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.

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Monkees Vs. Macheen: “Monkees at the Circus”

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“It’s Great, It’s Terrific, It’s the Best Show on Earth”

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“Monkees at the Circus” is one I do remember watching in syndication in the late ’70s. It features a circus (obviously) , so of course it would make an impression on my five-year-old mind. David Panich, writer of “Monkees vs. Machine,”  also wrote this one. In addition to The Monkees, he also wrote for The Dean Martin Show, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In, and The Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show to name a few. He died in 1983 at age 59. “Monkees at the Circus” was directed by Bruce Kessler and first aired February 13, 1967. The show starts out with the Monkee-mobile, circus music, and circus stock footage. Our boys walk through a circus tent set, hoping to catch a show but it’s closed.

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They go into the main tent and start playing with paraphernalia in there. The extremely unpleasant (but not evil) Victor starts throwing knives at them. He tells them to leave or he’ll call the police. Micky recycles his “You do and I’ll be sorry” line from “One Man Shy.”

Outside, between the tents, Victor holds a meeting with all the circus players, listing their woes. No one has been coming to the shows, they’re using old equipment, and they haven’t been paid. [This seems like a management/labor dispute – Editor] One of the performers blames the discotheques and rock and roll groups for taking away their audience. Hoo boy. Victor thinks they should quit. Pop, the circus owner, weakly tries to convince them to stay as his pretty young daughter Susan wanders sadly away.  Of course, Davy notices her and shuffles over. She’s worried that her father will lose the circus. Davy promises that everything will be okay or she can “feed him to the lions.” He has no way of being able to keep that promise. Norma Rae … I mean Victor continues to be a rabble-rouser. Davy jumps on stage to convince them to have hope, since there are always ups and downs: The circus is a tradition, the kids will come, etc. The performers like what he has to say.

Back in the tent, the Monkees hang around a costume rack. There’s a repeated reference in this episode whenever Micky sings the theme to Circus Boy, the show he starred in as a child actor. Here’s a bit of him singing it on that show, adorably energetic even then. Susan thanks them for offering to help, and then asks what they do for a living. Why, they’re Brain surgeons! Mike explains, “Except in the summer time, I’m a cotton picker. Sort of a carry-over of skills.” He gives the farm report into Micky’s stethoscope. They forgot to mention that they’re also compulsive liars. 

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Peter picks up the megaphone and transitions us into a scene where The Monkees imagine that they’re circus performers [“folie à quatre”, in other words – Editor]. In their fantasy, Peter is the Ringmaster, Micky’s an abusive lion tamer and Mike is a deadpan lion. Mike swipes the whip and makes Micky do the trick. I love Mike wearing his wool hat with his lion costume. Davy is a trapeze artist, suspending himself by his mouth at an amazing height of… two feet.

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They transition out and overhear Victor presenting Pop and Susan with a petition from the other performers to receive their back pay or else they’ll quit. The Monkees materialize in costumes and  mustaches, pretending to be a trapeze act known as The Flying Mozzarella Brothers “here to save the circus from distress.” The costumes are red leotards with gold tunics, and look like what the Four Martians used in “The Audition.” All of them do “over-zee-top” French accents, except Mike who remains Texan (with an occasional “zee” thrown in.) I enjoy this scene so much. They’re all charming and funny as they sell this scam to Victor. Micky whispers lines to Mike who introduces them as “Amazing, Incredible, Colossal, and Stupendous.” They claim they can cross the high-wire at 500 feet as a human pyramid. Victor is impressed and rushes off to tell the others the good news.

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After Victor and Pop leave, The Monkees dematerialize out of their disguises. Susan is pissed off and points out the obvious: The circus will be in bigger trouble when crowds come to see the non-existent Mozzarella brothers. That’s more lies for The Monkees. The Monkees hang around the real circus performers; a clown, strong man, sword swallower, and a juggler who each express their hope and excitement that the Mozzarella brothers are coming. It dawns on the Monkees what they’ve done. Yeah, they’re not at all in the right here. They’ve certainly screwed over Pop and the entire circus with their shenanigans this time. It’s always enjoyable to see them con bad guys, whether they succeed or fail, but Victor isn’t bad so the structure is re-set here, making an interesting difference in this episode where the Monkees are unintentional jerks.

The Monkees try to save the day by practicing on the tight rope while Susan nervously looks on. (Donna Baccala, who plays Susan, is really beautiful.) The best part of this is Peter and Mike on the high wire with balancing poles, walking through each other and looking at back in surprise. Micky is off screen shouting, “go back, go back.” Susan is not impressed and asks what they’re going to do. Micky says, “Well for our first act, we could get out of town. (nervous laugh.) A joke. Get it? Little joke, about that big.” Also a recycled joke, this time from “Dance, Monkee Dance.” Susan says they should tell the truth. Davy starts by confessing to her that they are rock-n-roll singers.

Victor overhears this part. He calls the other performers over and tells them about the Monkees lies. He’s presumptuously states that they’ve never even been on a Trapeze. He outs them as rock-n-rollers (the horror!) and says he’s leaving. The Monkees decide to go before they ARE fed to the lions. The performers glare at them and then pack and prepare to leave. Davy looks back in guilt as Susan cries.

Davy gets the others to stop and at least try to cheer Susan up. They dress as clowns and do a little act that’s also a romp to “Sometime in the Morning” (Gerry Goffin, Carole King). They should have done this to begin with. Playing music and being funny, THAT’s how they can help. The performance footage from this romp is used in “Monkee Mother” as well. They look very handsome in that footage. The circus players stop their packing, look on, and enjoy the show. They tell the Monkees they look like “real show folks” and want to perform with the Monkees after all. That was a really nice moment. Something about the circus performers not being terribly “actor-like” and The Monkees getting honest appreciation, worked for me.

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More stock-footage of a circus, leading into Pop as the Ringmaster announcing Victor featuring Susan as his living target. Victor doesn’t come out, which shouldn’t be a surprise since he made his feelings clear. Davy decides to draw Victor out by impersonating him, taking a shot at Victor’s ego.  Peter puts an apple on her head and Davy throws the knife before he finishes, “Don’t worry folks, I’ve got plenty more knives.” Victor comes out and takes the knives. He should kick Davy’s ass for risking Susan’s life, but he doesn’t. Instead, he performs his act to the sound of the crowd’s cheers.

Pop talks to Davy about how well it’s going and declares that the problem was that people just hadn’t seen a circus in so long. I’m not sure this makes sense; they’ve gotten an audience under false pretenses, and the audience doesn’t mind? I suppose the idea is, if they just get butts in the seats, the people will be so charmed they’ll fall in love with the circus again, but it’s not all that clearly conveyed by the writing. Anyway, Pop tells The Monkees they’re going on next. After a little panic, they realize that they’re going on just to play music. The “playing” is recycled footage of “She” (Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart) that was used in “Monkees a la Carte,” with the band in gray suits in front of a blue background. Cut in with shots of the circus cast dancing. Susan and Pop really get down.  It’s not the worst idea in the world, combining a circus with Rock-n-Roll. [“You wanted the best and you got the best!” – Editor] They did it with The Jim Rose Circus and Lollapalooza, though I suppose that was more of a sideshow to the music.

Tag sequence where Susan is making out with Davy to “thank” him. The small clown comes up to hand Davy a giant key to remember them by. The strong man gives Peter the giant bar bell since he was able to toss it around earlier, but now he can’t hold it up at all. The sword swallower gives Mike his sword to practice with, then he totally freaks Mike out by getting it stuck in his own throat. The juggler gives Micky her unicycle, pins, and a bucket so he can have his own act should the discotheques close down. Micky pedals himself into the ladder, right next to where David and Susan continue to make out.

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There are a lot of nice ideas in this episode. It’s an “old meets new and both learn from each other” type of story. The Monkees are actually the “evil” since they represent a phenomenon that’s taking away from the tradition of the circus, at least according to the episode.  If circuses were waning in popularity in the 1960s, they started to come back again in the 1970s (and as Davy says there are always ups and downs). The Monkees were able to help in the end, and the circus performers no longer hated and feared musicians. It’s a very sweet episode, although not as funny and missing the subversive humor that I love from The Monkees. And really, two of the funniest lines were recycled from other episodes. I would put this one in the sentimental and traditional sitcom category, like “Monkee Mother” and “Success Story.”

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Dedicated to the memory of the funny and talented Gene Wilder (1933-2016)

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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.