“Talent Show, My…(Whistle)!”
I wasn’t super excited to write about this one, I admit. The storyline for “Too Many Girls” revolves around an often used plot device: Davy is in “love.” On the plus side, writers were obviously aware of it and making fun of it themselves; using a well-established trait of Davy’s to drive the story. Similar to “Success Story,” the conflict is about the possible loss of Davy as a band member. The best part is the talent show – that’s the centerpiece and most memorable sequence. The teleplay was written by Dave Evans, Gerald Gardner, Dee Caruso, from a story by Dave Evans. The episode aired on December 19, 1966, and James Frawley directed.
The opening scene is the Monkees rehearsing, and I do love it when they have story elements about them as a band. The actors are actually playing this bit of “Stepping Stone” that you hear. They had just returned from a two-week promotional tour of the series, in September of 1966, when they started production on this episode, so the four of them were probably very used to playing together by now. Davy spaces out during the rehearsal when he sees a girl. The object of his affection is Valerie Kairys; it’s always fun to spot her in an episode.
The Monkees that are not love-struck get rid of Valerie, and Davy snaps out of it and starts playing the maracas solo. He realizes what’s happened and makes a vow to the others: “no more girls.” Mike, who dominates in this episode with his efforts to keep control of things, wants to hold Davy to his word. Davy doesn’t even get through the vow before he’s locked eyes with yet another girl. Micky, Peter, and Mike find young women stashed all over the apartment and they escort them all out. They think they’ve found them all and collapse against the door, but when they look up, there’s Davy, surrounded by all the girls.
The Monkeemobile screeches to a halt on the street. Our villains of the episode, Mrs. Badderly and her teenage/young adult daughter Fern, watch the Monkees from outside the tea room. Mrs. Badderly, says “the little one is Davy. He’s English. He likes tea.” But how did she know they were pulling up just then? Holy cow, maybe she really is psychic.
These women plan to swindle Davy, but not for money this time. Mrs. Badderly insists Fern needs Davy as a partner for a show business career. Davy’s such a sweet guy. I’m sure if Fern had just asked him to be her partner for the talent show, he would have said yes. No need to trick him. But that’s not enough, as Mrs. Badderly wants Fern to have a career with Davy. She’s on the phone with Mr. Hack, assuring him that Fern has an act for his TV amateur show. Mrs. Badderly has pepper and a nail and tells Fern to do as she says, laughing manically for good measure.
The Monkees conveniently decide to patronize the tearoom. Ms. Badderly goes to their table to read their tea leaves. She “sees” that Mike’s a musician, composer, and raconteur. Micky does a W.C. Fields impression to add that Mike “also contains lanolin and won’t upset your stomach.” (I enjoy noting Micky’s various impressions. Unlike Locksley, he is a master.) Mrs. Badderly also sees that Mike’s about to have a flat and Peter will come down with a 24-hour virus. Fern sprinkles pepper on Peter’s coat and presumably off-screen she stuck that nail in Mike’s tire. It’s easy to predict the future when you create it. I’ll have to give that a try.
Now the hook: Mrs. Badderly tells them that Davy will fall in love within 24 hours and he’ll leave his friends and home over it. Davy denies the possibility, but she says the tea leaves “never lie.” There’s a stand-up sit-down gag as the Monkees stand politely when she leaves the table. The score of violins crescendos whenever they stand. I suspect they used some of this music again in “Son of a Gypsy.”
Practical Mike’s not buying any of this. He goes on about the silliness of believing tea leaves as they approach their car, which indeed has a flat. When Peter starts sneezing, Davy reasons that’s two predictions and asks big brother Mike if his will come true too. Mike stuffs Davy into the back of the car and starts blowing up the tire with his mouth. In addition to being a “musician, composer, and raconteur,” his spit patches nail holes.
At home, Mike forgets he doesn’t believe Ms. Badderly’s predictions. He wants to keep Davy isolated from women for 24 hours. Davy says, “that’s half the world.” The other Monkees ignore Peter’s obsessive freak-out about “half the world” with half a globe. Mrs. Badderly and Fern have stalked the Monkees back to their home, and Mom pressures Fern into continuing with their nasty plan to break up the Monkees.
Now begins the series of scenes where Fern becomes a worthy opponent for the Monkees, borrowing their tactics of changing voices and disguises to get Davy alone. She is a bunch of different girls, trying to figure out which one can ensnare Davy. I wish there were more characters like her. The Monkees rarely came up against anyone their own age. Most of the baddies are older, established authority figure types. It would have been fun to see them in conflict with more girls like Fern, or competing with other bands that were their equal in antics. That said, Fern is acting on her Mother’s instructions.
First, Fern shows up at the Monkees door as a curvy and mature looking Girl Scout. With a squeaky voice, she pretends to sell cookies, hoping to get to Davy, but they quickly shut her out. Micky says, “Girl Scout my…” and the soundtrack helpfully fills in the implied “ass” with a whistle. Micky’s mouth didn’t say it, he just stopped at “my.” (Different than “The Devil and Peter Tork” when they’re all clearly mouthing the word “hell” that gets bleeped out.)
The next day, I assume, since they’re all wearing different shirts, they send Davy upstairs when they hear a knock at the door. It’s Fern posing as a passport photographer. Micky foolishly says yes to her, and she takes a picture of the three of them with a turn-of-the century camera, which magically gives them turn-of the century costumes for a second. The flash blinds them and she rushes upstairs to find Davy. Mike quickly stops her, trying hard to keep control of this situation. The boys show her the door.
Davy is tired of being confined and he starts to lose it, but Mike is firm with him. Davy argues they’ll have to tie him down if they want to keep him inside. Mike and Micky exchange glances and Mike makes a comical face, ridiculously pleased with the idea.
Mike, you da man in this episode. They chain Davy to a chair and give him the TV to keep him occupied. When the others leave, Davy gets a “special delivery” note under the door. He makes an excited “whoop” and leaves, dragging the chair outside. The other Monkees find the note and tell us that it’s an invitation to judge a beauty contest, the ideal lure for Davy. Off they go to try and catch up.
Two funny sight gags as the Monkees search. The first is on the street when they ask a group of strangers which way he went; all of them point in different directions. I’d love to hear how that conversation went, “Have you seen a little guy chained to a big chair? He’d be sort of dragging it?” They think they’ve found Davy, but it turns about to be…another identically dressed guy, also dragging the same chair. This had me falling of my chair laughing.
Davy arrives, not at all suspicious that the pageant is at the same tea room where they met Mrs. Badderly or that there’s only one contestant. It’s Fern, disguised in a cave-girl costume and long brown wig. This is the scene with the blurring where her bikini would be, due to NBC-TV Broadcast Standards and Practices (the same standards that didn’t want anyone to see Barbara Eden’s belly-button on I Dream of Jeannie, or any woman’s navel on Star Trek). YouTube has an uncensored clip, with some full body shots of her. On my DVD, they go right to a close-up of her face. In the context of the un-blurred version, Davy’s expression changes from “stunned” to “turned-on.”
The couple hears music every time they touch. Davy think it’s love, but it’s Mrs. Badderly in the next room with a record player. Davy says “I’m Davy Jones, and I think I love you.” (Wrong show, Davy, “I Think I Love You” is The Partridge Family.) The Monkees arrive too late. Mrs. Badderly comes out and Davy “introduces” her to Fern. She reads Fern’s tea leaves and tells her she’s going to be a great success on a television show with Davy. Fern coaxes Davy into helping her. The Monkees sit in Davy’s chair to stop him. But…
That was pretty hot – rubber chain or no. [I noticed that Davy’s shirt is designed to resemble a straitjacket – Editor.] Davy, Fern and her blurry body leave, and the Monkees sit in the chair and sulk. The phone rings and some unseen person [Frawley, I presume – Editor.] pushes it out to them. After a little hand-over-hand contest, Peter answers. Who picks up the phone in someone else’s place of business? The Monkees, that’s who. It’s Mr. Hack calling Mrs. Badderly to say that her daughter and Davy are scheduled to appear last on the amateur hour. Peter hangs up and relays to Mike and Micky. They all realize “her daughter and Davy!” They’ve been had again.
Now comes the part I’ve been waiting for: the talent show. The other three Monkees are at Mr. Hack’s televised Amateur Hour, performing under aliases to cause some trouble, as usual. Very nice Dickensian naming convention for Mr. Hack by the way. Although it’s also a reference to Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour. First up is the Astonishing Pietro. Peter is less than competent as a magician, but he gets the best line: “You’ll notice that my fingers never leave my hand.”
Mr. Hack announces “very gifted folk singer” Billy Roy Hodstetter. Mike gives a flustered performance of his own composition “Different Drum”. Hats off to him for this awkward self-parody, and he even mocks his own wink to the camera. I always loved “Different Drum” even before I knew Nesmith wrote it. This episode debuted almost a full year before the Stone Poneys’ version and this probably played even funnier once the popular version of the song was known.
Locksley Mendoza: “Master of Impersonations” is up next. This is Micky as a comedian, being so unfunny, he’s back to funny again. All his impersonations sound exactly like his Cagney. While he does his act, Peter and Mike put rocks in Davy’s pocket and replace his dance cane with a rubber one. Peter helpfully tells the camera what they are doing. Mike gets Davy’s attention and sprays him with something to mess up his voice.
Davy and Fern go on stage to do a song and soft-shoe number, but Davy can no longer sing or keep up with her dancing. She screams at Davy, storms off stage and goes to her mother, who comforts her. A little contradictory, as it seemed at the beginning she was being pushed into this plot by her Mother, and now it seems like she wanted this to work. Davy is surprised to learn Mrs. Badderly is Fern’s mother.
Mr. Hack says there will be one more act after these words from our sponsor. The three Monkees let us know it’s “our” as in The Monkees sponsor. Mr. Hack advertises a product called SDRAWKCAB, which is Backwards, um…backwards. The last act is The Monkees, who play “I’m a Believer” (Neil Diamond) in beige Monkees shirts. Fern keeps crying to her Mom and, speaking for all the foes of the Monkees, Mrs. Badderly says:
Mike tells Davy that Fern and her mother were conning him. Davy blames himself for believing in the tea leaves. The winners of the contest? Davy and Fern. What? It’s not the Monkees? This is an outrage! Like in “Your Friendly Neighborhood Kidnappers,” the Monkees have unfairly lost a contest. As Davy said in “One Man Shy,” it’s not how you play the game, it’s whether you win or lose.
Of course the Monkees are never allowed to succeed in show business, but at least they didn’t lose Davy. It’s a more realistic plot-line, similar to “One Man Shy” where the story depends on character conflict and not high adventure, as in an episode such as “The Spy Who Came in from the Cool.” “Too Many Girls” isn’t as funny as some but there are a couple of laugh-out-loud moments. There’s also a central irony. Fern and Mom trick Davy into thinking he’s in love, because Davy’s always looking for love. He didn’t really love Fern, but he’s not in love with any of these girls anyway. The opening scene set that up very well. He gets infatuated with the next girl and the next girl and the next…He’s in love. For the very first time today.
by Bronwyn Knox
Every couple of weeks, “Monkees vs. Macheen” examines the crazy, spirited, Ben Franks-type world of the Pre-Fab Four: David Jones, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork alias The Monkees.