Monkees Vs. Macheen: “Monkees on Tour”

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“Is It Live or is It Memorex?”

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“Monkees on Tour” has no storyline; it’s a documentary of the Monkees during their 1966-1967 North American tour. Most of the episode was filmed on January 21 and 22 in Phoenix Arizona and San Francisco. Writer and director credits go to Robert Rafelson and the episode aired April 24, 1967. According to IMDB trivia, Bob Rafelson filmed the concert on his own, without permission from NBC or Columbia studios, because he wanted to end the first season “on a different note from other television shows.”

The episode opens with Davy thanking the viewers for all the things that have happened to them this year. He’s sitting in a rocking chair on the Bewitched set and has shorter hair then we saw in season one. The Monkees set up that we’re going to watch what happens to the Monkees on the night of a concert. Micky, Peter and Mike remove Davy from the set and out the back door. This sequence was shot after the tour portion in March 1967 and was filmed on 35mm. The concert parts of the episode were filmed on 16mm.

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Micky, Peter, and Davy are wearing fake beards over their real beards. They grew those beards during the recording of the Monkees third album Headquarters which took six weeks to record from Feb-March 1967. According to the VH1 Behind the Music episode on the Monkees, six weeks was a long time by the standards of the day. (Shout-out to John Lorinc for sharing the Behind the Music link with me a few months ago.) The significance of Headquarters is that it was the first album they truly made as a group, writing and playing most of the instruments themselves and away from the influence of former music supervisor Don Kirshner. It was the #1 record on the US charts for one week before being bumped by the Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. If you are going to be bumped by something, it might as well be that. As a fan, I have to say that many of my favorite Monkees songs are on this album. I’m looking forward to hearing the more of the tracks from Headquarters as I start to recap season two.

Back to the show, the Monkees arrive at their tour destination in a plane. Kids scream, chant for the Monkees, and talk about how excited they are to see them behind a chain link fence. The Monkees stir the crowd up, touching hands and signing autographs before getting into a car and driving away. The audio and the film is really pretty bad. I don’t have the new Blu Ray; I just don’t have that kind of disposable income, so when I say that it’s bad, I’m talking about the DVD version, and what’s available on IFC and Antenna TV. I’ve read that the Blu Ray of this episode in particular is a great improvement. It’s frustrating to have bad audio on an episode that focuses on music.

Next is film of the Monkees doing random things. There are shots of them showering and getting ready and then having breakfast. Micky is sleeping and gets a wake-up call from Peter. In the DVD commentary for this episode, Peter Tork mentions that they were improvising and doing shtick “just as fast as we could.” There’s a cute bit where Davy imitates Roy Kinnear in the “fiendish thingy” scene from Help!:  “I am picking the sandwich up. I am putting the sandwich in my mouth. I am biting the sandwich.” 

More footage. Davy plays with a swan [Editor’s note: You shouldn’t mess with swans!].  Micky signs autographs and imitates a smiling robot. Peter, Davy, and Micky go horseback riding without Mike. Micky is without shoes. Peter asks if the horse is a boy or a girl because “your hair is as long as mine”; a little comment on the type of reactions long-haired young men might have gotten at the time. Davy wants to know if the horse has ever wanted to ride a person.  Mike, Micky, and Davy go to radio station KRUX. This was a Phoenix top-40 radio station back in those days and they sponsored the Monkees concert that evening. At the station, there’s a lot of crazy quick edits, including a shot of the disc jockey tied up on the floor and the Monkees messing with the dials. Mike gives the farm report again, like he did in “Monkees at the Circus.”

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The record, “Mr. Farmer” by The Seeds, spins on the turntable as they cut away from the radio station. More random footage set to music, this time Mike Nesmith’s “The Girl That I Knew Somewhere.” During this sequence, Micky roller skates and gets chased by some kids. Mike takes the Monkeemobile for a spin, and we get to see the license plate number is 57A-MFG-015. He shops at a mall and goes up an escalator backwards. Davy rides a motorcycle through the dirt, shirtless. Between this and Micky riding the horse barefoot, I feel like an old lady for wanting to tell them, “Don’t do that.”

After 10 minutes and 34 seconds of this episode, there is still no live playing.

Back to the radio station, Mike interviews a young woman and asks if she’d hate the Monkees if she found out they couldn’t sing or play. When she says no, Mike is naturally curious as to why not. Her answer, “well because, you’re putting people on pretty good,” makes them and me laugh.

I wanted to talk about that a bit. I remember when I was a teen in the ’80s and the Monkees were popular again. Around that time, my Dad decided to let me know, “You know, the Monkees didn’t play their own instruments.” I’m sure every Monkees fan has experienced getting this “truth” from someone at some point. [Editor’s note: You need a safe space!] Yes, I’m aware that isn’t entirely the case. Getting past the controversy at the time and the way the Monkees felt about it themselves, the more accurate way to say that would be: they didn’t always play every instrument on all of their albums. They didn’t always write all of their songs. You could say it about any band.

I’ve always been drawn to the Monkees as a TV show primarily. That’s how I first saw them, in syndication in the late 1970’s, along with shows like Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, and Lost in Space. I was about five or six years old, so I didn’t know anything about the Monkees songs or records. In 1986, when MTV started showing The Monkees again on the “Pleasant Valley Sunday” marathon, that’s when I discovered the songs and the albums. In the VH1 Behind the Music on the Monkees, Eric Lefcowitz, author of The Monkees Tale, makes the statement that “without Don Kirshner’s involvement you really don’t have the hit songs, and if you don’t have the hit songs, it’s a completely forgettable TV show and I don’t think we’d be talking about it still.” I have to disrespectfully disagree with him. Without the show being as good and memorable as it was, those hit songs would only be present on golden oldies radio stations. It’s the show that I come back to decade after decade. Never, as a tot or a teen, did I worry about the Monkees as a “real band” in the same way I didn’t think that Elizabeth Montgomery or Barbara Eden had magic powers.

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This episode however, takes a break from fiction and shows them really playing. Eventually. Next shots are the outside of the venue, Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. The sign shows that they’re on the bill with The Harlem Globetrotters, whom I was lucky enough to see play in person. (Thanks, Dad!)

On stage they play “Last Train to Clarksville” (Boyce/Hart). You can barely make it out over the screaming. This episode does show the popularity and the hype, how excited all the kids were to see the Monkees. The boy band from my day was Duran Duran. By the time I finally got to see them play live in the 1990’s, I just wasn’t a screamer. It’s hard for me to imagine myself reacting this way. My Mom was lucky enough to see the Beatles play live in Las Vegas in the 1960s. She told me she couldn’t hear a note for all the screaming.

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Next they play “Sweet Young Thing” (Goffin/King/Nesmith) and then “Mary, Mary” (Nesmith). Davy swaps out Micky on the drums for this one.  I know I already mentioned this has poor sound. I have a recommendation for something similar recorded around this time. The album, The Monkees Live 1967 which was recorded August 25-27, 1967 in Seattle, Portland, and Spokane. The record wasn’t released until 1987 due to the poor sound quality, but it was cleaned up in the ’80s for CD and the new generation of fans. I bring this up because there’s a fun bit on the record at the end of “Mary, Mary” where Mike drags out the end and forces Micky to keep improvising. Mike keeps promising he’s going to stop, then he starts to play again and Micky has to start again…until Mike plays a twangy “na-na-na na na na” on the guitar. You can see a bit of this in the episode, but it’s not as clear what’s going on as it is on the album.

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Back to it, Peter gets a solo spot and plays “Cripple Creek” (Traditional) on the banjo. They unfortunately cut away from the awesomeness for an awkward voiceover of Peter talking about needing some quiet and time away from people, while showing footage of him walking on a beach.

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Mike sings and plays maracas “You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover” (Bo Diddley). In the middle of this is a cutaway of Mike in a car, talking to someone about sitting on an empty stage, imagining that he’s playing to a full house and saying “someday, someday.” I love Mike’s performance of the song. It sounds much cleaner on The Monkees Live 1967. Davy is introduced as, “the world’s best looking midget.” He sings “I Wanna Be Free” (Boyce/Hart). They cut to him talking to interviewer Bob about losing track of time on the road.

Micky is introduced as the hardest working man in show business, “Micky James Brown Dolenz.” He sings “I Got a Woman” (Ray Charles‎/Renald Richard). Cut to an awkward voice over where Micky wanders around the site of a house a man had built by himself (according to the voiceover) and talks about wanting to make something that will last. Back on stage, Micky parodies a bit James Brown used to do during live performances of the song, “Please, Please, Please”: Micky collapses, and Mike covers him with a black cape and starts to lead him off stage but Micky comes back and finishes the number.

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The Monkees are all back on stage for “I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone” (Boyce/Hart). They’re all wearing white sweaters that look like the ones we see in “Star Collector” and “Daily Nightly” performance clips from the show. They take their bows and get bundled back into their car with a police escort.

There is a tag sequence with “I’m a Believer” playing and shots of the Monkees in all the locations we saw in the episode. Mike thanks many musicians of the day and ends with, “But most of all we’d like to thank the Beatles, for starting it all up for us.” I’m happy with the knowledge that the Beatles were fans of The Monkees as well. Here’s a couple of groovy quotes from the Beatles on the Monkees.

“I think you’re the greatest comic talents since the Marx Brothers. I’ve never missed one of your programs.”- John Lennon

“I like their music a lot…and you know, their personalities. I watch their TV show and it is good.”- Paul McCartney

Two days after this episode aired, the Monkees started work on the fourth album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. After all I said above about appreciating The Monkees more as a show, I want to note that this record is one of my favorite all time records. I remember my excitement in receiving it for Christmas in the ’80s. I played it over and over again. My favorite tracks are “Salesman,” “Daily, Nightly,” and “She Hangs Out,” but the entire thing is good from start to finish.

Final thoughts on this episode? Obviously I prefer the episodes with comedy and a story line. But it was fun to see the Monkees perform. The “real life” bits all felt a bit staged, and as I said I do think it’s a shame about the audio, given that this episode was about the music.

I’ll be taking a little break, about two months or so, before picking up with the second season. Thank you so much to everyone who has been reading these. It’s wonderful to relive all these great episodes with other Monkees fans. Thank you to all the various Monkees Facebook group members. Your positive and insightful comments and likes encourage me to keep this going.

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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.

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Monkees Vs. Macheen: “Alias Micky Dolenz”

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“They laugh alike, they walk alike, at times they even talk alike”

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David Jones was absent for “Alias Micky Dolenz” and the balance of the episode falls squarely on Micky, who really put his skills to the test in this episode, playing Micky, Baby Face, and Micky as Baby Face. He spends more time pretending to be “Baby Face” than he does as himself. Similar to “The Prince and the Paupers,” Micky takes on the identity of his doppelganger to help someone else (in this case, the police.) This is the first episode where Micky’s actions really drive the plot. He’s been the one to save the day a couple of times (“The Chaperone”, “I’ve Got a Little Song Here”), but up to this point, Davy Jones has been the focus of the series, with occasional nods to Peter and Mike. “Alias Micky Dolenz” was directed by Bruce Kessler and written by Gerald Gardner & Dee Caruso and Dave Evans.

The storylines launches right in with a case of mistaken identity. Micky parks his car in a lot (over the line, I might add) when he’s approached by a man in sunglasses who declares with awe, “It’s you!” He wants to know when Micky got out. This is the gangster we find out later is “Tony.” Micky touches him in a friendly way, Tony freaks out and starts beating him with the newspaper.

After the credits, Mike takes Micky to the police station, insisting he report the assault. When they enter, the police all freak out and duck. Micky and Mike have no idea what’s going on. Micky tries to report the beating to the Police Captain who asks, “Did you kill him?” Mike straightens it out by introducing Micky. The Captain pulls out a picture of Micky Dolenz in “gangster-wear” and explains that it’s Baby Face Morales, “the most vicious killer in America,” who is currently serving time. They arrested him but did not arrest his gang, nor did they recover the stolen property. The Captain, out of nowhere, says the police want Micky to help them get the “goods and the hoods.” There’s a long, rambling joke where Micky and Mike pretend to misunderstand what the Captain wants and “goods and hoods” is repeated many times. What the Captain needs of course is for Micky to impersonate Baby Face. Micky says he can’t impersonate a gangster. To which I say, “You must be joking!” What about “Monkees in a Ghost Town?” “Monkees a la Carte?” etc.? But Micky and Mike don’t want to get involved.

Two great sight gags follow. As Micky leaves, we see a cop hand-cuffing a man with a “Peace” sign to the bench. They only occasionally did topical or political jokes during the first season. This is a subversive jab at treatment of war protesters. Also, a meta-comment considering the level of violence is higher in this episode compared to others.

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The second joke is goofier but still funny. Believing that Micky and Mike are in a gang, the police duck every time Mike turns around with his guitar case (which they assume contains weapons). It’s even funnier because Mike is just trying to politely say goodbye, and he’s clueless about their terror. This doesn’t give me much confidence in the police in this town.

Also, it looks like the clip of Mike on the front steps of the police station happily clapping his hands that was used in the opening theme sequence for season two might have been shot and not used from this episode. The costume and set-up look like they’re from these scenes.

As soon as Micky steps outside, he’s the target of a drive-by shooting. He dashes back into the station. Accompanied by a frantic version of the theme song, Micky scrambles all over the office, jumping on the file cabinet and mimes the shooters. Once he stops running around, he agrees to help the cops. The Captain sends him to learn all Baby Face’s mannerisms.

Micky goes to Baby Face’s cell. Dolenz does a fine job giving Baby Face a different voice, walk, and demeanor. He adopts a very cool, slow way of talking. I keep reading these little bits online lately about how Micky auditioned to be the Fonz on Happy Days. After watching these scenes, I can picture that, Micky as the Fonz.

Micky tells Baby Face that he’s his cousin from Ohio. I actually believed him the first time I saw this episode. I thought maybe the writers were suggesting they’re look-alike cousins like The Patty Duke Show. At least there would be some genetic explanation of why they look alike. Then I realized Micky was just lying to Baby Face to justify his visit. Baby Face teaches him how to talk and walk like him [“I have a great walk.”  Fifty points to whoever gets that reference. – Editor], and what he says when he’s about to rough a guy up. Micky gets carried away and smacks the gangster, resulting in Baby Face trying to strangle him.

I guess the guard rescued him because in the next scene, the Captain shows Micky pictures of Baby Face’s gang and their rap sheets. (One of the gang has the surname of Fingerhead, reusing that from “Monkees à la Mode”). Micky goes to The Purple Pelican bar, now looking handsome disguised as Baby Face in a glorious gangster suit and hat. “Baby Face” is hoping to connect with the hoods. The first one to recognize him is a woman named Ruby who asks, “Aren’t you going to give your Ruby a great big kiss?”…and he kisses his ring. She tries to kiss him but he warns her to be careful of his porcelain crowns. “Baby Face” tells her he needs to find the boys and get his cut. Ruby updates him that Tony is in charge now, and he may not want to give it up. Tony and the boys come up from behind.

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Tony breaks a bottle to threaten Micky and launches a romp to “The Kind of Girl I Could Love” (Nesmith). Ruby kisses Micky and he falls down in front of the bar. The other gang members start fighting Tony. Everybody’s fighting, drinking, and breaking glass except Micky, so there’s really no Monkees in this romp at all. We see Ruby slumped down by the bar next to Micky. There’s this weird continuity error when Ruby stands next to a woman with the same exact hair and dress that she has. The other woman hits Ruby with a bottle and causes her to fall down next to Micky. But we’ve already seen her lying in that shot next to Micky several times. Ruby’s look-alike stays in the fight scene and smacks around several of the men. No damsels in distress in this episode, baby! Given the energy of the romp, I think they should have picked a more up-tempo song.

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At the end, Tony and his gang are beaten. Micky stands up and takes credit for it, even though he did zero fighting. The gang agree that “Baby Face” is the boss. Micky accidentally opens the ladies’ room on his way to the backroom, and girls run out screaming.

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In the back room, “Baby Face” tells the gang the plan for tomorrow night: They’ll pick up the diamonds, split up, and go under cover. He tells them he’ll bring a few “specialists” to help with the pick-up. Micky is hilarious in the scene because he seems very cool and in control while pretending to be Baby Face, but then he does things like fumble his gun or sputter and gag when he takes a drink of whisky. Because of these gaffs, Tony gets suspicious enough to tail him.

At the pad, Micky’s on the phone with the cops, confirming the specialists will meet him at the hideout. I thought the “specialists” were always meant to be Mike and Peter, but apparently there were cop-specialists that were supposed to go along. Mike and Peter are listening to Micky on the phone, and Peter offers to go with him. Peter! So nice to see you in this episode. Micky describes Tony as a sadistic killer, full of hate and malice as he wanders right into Tony and the gang, who’ve gotten in without knocking. Tony tells “Baby Face” they’re going tonight instead of tomorrow. Mike and Peter quickly go with them as the “specialists.” They miss the call from the Captain who wanted to tell Micky that the real Baby Face has busted out.

Here’s a fun fact about Robert Strauss, who plays the Captain. He guest starred in an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. called “The Dippy Blonde Affair” along with frequent Monkees director, James Frawley. Check it out if you get the chance. Frawley’s a pretty good actor.

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Baby Face goes to the Purple Pelican and finds Ruby, giving her the same line about the porcelain crowns when she tries to kiss him. I’m only mentioning this because I’m wondering if it’s suggestive in some way, like her kiss would suck the crowns out of his head? Someone must have thought it was funny, because both “Baby Face” and Baby Face mention it. Anyway, Ruby inadvertently lets him know that the gang is off picking up the diamonds.

Micky, Peter, Mike, Tony, and his gang enter the house where the diamonds are hidden, which is the same place they were stolen from. “Baby Face” can’t “remember” where in the fireplace they hid the diamonds. Mike and Peter prepare to blow it up so all the stones will fall out. This involves a long sequence of Mike going into the fireplace to set up while talking on and on. Peter stands outside mutely with the plunger and equipment. Mike looks at the camera and says “This is for you, Dale” when he gets ready to set off the explosion. For Dale Evans of The Roy Rogers Show maybe? Of course Mike blows up the wrong thing, this time a piano in the back. The real crooks start chipping away at the stones. A policeman comes to the door, noting that the owners are on vacation and no one should be there. Instead of being suspicious of crime, he wants to sell tickets to the policeman’s ball. The policeman, by the way is played by Don Sherman who is in the season two Monkees episode, “Monkees Marooned.”

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They find the diamonds just as the real Baby Face pops up in the doorway. Tony says there’s only one Baby Face, so one must be an imposter. Each tries to prove he’s the real Baby Face by answering questions about former crime jobs. Who drove the getaway car in the Seamen’s Bank job? Baby Face and “Baby Face” answer “Steve Blauner.” (This is a reference to series consultant Steve Blauner, who went on to executive produce The New Monkees.) Peter accidentally reveals Micky, calling him by name. Someone hits the lights and the Monkees scramble around and subdue the crooks with sheets, as the cops arrive. Apparently, the patrolman figured out something was wrong from earlier. They reward The Monkees with jewelry, which seems unorthodox. In a joke that wouldn’t work during or after the 1980s, Micky makes a sad face and asks, “What am I going to do with an earring?”

Tag sequence in the police station as the Captain explains to Mike that there is one loose end. Now, we get two jabbering, hyperactive men claiming to be Micky, instead of two swaggering hoods claiming to be Baby Face. Mike and the Captain look at each other as if they’d rather lock up both “Mickys” than figure this out. [Kill us both, Spock!  I know I used that one before. – Editor]

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Tag sequence is performance footage of all the Monkees playing “Mary, Mary” (Nesmith) at their pad. I wanted to add this story about “Mary, Mary” with the “I’ve Got a Little Song Here” recap, but I ran out of room, so I’ll do it now. The first band to record “Mary Mary” was actually the Paul Butterfield Blues Band on their album East-West from 1966. The Monkees version was released in 1967. According to Glenn Baker’s Monkeemania book, Paul Butterfield’s record label used to get letters from fans who wouldn’t believe Mike Nesmith wrote the song and accused him of stealing credit. Elektra records created a form letter in response, clarifying that Mike did indeed write the song. The Paul Butterfield Blues version sure is different than the one I’m used to.

If you were really missing Davy, there’s an interview with him at the end. He explains he wasn’t in the episode because went to England for his sister’s wedding, which he missed anyway. He says he visits England frequently and never gets homesick even though he’s been travelling for six and half years. He also jokes with Bob that at the end of the day, everyone is tired and angry and they want to go home.

Interesting episode with more drinking and violence than usual, and very little of that action involved the title characters. The episode is solid and funny with some good acting. If you’re a Micky fan, this may be one of your favorites. I love his quick way with a line and knack for physical comedy. I prefer seeing them play off of each other, that’s one of the best things about the show. There isn’t much chance for them to do that here. And I’m always a bit bummed out when one of the Monkees is missing. But I have to admit, “Alias Micky Dolenz” is still entertaining and memorable.

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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.

Monkees Vs. Macheen: “The Case of the Missing Monkee”

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“A Funny Thing Happened to Me on the Way to the Bandstand”

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The Monkees really parodied a lot of genres didn’t it? It has more in common with cartoons than sitcoms in that way, as they don’t stick to the “situation.” There were Monkees episodes inspired by westerns, gangster films, science fiction, horror, mystery, and spy stories to name a few. If you were seeing these for the first time, you certainly wouldn’t be able to guess what they might try next. They just incorporate the notion that they’re a band right into the storyline, whatever it is. “The Case of the Missing Monkee” is a cross between mystery, sci-fi, and a spy story. Director and Monkees producer Bob Rafelson gives the episode a cinematic feel using more medium and close shots than usual. There is also a dark edge to the whole thing. “The Case of the Missing Monkee” which premiered January 9, 1967 was written by head writers Gerald Gardner and Dee Caruso.

Speaking of the cinematic effect, the opening shot is a lovely pan across a banquet room where the scientist Professor Schnitzler is giving a speech. The Monkees sit on the bandstand, waiting to play. Schnitzler tells his audience, “war is war, peace is peace, and science is science.” Mike’s puzzled face reflects my own, but Peter’s impressed. He introduces himself to Schnitzler, who admires the Monkees music and discretely passes Peter a note. Peter reads. “They are taking me to the Remington Clinic.” He tries to tell Mike, but Mike’s all business because they have to perform. Peter ignores him completely and wanders off to look for Schnitzler. This week’s villain, Dr. Marcovich notices him. Good for Peter, doing his own thinking. Unfortunately, he wanders over to the curtain at the side, gets hit with a large mallet, and dragged off. The mallet is a silly contrast to the serious setup. This is one of the many instances in the series where Peter is the one finding trouble with his naivete and curiosity.

After the opening theme, Mike, Micky, and Davy look for Peter. Mike finds Dr. Marcovich and tugs on his coat, earning a “Don’t do that” from Marcovich. The Doctor dismisses them and tells them to play music as they’re supposed to. Mike remembers the note, reading it as “I am being taken to the Remington Clinic.” Outside the Remington Clinic, I’m surprised to see daytime as I assumed the banquet was at night. Inside, they attempt to get help from the Nurse at the desk and describe the missing Peter. The cheerful but clueless Nurse knows nothing about him or Schnitzler.

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Go figure; Mike doesn’t mention Peter’s charming dimples and manly shoulders (like I would have). Also, in every picture I’ve ever seen of Peter Tork, his eyes look brown to me. The nurse tells them to go to the police. A subtle dig at authority as Davy mutters something about going to see “the man” and they go. Dr. Marcovich overhears the entire thing and denies to the nurse knowing anything about Schnitzler. He stops to make “evil faces” for good measure. I enjoy this actor; he is dramatic and menacing in most scenes and then he pulls off goofy stuff like this.

Davy, Mike, and Micky have indeed gone to the man, and bring a cop to the banquet location. The former French restaurant is now a Chinese restaurant complete with a ridiculous stereotypical Chinese restaurant owner. The owner makes The Monkees look like dopes and the cop tells them not to bother any more policemen until they know where they were. We have another situation where the boys have no responsible adult they can trust. “The man” indeed. The restaurant owner is of course Marcovich in disguise and he really hams it up, laughing and jumping up and down after peeling off his disguise.

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The Monkees try to fool the nurse into rushing them into the clinic, but the Nurse is too diligent and bureaucratic. Davy gives her his address as 1438 instead of 1334. He either really hit his head or he doesn’t want these questionable people knowing where he lives. I love the performance of the Nurse. She’s aggressively perky and nice, pathologically efficient, and not at all helpful. The Monkees don’t love her and lose their patience, especially when she says she can’t admit Davy immediately. In the meantime, she gives him a cough drop. I don’t know what’s in it, but it motivates Davy to drop his crutches and dance and sing “Old Folks At Home” (Stephen Foster) again, as he did in “The Spy Who Came in from the Cool.” Coincidentally or not, both of these episodes were written and directed by the same team. Getting high on her own supply, the nurse takes a few wacky cough drops and inspires stock footage of rocket ships.

The Monkees resort to breaking in to the Remington clinic. Davy questions the legality of this. I can’t believe a Monkee is questioning breaking the law but it leads to the following witty exchange: Micky: “So what do you want to do? Do you want to run home where it’s safe and leave Peter here in trouble all alone?” Davy: “Of course not.” Micky: “Well, it was just a suggestion.” Instead, Micky busts out what he refers to as the Bathook. Mike sensibly points out the ladder right behind them. The Bathook, by the way, is one of the many references to Batman made by The Monkees. This is beautifully listed here, on The Monkees Go Ape for Batman!

Finally in the clinic, Davy, Mike, and Micky disguise themselves as patients and begin to search for Peter. A very creepy atmosphere was created in the hospital with the Monkees nervous reactions, the lighting scheme, and the music. It would have been even better without the laugh track. Meanwhile, Marcovich and his partner Bruno have Peter tied up in another room. They discuss how they will sneak Schnitzler out of the country and “America will lose one of its greatest scientists.” Finally, we have an idea of the plot of the villains. This dialogue makes me think it’s a sort of foreign espionage story they’re going for, though like the Maltese Vulture it’s just what drives the story along.

Bruno wants to know what to do with Peter. Peter lists his woes but he’s really quoting the medical drama Ben Casey. There’s a Ben Casey connection as David Jones appeared in the 1965 episode, “If You Play Your Cards Right, You Too Can Be a Loser” as a glue-sniffing wife-beater [What? – Editor]. Try to picture that, will you? Speaking of Batman, Davy’s co-star on Ben Casey was pre-Bat Girl Yvonne Craig.

Bruno pulls a gun on Peter since he “knows too much.” (Peter: “Thank you!”) Sidekick Bruno is truly threatening, enhanced by Vincent Gardenia’s intense, no-nonsense performance and dour expression. Marcovich has a better idea. Peter tries to rescue himself by calling “Shazam!” at the mirror but only manages to break it. Catch a little “Monkee Men” theme here. Meanwhile the other non-missing Monkees try to get out of the one room where they have been searching, but here comes Bruno to give physical therapy.

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There’s a silly sequence as they receive their therapy using the (now ancient) exercise equipment. Micky pulls on the wall pulleys, Davy uses the “vibrating belt machine” to get rid of his spare tire, of course leading to a site gag where he pulls out an actual tire. Mike is on the rowing machine, but not exercising; he serenades the lovely and lucky Valerie Kairys with a banjo.

After Bruno leaves them, The Monkees resume the search for Peter but stop to answer the ringing phone. There they go, answering phones that aren’t theirs again. In a cute fourth-wall-breaking bit, Mike takes a call from TV Guide and updates them on the plot. Meanwhile, Marcovich uses his sci-fi, super-science ray on Peter to erase his memory. Peter writhes in agony and thinks about being on the beach with the kids in the “Saturday’s Child” romp.

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Just as Mike, Davy, and Micky are about to give up hope, they enter a room and Peter wanders in behind them. Peter has no idea who they are. After a couple of false starts, they scare his memories back. Peter remembers that Marcovich and Bruno plan to smuggle Schnitzler out of the country. The nurse comes in and Mike, Davy, and Micky hide, telling Peter to play dumb. Peter gets sensitive about his perceived intelligence, “Why am I always the one to play dumb. Why can’t I play smart once in a while?” The Nurse covers Schnitzler’s face with an oxygen mask.

When she goes, Micky admires the villains’ plan to smuggle Schnitzler out in an ambulance. The mask gives Mike a plan of his own, and he puts Micky in the Professor’s place. Micky protests this with one of my all-time favorite bits of Monkees dialogue: Mike: “Believe me Micky, there’s no other way. Besides, Dr. Marcovich is an evil man.” Micky: “Well, what about me?” Davy: “You’re not evil, is he Mike?” Mike: “No, he’s not evil. He’s crafty and selfish maybe, but he’s not evil.” Dr. Marcovich and Bruno come to get Schnitzler and the non-disguised Monkees hide under the cart as they wheel out Micky.

This leads to my favorite bit of the episode, where Mike, Peter and Davy play “doctor.” In the operating room, Marcovich and Bruno prepare to do something to “Schnitzler.” Mike, Davy, and Peter enter in surgical scrubs. Mike adopts Micky’s typical shtick of pretending to have authority where he has none. Marcovich actually apologizes for questioning them. Bruno and Marcovich are marvelous at the thankless job of being straight men to the boys.

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This whole scene is reminiscent of The Marx Brothers’ A Day at the Races scene where Marx Brothers take over the Standish Sanitarium. Many sight gags and one peanut butter sandwich later, Mike and Marcovich end up physically tugging the “patient” back and forth until Micky says he’s dizzy and sits up. Marcovich and Bruno recognize them as “those musicians” and it leads into a wonderful romp to “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone” (Boyce/Hart).

The romp is also packed with silly, energetic gags, including a lot of running in and out of doors in the hospital corridor. All the characters, heroes and villains, do this funny run where they take little steps with their hands up like dog paws. In the equipment room, Micky rides the exercise bike like a horse and Bruno also rides it, cut together like a chase scene. Micky and Mike have binoculars and stop to ogle a pretty nurse for a moment. I love their saucy looks to each other. Mike does the frantic bit on the rowing machine we see in the second season opening credits. Bruno “chases” him on the same bike. The Monkees get the bad guys in a two-man pile on a gurney.

After the wackiness dies down, Schnitzler thanks them for saving his life. Micky and Mike tell the bad guys they’re going to get 20 years and a wrist slapping from the AMA. As they leave, Marcovich looks more relieved to be rid of these lunatics than upset at being caught.

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In this episode, the comedy is stirred in beautifully with the mystery and adventure of the plot. There are lots of great scenes of The Monkees working together, even if Peter is missing a lot of the time. They do tend to isolate him a bit, don’t they? The guest cast is excellent as usual, these great characters were never afraid to go over the top, and always made great straight men to The Monkees. One element that keeps these episodes fun to watch for 50 years, is the fun with different genres. This is probably something they were willing to try with a show geared towards kids, not adults. Kids might be more open-minded and entertained by a show that regularly bends reality, even its own rules of reality. Of course I’m an adult and enjoy it tremendously even after watching for many decades. Although the writing of the episodes did eventually get into a rut, it was more the plots and the gags themselves, and not the styles they tackle that were ever lacking imagination.

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Look-Out-For

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.

Monkees vs. Macheen: “The Spy Who Came in from the Cool”

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“The Cool War”

Title

“The Spy Who Came in from the Cool” was the first episode written by the team of Gerald Gardner and Dee Caruso, who wrote a total of 22 Monkees episodes. It was directed by Robert Rafelson and originally aired October 10, 1966. I also want to point out the episode’s cinematographer Irving Lippman and editor Donald W. Starling. I can’t say enough about the behind-the-scenes team that made The Monkees, the director, writers, cinematographer, editors, and all the crew created one entertaining episode after another. I noticed some especially fun post-production techniques in this one, so I wanted to point that out.

The Monkees are driving the Monkee-mobile within the actual episode. They get out and park while Davy begs the others to let him buy a new pair of maracas. Inside a music store, the big, Russian-accented Boris is stuffing microfilm into a pair of red maracas. Madame Olinsky tells him their plans: He’s to sell the maracas to a “very short man” who will want them in red and say he can only pay him 50 cents. I think we all see where this is going.

Davy-Jones

Outside, Davy notes that there’s a man talking to a Popsicle, but this only interests Mike if the Popsicle talks back. The Monkees enter the store and Davy requests the red maracas, accidentally saying the spies’ code phrase. Boris tells him he is “very short.” Davy is too cool to look half as annoyed as I would. They send Davy and the other three out through the “secret exit” in the harp case. Then, the actual short Russian spy enters and asks for the maracas. Poor Boris realizes he’s screwed up.

The Monkees play “The Kind of Girl I Could Love” (Michael Nesmith) at the Vincent Van Gogh-Gogh, and we can see Valerie Kairys dancing in the crowd. This is the first episode featuring one of the Michael Nesmith songs. Davy hears an extra rattle in his maracas and pulls out the microfilm, which he stuffs in his waistband. There’s no room for pockets in those tight pants. Boris and Madame Olinsky enter dressed as teenagers. Although Madame does look hot in these clothes, the couple looks hilariously out of place, and like Vic Tayback in the previous episode, they try to fit in by “dancing.” We have adults trying to infiltrate the teenage world by dressing and behaving like them, and failing.  Boris makes the subtle (and subversive for the time I think) suggestion that a teenage boy has hit on him.

The song finishes and the spies assault the band on the stage with a gun, demanding the film. Peter bursts into tears. Mike gets them out of it by announcing the spies as folk-singing duo “Honey and the Bear,” which suits their appearance very well. Mike forces them on the stage where they are paralyzed with fear at having to face the teenage crowd. The nervous spies sing an anthem called “Blow up the Senate.” Micky starts the crowd booing as well as flinging pillows at them, setting off the theme of kids “following the crowd” in this episode. The Monkees use the distraction to make their exit.

At CIS headquarters (TV version of the CIA), Honeywell (the Popsicle-talker) and the Chief discuss the Monkees possession of the microfilm. Honeywell has been ineptly spying on them. (We wouldn’t need Snowden if the government were this obvious when recording citizens.) On the film within the show, Honeywell asks political questions of Mike and Peter, who answer in a comically irrelevant way. The more “show-biz” characters, Micky and Davy, also don’t get it and respond with self-interest: Micky pulls out a larger than life headshot of himself for Honeywell and Davy breaks into a soft shoe dance performance of “Old Folks at Home,” knowing that a camera is on him. This is a very “Davy” moment that I love.

Popsicles

Chief brings the boys into the CIS headquarters and asks for their help. They’re none too enthusiastic about the danger. Micky does a little Don Adams impression as he picks up the phone and asks for “Schwartz, Harold B.” to catch the spies instead of them. Chief says he can save at least three of them, leading to a chair scramble for the three chairs which Peter misses completely. The Monkees reluctantly agree to help.

Back at the pad, they unicycle around the room, with the cameras giving a little fake jolt as they crash into each other. Mike is skeptical and wants to back out but Micky goes into a spy daydream, different from the previous costume fantasies where they pull costumes out of nowhere. Here we get a camera dissolve to set up the dream. This is my favorite bit of the episode, where Micky plays a “Q” from James Bond role and explains equipment and weapons to the other Monkees. He takes them outside to the same park we saw in “Kidnappers” for a fighting demonstration with the very large Yakimoto, who destroys Micky’s gun display. This is also an unusual case where Micky is playing the straight man to the other characters who make all the jokes.

Spy-training

The Monkees meet Honeywell at the Vincent Van Gogh-Gogh where he sets them up with an obvious microphone in a table lamp. Their task is to finagle a confession from the spies, and then Honeywell will pop out and arrest them. Davy disturbs the lamp as they walk out and a fake “Genie” dressed in an I Dream of Jeannie costume appears. Davy makes one of television’s first meta-references: “Imagine that, wrong show.”

Wrong-Show

The band plays “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone” (Tommy Boyce/Bobby Hart) on the little stage while Boris and Madame enter. Madame mocks the kids for copying each other’s dance steps saying “Sheep. They all follow one another.” (The kids are also all wearing the same clothes from the earlier disco scene.) This theme of following was seen in the previous episode where the young people all follow each other to rush into the Monkees house, and then rush out again when the music changes.

The spies sit down with the Monkees, and Davy obviously tries to get their confession. When asked if they are really foreign spies, Boris supplies him with a nod. Davy rushes back to check with Honeywell who points out he can’t hear a nod. On his way back Davy (who is maintaining his cooler, hipper personality from the previous episode) inadvertently kicks the cord out.

Mike stalls by counting the money the spies brought to buy the film. Davy pushes the lamp in front of them but Honeywell isn’t getting anything since it’s unplugged. Madame finally loses it and we’re treated to a Marx Brothers moment from Peter:

Daffodills

Honeywell gets the confession, but Madame pulls out her gun and threatens the boys to give up the film already. Mike bravely taunts her to come get it and throws her out onto the dance floor where she has to dance in order to not make a scene. Davy and Micky desperately try to call Honeywell while Mike fights off Madame. Boris is pulled into the dance by a girl from the crowd. Micky and Peter stand up to subdue Boris, but he effortlessly tosses them to the walls.

Everyone in this scene is dancing to “All the Kings Horses” (Michael Nesmith). This is one of my favorite songs on the show. I love the guitar break and the harmony with Mike and Micky. This song is not listed in the end credits but “Last Train to Clarksville,” which we don’t hear, is listed.

Spy-confession

Madame karate chops Mike, who falls and we get the payoff to the earlier line about copying dance steps. The editors give a little help by winding the film back so we see the chop twice. The girls all start karate chopping and the boys all fall to the ground. Last episode, we have the “Kidnap” and now we have the “Karate Chop.” Madame takes the film from Mike’s pants and escapes. Davy bravely jumps on Boris’ back and somehow the three standing Monkees stop the big man from leaving. Honeywell finally comes out and tells Boris he’s going to Leavenworth. Peter sweetly comforts the disappointed Boris who won’t be meeting Madame in Argentina. Aww..Peter.

“Somewhere in China,” Madame tells a room full of men in suits that she has a film of America’s greatest secret weapon. And that weapon is the Monkees fooling around on the beach in their red bathing suits to “Saturday’s Child.” Back at the disco, Mike awkwardly dances with Honeywell. Also in this footage is the bit I love from the opening credits with Peter in the bathtub being rolled down the street by the other Monkees, among other fun shots. The Monkees show up at the end of the song in trench coats, hats, and guitar cases that they pretend are weapons and find Madame tied up in the chair.

The episode title is obviously a parody of the John le Carré novel The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and the movie of the same name came out the year before this episode. Spy stories were popular at the time. Other popular 60’s spy series and films included: I Spy, James Bond, Man from U.N.C.L.E., and Get Smart. The writers Gerald Gardner and Dee Caruso wrote eleven episodes of Get Smart so they were experienced at writing spy/comedy material. The cold war would have been on everyone’s mind at the time with the US having entered the Vietnam War in 1965. Although I don’t think that the Monkees writers/producers were into topical humor. The ‘bad guys” could be anyone and it would be understood just as easily if this episode were made today, substituting “terrorists” for “Russian Spies” or “Communists.”

The way the Cold war plays here, the teenagers are detached from it all. They’re into their music, fun, their self-expression. Tension with Russia and China is a grown-up problem. Not their fault or their concern but they are expected to fight. The Monkees only help when directly confronted by the CIS. The other young people in the episode have no interest or even clue what’s happening around them in the disco scenes. The main source of the comedy in this episode is the cultural divide between the adults and the teens.

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Look-Out-For-Spies

 

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.

 

Monkees vs. Macheen: “Your Friendly Neighborhood Kidnappers”

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“Monkees, Swine, and Crabs”

Your Friendly Neighborhood Kidnappers

“Your Friendly Neighborhood Kidnappers,” which aired on October 3, 1966, was directed by James Frawley, and written by Dave Evans, his first of seven Monkees scripts. This is the first episode where the plot revolves around the Monkees pursuing success and fame as a band. According to a couple of interviews I found online with Micky Dolenz, here and here, the central premise of the show was a band struggling to be as successful as the Beatles, not to make a show about an American version of the Beatles. It was meant to appeal to young kids struggling in undiscovered bands of their own. Traditionally sitcoms don’t show us successful people who’d be impossible for most of us to relate to. So here we have the Monkees trying to make it as a band.

The story opens with a band contest, and the group onstage is the Four Swine. Micky describes the leather wearing, cigarette puffing Swine as “seedy characters.” This is interesting because later in the series, in the “Wild Monkees” episode, the Monkees will put on similar outfits to impress some biker girls. They never smoke or drink on the show though. The seedy Swine make fun of the Monkees on their way off stage, handing Micky a banana. The Four Swine manager arranges for the audience to hear Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony instead of the Monkees when they get on stage and try to play.

Monkee-Talent

The Swine Manager shows up at the Monkees pad introducing himself as Nick Trump. He’s there to handle their publicity during the contest and pretends he barely knows the Swine. They are surprised they made the finals, but Trump explains the judges “dig Beethoven.” None of them are taking this seriously: Mike is on a pogo stick, Davy is doing a headstand and Micky does his Groucho Marx impression. They really do have some “peculiar talents” (to borrow a term from “Prince and the Paupers”). YouTube has a nice clip here. The boys want nothing to do with Trump’s publicity until he says it’s required in the contest rules. I don’t get their aversion to publicity since it could help them get more gigs.

Guitar-wipe to the disco known as the Vincent Van Gogh-Gogh, a play on words I always loved. Trump tells them, via voice-over, they will have their clothes ripped off by crazy teenage girls for a publicity stunt. The Monkees sit there, excited and kind of scared as you would be. Micky and Mike go into an astronaut fantasy as they count down to clothes-ripping. Screaming girls come rushing in and tear the clothes off…some random middle-aged dude in the back.

No thanks, we're just here to have our clothes ripped off.

Mike’s facial expressions as he waits to have his clothes ripped off are so good.

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Lester Crabtree, the guy who got his clothes ripped off, did get in the newspaper. I love the shot of Micky reading the story and as he puts the paper down and the other three are revealed behind him. Trump’s next idea is to have the Monkees put their hands in cement in front of the Chinese theater. I notice in the background that the marquee says “The Machie” and the names as Nazemize and Dork, The other two read Dourantse, and Juhans, but I can’t see them on my screen. This stunt ends badly because Trump uses quick-drying cement and they have to take the block of sidewalk with them to get out. Trump pretends it’s their fault, but offers them one more chance. His final plan is for them to be kidnapped, which will make all the papers. Mike is rightly skeptical of this but the Monkees talk it over (saying rhubarb, rhubarb, in the background) and agree.

Trump calls the kidnappers, one of whom is Mel from Alice! Always fun to see a famous actor before they played their iconic part. Trump tells them to dress “black tie” for a daytime kidnapping. Peter takes a few tries to get this right, and Davy’s wearing a red smoking jacket that’s different from the others black tuxes. Mike is skeptical of Micky’s suggestion that they call the late-arriving kidnappers, which leads into a pretend call with the kidnapper’s answering service where Micky resurrects his phony-salesman voice from “Royal Flush.”

Answering-Service

After going to the wrong house, the kidnappers knock politely and check the address with Mike. This is the first mention of their 1334 N. Beechwood address, which was also used for the Monkees original fan club. The kidnappers bust out guns and scare the crap out of Peter, then tie them all up with Mr. Schneider replacing the missing Davy. Horace (Louis Quinn) tells George (Vic Tayback) he has to pick up Davy at the disco; however George is intimidated because he can’t do those “crazy dances.”

George goes to the Vincent Van Gogh-Gogh and finds Davy dancing with his date, (played by Valerie Kairys, who was in 14 Monkees episodes, most of them uncredited). George tries desperately to blend in with his dancing but Davy takes mercy on him and says they can leave. Davy’s girl wants to go along for the kidnapping, and she ends up bringing everyone at the disco back to their house. I wanted to mention, Davy has a bit of a personality change in this episode. He is fun, charming, and confident; he’s really cool and not the starry-eyed romantic dork he was in “Royal Flush” and “Monkee See, Monkee Die.”

Back at the pad, the gun-wielding thugs have lost control of the situation because the kids, the staff, even the furniture from the Vincent Van Gogh-Gogh are now in the Monkees pad. The overwhelmed kidnappers tie everyone up, but the kids keep dancing to “Let’s Dance On” (not credited at the end of the episode) and “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone.” They aren’t bothered by getting tied up and make it into a new dance craze. Horace calls Trump to tell him he’s going to have to cough up more money to kidnap the crowd, but Trump says no way. Davy helpfully empties the room for them by playing a polka on the jukebox, causing the kids to stampede right back out of the house.

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Trump reveals his sinister plot: this is no publicity stunt, the kidnappers are real and there to keep the Monkees from participating in the contest so the Four Swine can win. I think everyone but the Monkees saw this coming. This marks the second episode where we have the bad guys holding the boys captive until a certain time has passed, the first being “Royal Flush.”

The kidnappers lock the Monkees in the bedroom where they immediately go to work trying to figure out how to escape. Micky has more ideas in five minutes than I have all day. The first plan is to toss a hypnotized Peter out the window. (I would love to have Micky’s hypnotist talents for putting kids to bed.) Once this is dismissed, Micky makes a rope for them to crawl down until Mike points out they’re on the first floor. Okay, hold it, in that case why don’t they all just go out the window? Meanwhile the kidnappers play cards with the stuffed chimp.

Mike, who really is the group skeptic, tries to warn Micky against his idea of punching the kidnappers, which fails anyway when his fist hits George’s face. Throughout this, Peter keeps announcing the time, which the screen caps helpfully display in Central Time. Micky finally manages to con their way out, pretending he has a vial of Nitroglycerin and threatening the kidnappers into the locked bedroom. Micky tells the others he has no idea what’s really in the vial and tosses it off the set where it explodes in a good effect.

The freed Monkees head for the contest in their Monkees shirts. But wait: the gangsters get out of the “locked room” right away and begin a video chase scene to “Last Train to Clarksville.” This is the third time in as many episodes they played this song. The chase includes scenes in a city park, a desert, a western scene, and stock footage of covered wagons. It ends with the Monkees clobbering the kidnappers and playing the song in the contest.

Peter

The Four Swine and Trump go to jail in matching jail-striped outfits. The Monkees get “special consideration” but the winners are Lester Crabtree and the Three Crabs! Screaming girls run onstage to rip Lester’s clothes off again. Success eludes the Monkees who conclude that all it takes to get famous is having your clothes ripped off. They immediately tear off each other’s shirts in the most unintentionally homoerotic moment ever on the series.

Clothes-ripping

Tag sequence is an interview because the show is a minute short. Producer Bob Rafelson interviews them about their success since being on the show, which goes along well with the storyline. Mike reveals that he was a trouble maker when he was a kid and certain people from his past were surprised to see him doing well. He also says it’s nice to have a little extra money to spend since getting the role on the show.

Another one of my favorite episodes, with a satisfying set up and payoff at the end. I love the fact that the plot is about their struggles as a band, and I like the focus on them as an ensemble cast as in “Monkee See, Monkee Die.” They’re at their best when working together. There is also the usual humor commenting on the fact that it is a television show. The producers/writers/editors are not expecting you to get lost in the “reality” of the story; instead there’s lots of breaking the fourth wall, the screen caps, etc. They know that we know we’re watching a show, and they let us in on the joke.

And now, here’s a mini-tribute to Micky Dolenz. With his sharp line delivery, funny voices, and expressive face, he can always be counted on for an out-loud laugh at least once in every episode.

Micky-Mania

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Songs

Happy Holidays everyone! Thank you all so much for reading these. I am having a lot of fun researching and writing them, and I really appreciate Monkees fans out there I can share this with. Be sure to check out the Blissville podcast on “The Monkees.”

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.

NEW PODCAST: “Save The Texas Prairie Chicken”

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This is BlissVille, Misadventures In BlissVille, an American variety podcast presentation that premiered December 5th of the year 2014 featuring host David Lawler and guests including Colin Hall, Bronwyn Knox, Andrew La Ganke, Nicole Phelps, Sarah La Puerta, Alex Saltz, Mark Jeacoma, and Denny Spangler, who is with us tonight to discuss all-things-Monkees.  I’ve got two Michiganders on one podcast, Denny and my wife, Bronwyn.  Basically it’s a shameless plug for Bronwyn’s new series, “Monkees vs. Macheen”, exclusively on BlissVille, which, I think basically means I’m the Raybert to her Nesmith.

So the Sixties were hip, dig?  Lots-a crazy cats, dig?  Crazy drugs – MDMA, which was a purer form of Ecstasy, if I’m not mistaken.  You could take pills.  You could buy pills at the drug store without having to show your I.D.  I wasn’t there, but that’s what I’m told.

I wonder if we can talk about Michael Nesmith without getting sued?  He seems to keep a close eye on YouTube.  “Elephant Parts” is an extremely difficult show to find.  It is available in a very limited run on DVD, the price is high so I’m guessing another run will not be in the offing, perhaps Blu-Ray if the 50th anniversary Monkees box set sells, but when you try to look at clips from “Elephant Parts”, you’ll get a nasty notice saying, “This video was removed at the request of Michael Nesmith”.  He has a net worth of $50 million, but whatever!

In the years before Cable Television, higher ratings and viewership were easier to assess.  There were only three networks, and some haphazard attempts to create fourth networks, such as Dumont, but it was mainly CBS and NBC, later ABC; the running average of viewership hovered between 55 and 60 million viewers, divided between the three television networks in the mid-to-late sixties, the time when The Monkees was broadcast, and I believe The Monkees was broadcast in a very easy time slot for their viewers, which was mainly kids and young adults.  The show aired on Monday nights as 7:30PM, and handily won it’s time slot every week, running against a western called The Iron Horse and Gilligan’s Island.

Written by: David Lawler with Bronwyn Knox and Denny Spangler
Audio Clips: “Save The Texas Prairie Chicken” uploaded to YouTube by classical56, “Save The Texas Prairie Chicken (Outtakes) from the episode, “Monkees on the Wheel”, “(Theme From) The Monkees” (Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart), “Don’t Call On Me” (Michael Nesmith, John London), “Randy Scouse Git” (Micky Dolenz), Excerpt from “The Monkees Watch Their Feet”, Excerpt from “Fairy Tale”, “My Heart Will Go On” (James Horner, Will Jennings), “For Pete’s Sake” (Peter Tork, Joey Richards).

Monkees vs. Macheen: “Monkee See, Monkee Die”

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“And Then There Were Four”

Monkee See, Monkee Die

“Monkee See, Monkee Die,” directed by James Frawley, first aired September 19, 1966 on NBC. Episode writer Treva Silverman wrote some other very funny Monkees episodes: “I’ve Got a Little Song Here”, “One Man Shy”, “Son of A Gypsy”, and “A Nice Place to Visit.” According to the IMDB, she wrote “The Card Carrying Red Shoes” as Lee Sanford. Other interesting facts about Silverman: she wrote episodes for The Mary Tyler Moore Show, for which she won an Emmy and created the character of “Georgette”, and she was one of the few working female writers in television at the time of The Monkees.

The story begins with the Monkees rehearsing, which is the first real reference to them as a band. Also appearing for the first time is Mr. Babbit, who sweeps in accompanied by villainous harpsichord music. Babbit is demanding the rent, or his lawyer will toss the boys out. Mike ferociously defends them, saying Babbit is not making any needed repairs to the house. I think I’ve rented from this guy before. Mike quickly comes up with the idea they should pretend not to know the Monkees when the lawyer shows up, so they bring out the costumes and funny voices. The person they end up fooling is a solicitor who came to tell them they’ve been named in the will of an eccentric millionaire. Surely their rent problems are over now?

The Monkees arrive at the late Mr. Cunningham’s spooky house and are immediately startled by an obviously fake bat. The creepy butler Ralph takes them to the reading of the will. I love the shot of Ralph leading them to the parlor with Mike in front and the other Monkees hiding behind him. Next, they meet the fabulous Madame Roselle, Mr. Cunningham’s spiritualist and Mr. Kingsley, Cunningham’s travelling companion and hack travel author. Ellie is Cunningham’s cute niece and she and Davy fall instantly in love, to Mike and Micky’s distress.

He's in love. For the very first time today.

Young, sweet Ellie will be the one to inherit Cunningham’s mansion, provided she spends one night there. This is an unpleasant surprise for Kingsley, Roselle, and Ralph. Cunningham has left the Monkees his library organ, with the stipulation that they play it once before they take it. They get up to play their inheritance and get out, and it really is an awesome organ because when Peter starts to play it, the “Last Train to Clarksville” (Tommy Boyce/Bobby Hart) video comes out. This was first time the song, and the Monkeemobile, appeared on the show.

Monkeemobile

Ralph tells the Monkees they’re trapped on the island due to the foggy season, so they go upstairs to bed. I’d ask where they got their pajamas since they didn’t have any luggage (perhaps they have TARDIS technology), but then I’d have to ask why they wear boots to bed. Peter startles Micky, who utters the first “Don’t do that” line that recurs in many future episodes. After getting frightened out of their room, they run into Madame Roselle who tells them the butler may be dead. They run downstairs and see a knife in the wall, but no dead Ralph. Micky and Davy act out a Holmes/Watson fantasy and work on solving the mystery. Failing that, they go back to the room to think of a way to escape. This leads to my favorite scene of the episode: Mike explains his plan to get a message out of the mansion with a carrier pigeon and then a Saint Bernard. Including a link to the clip, because my words can’t do that justice.

The Monkees are trying to sleep all in the same tiny bed, when they hear what sounds like gunshots. Out of nowhere, Roselle appears and dramatically tells them Kingsley has been shot. Those that are left in the house sit downstairs discussing Kingsley’s and Ralph’s missing bodies. Micky gets inspired to get the phones to work and scrambles around attaching the telephone receiver to the tubes on an old radio. He successfully contacts some foreign sailors who only know three words of English: “yes I do.” It was pretty impressive, all the same.

General Sarnoff

Madame Roselle has them join hands for a séance to reach John Cunningham. The actress playing Roselle is hilarious in this episode, going in and out of her “spiritualist” persona in a snap, and she conducts a séance in curlers. Watch the episode one time just keeping an eye on her. Mike is pretty skeptical of this whole thing, and her attempt to reach Cunningham fails. The lights go out, and she disappears. Here’s the first use of Monkee’s running gag “She’s/He’s/It’s gone!” when they see she’s missing. 

Shes-Gone-web

The Monkees and Ellie get out of the mansion as fast as they can before they vanish like the older adults. Mike suggests they play a little music to cheer them up while they wait for the ferry. The song “Tomorrow’s Gonna Be Another Day” (Tommy Boyce/Steve Venet) plays to a romp which ends with them in monster masks and a fifth guy in a Monkees shirt and mask who scares them off.

Now we get to the real plot: the three older characters are conning Ellie and the Monkees. Davy, Micky, and Mike sneak back into the house and find a very alive Roselle, Ralph, and Kingsley bragging about driving off Ellie so they can take the mansion. Davy wants to use Micky’s experimental knock-out drop to stop them, so he sneaks off to slip them a mickey, so to speak. Peter and Ellie enter noisily and the villains hear them, each in turn coming out to threaten the Monkees with a gun. Who knew so many old folks in the 60s were packin’ heat? Conveniently, the knock-out drops kick in and the bad guys end up in a heap on the ground. In the tag sequence, the Monkees tell their story to the police.

Monkee-Shirts

 

This is one of the funniest episodes of the series and one of my favorites. The guest cast, especially Lea Marmer, is excellent. The pigeon sequence and the séance are two stand-out funny bits in an entire episode full of laugh-out-loud scenes and dialogue. It’s a well-written, solid all-around spoof of Agatha Christie type mystery stories. The personalities and dynamics of the Monkees are clearer here than in the first episode with Mike emerging as the leader, Micky the one with the crazy ideas, Davy the young romantic, and Peter the oddball.

In this episode, as well as “Royal Flush,” there is a division between the old and young characters. The bad guys in this episode are all the older adults. Mr. Babbit wants to throw the young Monkees out on the street, though he is not a responsible landlord. The adult villains in the mansion are plotting to rob teenage Ellie of her inheritance and it’s up to the Monkees to figure it out. There’s no wise grown-up to help or guide them, no adult to be trusted. This was the age of the generation gap and “don’t trust anyone over 30.” The kids are alright, but they’re on their own.

Happy Thanksgiving, Monkees Fans!

You're Evil

Look out for (guest cast)

Sweet Young Thing

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.