It was a sad day in America this week, as someone who changed a nation passed away to that pearly lagoon in the sky.

No, I’m not talking about William H. Rehnquist, although he too played a major role in shaping the nation that we’ve become. I’m talking about Gilligan.

Bob Denver, a.k.a. the Skipper’s Little Buddy, died Sept. 2 in a hospital in North Carolina with his family by his side. For years, the bumbling first mate of the Minnow entertained audiences with his antics, at first on a weekly show and for years on syndication.

Did he change TV as we know it? Probably not, but we mourn for Gilligan because he was an icon of a more simple life.

You could think I’m referring to the days he spent napping in a hammock or fanning Thurston Howell III and Lovey as they lounged on bamboo chairs sipping fruity umbrella drinks, but it’s much deeper.

Gilligan and his fellow castaways came from a time when TV was true entertainment ... at least some of it.

Every week, the Minnow’s crew would have to deal with some sort of crisis, whether it be headhunters, radioactive vegetables or meteors that had fallen from space.

On not one episode was there a hidden political agenda, although there were plenty of opportunities for such causes as, say, “Save the Whales,” “Protect the Rain Forest” or “People for the Ethical Treatment of Deserted Island Fruit Bats.”

Yes, Gilligan was from a golden era when a show could include some silliness without some group inciting an uproar by what was depicted.

At least, I don’t remember any lawsuits from youngsters building wings and jumping off a cliff, sniffing natural gas from a bamboo pipe in the ground or getting shocked from trying to change the battery in their coconut radio.

Today, there would be lawyers aplenty jumping on the chance to represent the Makemetonnaamoney tribe of Madagascar because of severe emotional distress from the depiction of the headhunter chief infatuated by Mary Ann’s pigtails.

Would Italians still have “Happy Days” or would they balk at the stereotype of the Fonz? Would women outcry en masse at poor captive Jeannie calling Maj. Nelson master? Could Barney still carry his bullet?

Odds are, those shows would be left on the cutting room floor of today’s offerings of reality fare and shove-every-controversial-issue-down-your-throat TV — although I bet “Petticoat Junction” would’ve made the cut in today’s world of Victoria Secret Fashion Shows in prime time.

Well Buffy, Jody, Cissy and everyone else, I reckon it’s just time to realize that very little TV programming in the future is going to be a “Family Affair.”

Farewell Little Buddy, we’ll sure miss you ... and the Skipper too.

TODD GARVIN can be reached at tgarvin@glasgowdailytimes.com or 678-5171, Ext. 234.

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