One of the most popular sub-genres in the manga and anime mediums is the harem romantic comedy. That is to say, instead of your standard romantic comedy of one male and one female lead, you have one male, and multiple females co-stars. (The reverse is also possible, but those are few and far between). Normally, the male protagonist is a nebbish, unpopular guy who had been up to this point, extremely unlucky in love. It is nothing short of wish-fulfillment, since each female is beyond gorgeous. The problem I have is trying to explain this genre to new fans because there are no American equivalents. The closest we have is the classic comic strip Archie, except that franchise has rarely stressed the romance angle. For a live-action example, the closest example I could think of is Baywatch, except that David Hasselhoff is not nerdy enough. Or perhaps, I Dream of Jeannie, if Major Nelson had multiple genies.
There aren’t many American sit-com in which the male lead was a hunky heart-throb. Family Matters had Urkel, but he was an Ascended Extra. Scrubs had J.D., but even he had a certain amount of charisma that would make the audience believe that he could have a hot girlfriend every now and then. The closest anti-charismatic lead we ever had on US television is Bob Denver. (Sorry Bob, but it’s true). It’s far from being a match, but if retooled, Gilligan’s Island could be turned into a harem-like romantic comedy.
All of the elements we need are already there. We have the perfect cast of characters that only need minor tweaks. Gilligan is the one character that needs no adjustments. Since the original Ginger and Mary Ann are the prototypes, there is hardly any reason to make major changes to these two. The only thing needed is for them to be seriously attracted to Gilligan for little to no reason at all. In the original series, they only flirted with Gilligan once in a while just to kill time. We’ll just ramp it up a notch or three. Mr Howell does not need much changes. American TV already has a tradition of having the rich guy being the foil, and almost every 80’s teen movie thrived on it. The Skipper and the Professor need slight adjustments. Their characters will have to be devolved down to one-dimensional. Especially the Professor, who can not be seem to be more mature or desirable than Gilligan. In a harem romantic comedy, the male lead ca not have any prospective rivals. The Skipper was already part of the comic relief, but now he will have to be teamed up with the professor to become Those Two Guys.
I know what you’re thinking, “but what about the plot?” The best part of this re-tooling is that w don’t need a plot. The original series didn’t have much of one. And this genre isn’t know for strong story arcs either. Comedies usually depend on keeping the status quo. Character development, usually a staple of anime, need not apply here.
Now that I explained the harem comedy genre, it’s time for me to give some recommendations for the novice fan. Comedies are very suggestive, so most fans will just advise you on the first one they’ve seen. Obviously, all of these come with a YMMV disclaimer. The first series that is usually credited as the prototype is the 80’s classic, Urusei Yatsura (translation = “Those Obnoxious Aliens”). This series was created by the woman who later gave us Ranma 1/2, and Inu Yasha, the former is also part of this list. The first harem series aired on US television is Tenchi Muyo! (Disclosure: this was one of the two Gateway series for me into anime, so I’m partial to this franchise.) The 90’s had two series that became gateways to the Gen-Y audience: Saber Marionette J, and Love Hina. I can go on and on, since the formula is still very popular in Japan. This is just a starting point.