Monkees vs. Macheen: “Success Story”



“The Monkees Probably Should Have Been Arrested”



The 6th episode, “Success Story” had an emotional story-line compared to other episodes and was also the first to feature a Monkees family member. There was an unusually stereotypical situation-comedy feel with a character getting in trouble for deceiving a loved one. I wasn’t really looking forward to writing about this one, but as I watched I rediscovered a lot of funny moments.

One of the elements creating the mood was the incidental music, composed by Stu Phillips, which expresses the sensitive nature of this episode. Mr. Phillips began composing for movies and television in 1958 and was the founder of Colpix Records (a label that signed Michael Nesmith and Davy Jones as solo artists before they were cast on the show, and later became Colgems). Phillips’ music can be heard in 54 of the 58 Monkees episodes. He’s known for his work on Quincy, M.E., Knight Rider, and many other television shows and films, including two of my favorite Sci-Fi shows from childhood, Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

“Success Story” debuted October 17, 1966 on NBC. Oddly, the writing/directing credits run at the start of the episode instead of the usual spot after the opening theme and they are as follows: Written by Gerald Gardner & Dee Caruso and Bernie Orenstein, Directed by James Frawley.

The Monkees play cards with Mr. Schneider, who gets his first line, paraphrasing George Bernard Shaw: “It’s a shame to waste youth on children.” The plot kicks off with Davy receiving a telegram from his grandfather who’s coming to visit. Davy’s distressed because he’s been lying to him about being rich and successful. Micky selfishly (and amusingly) tells Davy it’s his problem. Davy explains that when his grandfather finds out the truth, he’ll have to leave the band. Meanwhile, the telegram man is trying to shake down Mr. Schneider for $1.80 for the collect telegram.



Mike suggests they make Davy “look” rich and so begins a series of scenes where the Monkees steal the appropriate costumes and props. Usually they just quick-change into disguises, but in this episode we see how they acquire their costumes. Micky swipes a Rolls Royce by tricking the owner into letting him “exercise” his car. Micky’s character is mechanically inclined, maybe echoing the real-life fact that Micky Dolenz worked as a mechanic for Mercedes Benz in 1964.

Mike appropriates a chef’s costume by getting hired and immediately fired as a chef, complete with a cute look to the camera when he gets away with it. The kitchen is the same set from the later “Monkees a La Carte” episode. Micky acquires a fake chauffeur’s costume by convincing the telegram man to switch clothes with him, so he can demonstrate how to get the $1.80 from Mr. Schneider.

Peter approaches an ice cream cart. In a very Harpo Marx way, he gets the ice cream seller’s jacket without even speaking. This impresses me, but not as much as the weirdness that follows: The now topless ice cream man is suddenly stampeded with men in suits, demanding ice cream as though his bare chest made everyone hot and hungry. Charlie Callas has funny, exaggerated facial expressions in the scene.



Davy reviews his “staff” in their new costumes to prep for gramps. He takes to his rich kid roll a little too well, getting annoyed with the other boy’s antics. Davy is seriously hoping he’ll look convincing as a successful star. The storyline relates to the overall theme of the Monkees quest for success, though this time it’s just the appearance of success to keep an older adult from worrying.


At the airport, pretend chauffeur Micky repeats his nasal doorman voice from “Monkee See, Monkee Die.” Davy picks up his grandfather while Mike and Peter work to make Davy look famous. Mike plays various autograph seekers and Peter takes pictures for the “press.” Cecil Cabot from “Royal Flush” is back and she approaches him for an autograph when she sees all the fuss. Davy thinks she’s Mike in disguise and kids around with her. The fact that Mike is about a foot taller than Cecil Cabot didn’t really clue him in to his mistake.

Mike and Peter play chef and houseboy roles while Grandfather and Davy have dinner at the house. They don’t have money for two fancy meals. Davy has plastic/rubber food, and the film rewinds to emphasize him bouncing it off the table. Davy complains that he’s hungry enough to eat a horse and we’re treated to a flash to future episode “Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth” with the boys pulling a horse through the house. It’s all over when the various victims of the Monkees theft show up wanting their stuff. Grandpa catches on quick, and Davy is busted. To make matters worse, the lights go off because they didn’t pay the electric. Grandfather tells Davy to pack for England.


This is one of the rare times on the series where we see an older adult on the show taking care of the young Monkees or having their best interests at heart. In previous episodes the boys were on their own, facing older adults who wanted to destroy them or at least take advantage of them. This time the grandfather, though we certainly don’t want him to break up the Monkees, has his heart in the right place. There’s some nice acting on Davy Jones and Ben Wright’s part where Davy is sorry for lying and compliant about leaving with him. The music score is noticeably more serious here. Mike isn’t having it though, and tells Grandfather he’s only taking Davy because he misses him and needs him around. Grandpa won’t own up to this. For those of us living far from our parents, I think we’ve all been here. The older generation can’t understand why the younger ones aren’t living the way they want them to live. It doesn’t change when you’re out of your 20s either. The generation gap that’s represented here is something that resonates today.


Davy walks around with pretty hair and sad eyes as the song “I Want to Be Free” (Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart) plays, and there’s footage of the Monkees playing with the kids that was used in “Monkee Vs. Machine” and other footage “memories” of them hanging out. Emotional scenes are not really what this show does best, but you have to have serious or touching moments sometimes in order for the comedy to have impact. Davy says a sad goodbye to the other Monkees and Peter gives him a parachute just in case Grandfather changes his mind on the way over. Aww…Peter. Peter is the only one he hugs. I guess the others are too manly. Looking at this now, it has an especially poignant feeling with David Jones’ sad death in 2012.

The three orphaned Monkees cry comically for a few seconds and then Mike gets it together and tells the other Monkees and the audience they’re going to stop Davy from getting on the plane. Of course they are; they’re off to create havoc!


Now we get the scenes of airport mayhem, and watching it in this new millennium, it’s hard not to think about how much they’d be suspected of terrorism. On the other hand, I’d be disappointed if they did anything less.

Micky sets up a fake baggage claim for Gramps, and busts out a British twit voice while messing up his suitcase and directing him to the wrong gate. Peter freaks out Grandpa with an Icarus/Daedalus impression, running around with fake wings screaming “don’t fly!” Mike arrives driving an airport golf-cart and pretends to take Grandpa to his flight. He drives around chaotically, terrorizing and nearly running over other travelers. Meanwhile, Davy waits and wonders what’s keeping his grandfather. Really? I think he knows his buddies better than that.

Grandfather Jones is smarter than most of the opponents they’ve tried to fool thus far. Even quicker than Daggart, he has the wit to see through their disguises. Their insane behavior convinces him that Davy has good friends that really care about him, and he lets him stay. In the meantime, he’s picked up the Cecil Cabot character and he’s taking her to England. Well, I guess “fast-mover” is a trait that runs in the Jones family!


In the tag sequence, the Monkees sit at the same park from “Your Friendly Neighborhood Kidnappers” and “The Spy Who Came in from the Cool.” Micky realizes they could have tried actually playing music to impress Davy’s grandfather. This launches a video for “Sweet Young Thing” (Michael Nesmith, Gerry Goffin and Carole King) where some senior citizens dance and frolic with the Monkees. Toward the end there’s a weird bit where the seniors chase them around with cards in their hands, maybe BINGO cards. Mixed in are shots of the Monkees playing instruments with close-ups of Mike looking slightly sweaty and very attractive.

The episode ran short again and they fill time with another interview segment. This one appropriately features Davy talking about going home to visit his family. It’s a cute story about his father thinking his hair is too long and making him get his haircut twice before letting him into the house. Davy says he bought a house to give his father in Davy’s own name so that can’t happen again.

Speaking of long hair, in the documentary We Love the Monkees (2012) Micky notes that the television network at the time must have been nervous about putting The Monkees on TV because “the only time you saw long-haired kids on television, they were being arrested.” Growing up in the 70s and 80s, some men and boys had long hair and no one thought twice about it. It’s hard to imagine long hair being associated with a criminal element. But, in the episodes I’ve written about so far they’ve done a few insane things that could’ve gotten them arrested. Just for fun, here’s the rap sheet:


Monkees in jail_sm



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: “Royal Flush”


“This Is Supposed To Be About A Band, Right?”


The Monkees television show debuted 49 years ago, and as the 50th anniversary approaches, I wanted to write a little bit about each episode of this amazing show that makes me laugh as much now as it did when I first saw it in syndication as a tot. “Royal Flush,” the first Monkees episode, aired September 12, 1966 on NBC. It was the third episode shot and the first directed by James Frawley, who went on to direct 32 of the 58 Monkees episodes. Frawley won an Emmy for “Royal Flush”; Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Comedy Series, 1966-67. He worked with the Monkees for a few months before the show started to develop the spontaneous improvisational style that defined the Monkees humor.

“Royal Flush”  was written by Robert Schlitt and Peter Meyerson. The story begins, as so many of these episodes do; with the romantic British pop star character Davy Jones falling for a pretty girl. He saves Princess Bettina of the kingdom of Harmonica (where?) from drowning and then meets the first of many Monkees bad guys: her Uncle Otto and his bodyguard Sigmund. Otto and Sigmund clearly want to eliminate Bettina and possibly Davy as well. The actors playing the bad guys are really funny. I never appreciated the guest actors enough when watching this as a kid.


After the opening theme we see the first shots of the Monkees beach house, accompanied by the Harpsichord version of The Monkees theme, composed by Stu Phillips. Inside the house, we see the famous Monkees décor. Micky helps Davy find Bettina in the newspaper while Mike talks about their lack of jobs and money, setting up a central show premise. Mike tells Davy not to get involved but the Monkees go into a fantasy sketch, dressed for a military invasion. Micky’s got his British military voice on, and he leads them through the plan to break into the hotel where Bettina is staying.

we wool hat

The Monkees arrive at the Rich, Swank Hotel in individually styled gray suits. These scenes are the best part of the episode, with the Monkees doing what they do best: using their wits to con their way into or out of trouble. They get the maid to leave and spy on Otto and Sigmund. After they find out he is indeed up to no good and get it on tape, Micky uses a phony salesman-voice to get Otto to come to the room to look at some thrones. Otto and Sigmund show up and Micky dazzles them with his spiel and appeals to Otto’s vanity, while Davy sneaks off to warn Bettina. Davy and Bettina figure out Otto wants to get rid of her before she officially becomes queen that night at midnight, so he can take the crown. This takes a while because Davy sucks at operating tape recorders. The Monkees distract Otto and leave the hotel.


Next we get the Monkees traditional musical sequence, this time to “This Just Doesn’t Seem to Be My Day” (Tommy Boyce/Bobby Hart). There are some pretty funny moments while Mickey tries to evade Sigmund and Bettina and Davy frolic on the beach. Micky jumps into Sigmund’s arms, mimicking Bettina and Davy. Peter digs a hole and as he goes along progressively sillier signs warn: “Danger Hole Started,” “Watch Out Half Hole,” and then “Caution Whole Hole.” Sigmund, of course, falls into it.


Outside the Monkees house we see the “Keep Off the Grass” sign for the first time. Inside, Micky rigs a safe on a rope to trap Otto, but it fails. Bettina tells Otto she’s sent a letter to the embassy, to be opened if she doesn’t arrive at her own birthday reception. Otto takes Bettina away, leaving Sigmund with the Monkees to make sure she behaves. Later, The Monkees try to get away from Sigmund, who jumps up and blocks the way. Catch Micky’s look to the camera to tell us, “He’s fast!” The safe finally falls, and the Monkees split.

At the birthday reception, Otto sees the Monkees and tries to abscond with Bettina. Bold little Davy jumps in front of him and they have a duel to the song “Take a Giant Step,” (Gerry Goffin/Carole King) complete with instant Errol Flynn costume changes. During the fight on screen captions during the fight read “We can’t go on meeting like this” and “It always worked for Errol Flynn.” Otto corners Davy and is about to go in for the kill, but Peter calls for “the time.” (Remember before the days of cell phones and digital cable boxes, you could call for “the time” if you wanted to set your watch?) It’s midnight and as Bettina’s first official act as Queen, she has Otto arrested.

web eating plates

In the tag sequence, The Monkees go back to the hotel room and run into the maid again, who now owns the hotel. There’s an interview sequence because the show is one minute short, and 11 more would be featured on the show. Peter thinks Davy’s too short to do a fencing scene. This begins the running gag about Davy’s height.


I love watching the Monkees trick the bad guys with their logic-defying, Marx-Brothers style antics. Many of my favorite gags originated in this episode such as breaking the fourth wall by looking at the camera, the screen caps, and the fast-motions scrambling around. I only wonder why they chose this episode as the debut, since the story has nothing to do with them as a band. It’s barely even referred to, which is an interesting choice for a show about a rock group.




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.