John Frost “Gilligan’s Island, Sign Language, and the What”

Published On May 22, 2016 » 858 Views»

john_frost“You can learn a lot by just watching”, said the great philosopher Yogi Berra.  

My talented friend Lisa Barry recently watched and learned from a lady who does sign language in church.  Lisa shares, “In order to ‘sign’ a song about passover, she has to start with Jerusalem, so she signs that first even though it’s not in the song yet.  THEN, she signs Jesus, which is her index finger sweeping across in front of her.  So the song makes sense with Jesus walking into Jerusalem.  Even though in the song Jerusalem comes second.

The fascinating part was when she said, with sign language, you have to start with the ‘what’ because otherwise, there’s no context to what you’re about to say.  You start with the ‘what’ and then you can give them the ‘who’ and ‘what’s happening’.”  

Sherwood Schwartz, the creator of many of the popular TV shows in the 60’s and 70’s including “Gilligan’s Island” and “The Brady Bunch”, told a remarkable story of ‘what’.  When he initially took the pilot for Gilligan’s Island to CBS it was rejected.   The execs told Sherwood that viewers would never understand why such an odd assortment of characters; a movie starlet in a long dress, an eccentric rich couple, a geeky scientist and a tomboy; were stranded on a desert island together.  “I’ll show you”, Sherwood responded defiantly, and he went home and wrote the now famous theme song that explained the ‘what’ in only sixty seconds. 

“Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale…..”  

Even the best stations in the format have to fight the assumption that everyone knows the ‘what’.  What does your station stand for?  What is its purpose and its vision?  How does ‘what’ you’re doing connect to the most important things in their life?  

“…..If the journey begins with the assumption that everybody here know what we are doing, you will eventually have an audience of people who already know what you are doing…..Where you consistently begin and what you consistently assume determine who consistently shows up.  Why?  Because your assumptions create the common ground for the journey.”  Andy Stanley, “Deep and Wide”


John is a partner in Goodratings Strategic Services, and has been a successful major market disc jockey and program director for such companies as CBS, Cap Cities, Westinghouse, Sandusky, Gannett, and Alliance during his 38 year broadcast career.  John joined Goodratings’ partner Alan Mason in 1999. Contact John  at john@goodratings.com 

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