered painfully dismissive reviews to see his shows prosper and live on for decades in syndication. Many critics suggested that they were successful because they ran counter to the tumultuous times in which they appeared: the era of the Vietnam War and sweeping social change.”--Anita Gates, New York Times

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.