Monkees vs. Macheen: “The Frodis Caper” a.k.a. “Mijacogeo”

“I’m as puzzled as the Oyster.”

Here we are at the last episode of the series and the end of these regularly scheduled recaps. I’m full of conflicting emotions because I don’t want this to end, yet I’m glad the series went out with this bizarre and fun episode. “The Frodis Caper” a.k.a. “Mijacogeo” aired for the first time on March 25, 1968 and was directed by Micky Dolenz, written by Micky along with Jon C. Andersen on the story, and Dave Evans on the teleplay. Evans wrote eight other Monkees episodes, mostly in the first season. Andersen penned four that were filmed in season two. The subtitle, “Mijacogeo,” was made up from the first couple of letters of each of the Dolenz family member names, “mi” for Micky, “ja” for his mother Janelle, “co” for his sister Coco, and “geo” for his father George. It was also the name of the Dolenz family childhood dog.

The episode begins with a montage edit of tight shots on the various parts of a Rube Goldberg-style alarm clock, activated by the heat of the rising sun. This culminates in a record player needle dropping onto “Good Morning Good Morning” by The Beatles. It was unheard of to have songs by popular recording artists on television shows in the United States at the time, let alone a band as big as The Beatles. Of course we know the Monkees had hung out a bit with The Beatles the previous summer and were present for some of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band sessions.

Mike, Davy, and Micky wake up and notice that Peter is not in his bed. Flash-cuts to the empty bed as the others wander around calling for him. They agree to search the premises and meet back there at 0800 hours (That would be a long time to search because their individual alarm clocks read 6 a.m.) There’s a double edit from two different angles as Mike says “Okay guys, let’s go” and Micky and Davy move to leave but then rewind back to Mike. The editing freezes the action and there are screen captions that read FREEZE FRAME.

In less than one minute of episode, there were already tons of editing tricks drawing attention to the fact that it’s a filmed television show. These flash-cuts, captions, close-up shots, unusual angles, montage edits, and fourth-wall-breaking moments permeate the entire episode. Of course some of these techniques were used by the directors/editors throughout the series; Dolenz threw them in all in at once. He does get credit for one fully original touch. In the DVD commentary for this episode, he mentioned that he chose to use a two-camera setup to shoot “Frodis Caper” and points out that this was never done before on sitcoms. On the commentary, Dolenz indicated that it made the shooting go faster and gave the episode its unique look. Even after this, a two-camera setup wasn’t done very often, if at all, and I can’t think of an example offhand. In other words, after all these years, this episode still really stands out.

My husband, a casual Monkees fan at best, loves this episode and even showed it to his film-making partner to illustrate both the directing/editing techniques as well as the surreal humor. Dolenz made directing into a secondary career. Starting in the late ’70s and early ’80s, he directed for television in the U.K., notably a couple of comedy sci-fi kids shows, Metal Mickey, and Luna. He also directed episodes of Boy Meets World, Television Parts (Michael Nesmith’s Elephant Parts spin-off TV movie), and “The Box,” a short film starring Terry Jones and Michael Palin of Monty Python.

The Monkees look around downstairs for Peter, ignoring the fact that he is sitting there in plain sight. While Mike and Micky screw around, performing a “Lost and Found” sketch with flash-cuts to Peter’s opening title picture, Davy finds a weird “statue.” Mike and Micky quickly figure out that the statue is indeed Peter. He’s been hypnotized by the television, which is showing a crudely animated eye making a pulsing sound. The other three somehow manage to shut off the television before it hypnotizes all of them.

After the opening titles, the Monkees (without Peter) scramble around the neighborhood to see who else was affected. Mike and Micky find the whole Parker family mesmerized by the television screen. This appears to be commentary from Micky Dolenz and the other writers regarding television and its ability to brainwash the masses. (And once again, The Monkees was way ahead of its time. This is frighteningly relevant today.) There’s a great comment from Micky Dolenz in this article, a list of “10 Interesting Facts about The Monkees TV Show.” “Most TV is like dope,” Micky Dolenz told Seventeen magazine in 1967, “It’s just there to put people into a state where they’ll believe anything anybody says— like the announcer of the six o’clock news. Our show gives you the idea of being an individual. That’s what we represent to the kids: an effort to be an individual, an attempt to find your own personality.” [“I’ve always found it fascinating that you can identify the problem while being part of the problem.” – Editor’s Note] Mocking the media/television and its effects on society and culture was an overall theme of The Monkees, such as with “Captain Crocodile,” “Monkees a la Mode,” and “I Was a 99-lb Weakling” (to name a few).

Davy, Mike, and Micky rush over to the television station KXIW (the same television station call letters from “Some Like it Lukewarm”), where they find the stagehand hypnotized by the television eye. Micky wonders, “What kind of a warped, maniacal mind could be plotting such a conspiracy?” Cut to Rip Taylor as Wizard Glick, shrieking, “It’s working!” and laughing evilly. The Monkees apparently saw that scene because they cut back to Micky who tells the audience, “Oh, that kind of a warped mind.”

Our heroes decide that this is a job for Monkeemen (cue the Monkeemen theme). Monkees run to a phone booth to change into their superhero costumes. Bad luck, there’s a sign in the phone booth informing them that Federal law prohibits the use of phone booths for “the purpose of changing into or out of secret identities.” They see a telephone company truck and there’s a hilarious moment of Monkee-panic, “it’s the heat!” They squeeze out of the phone booth, Three Stooges-style. This episode has a nice combo of surreal and physical humor.

Next is a montage edit of Glick revealing his “maniacally warped plan” to take over the world with the Frodis. Between close shots of his mouth, there are a series of weird flash-cuts as he talks, such as: “…that’ll release the incredible power of the Frodis (shot of Frodis eye), “…with the aid of my villainous henchmen” (shot of the four henchmen who each have a tiny handheld television), “…I can control the minds of millions!” (shot of Hitler. Sieg heil!).

A henchman alerts Glick to the fact that the “Monkeemen Monitor” is activated for the first time in five years. This gives us an indication of how long Monkeemen have been together, and that this is not Glick’s first time dealing with them. In response, Glick orders the release of the two-headed org.

The Org lumbers after the three panicking Monkees. They look for help from the Monkeeman Manual, which Micky pulls (possibly a copy of the script) out of his pants. First we’ve heard of this manual. They follow the ridiculous instructions: “To dispose of a two-headed org, jump up and down three times, roll a head of cabbage, and giggle.” But where were they keeping the cabbage? When the org falls, the Monkees sing “Ding dong, the wicked org is dead!” Wizard Glick is so very much a parody of the “Wicked Witch of the West” character from The Wizard of Oz. Rip Taylor looked like he was having a fabulous time. (“Could ya die?”)

This episode in particular and The Monkees series in general, frequently had a Sid and Marty Krofft psychedelic kids’ show vibe. The Krofft Supershow, Space Nuts, and Dr. Shrinker are a few of the ones I’m old enough to remember. The Aquabats! Super Show, which I watched with my daughter from 2012-2014, was clearly inspired by Krofft shows and The Monkees.

Next, Glick sends out the TV repairmen. Both the Org and the repairman are released by comically-labeled levers. They rush out with their televisions displaying the eye and try to catch the Monkees off guard. Hilariously, one of the repairmen hypnotizes himself when he checks to make sure his TV is working. It seems Glick would’ve failed again, except that Mike suddenly says “You know what? It’s seven thirty, six thirty central time. It’s time for The Monkees. I wonder if anybody around here’s got a television set.” Fourth-wall-breaking and it moves the plot along. Nice. Repairmen come from everywhere to oblige him.

The Monkees are tied to chairs, but they are not hypnotized, which is inconsistent. Micky decides to use mental telepathy to contact Peter to come get them out. Using a chant he got, not as Mike guesses, “while studying transcendental meditation under an Indian mystic,” but rather that came free with a cereal box top. Hilarious double joke at the expense of their sponsor, Kelloggs, and the Beatles’ Maharishi Mahesh Yogi days. Peter hears the message and leaves the house to go help his friends. (Nam-myoho-renge-kyo apparently means “devotion to the mystic law of the Lotus Sutra.”)

Peter wanders through the town and toward the television station while Glick watches him on his monitor. (The monitor is sort of a witch’s crystal ball.) [Another allusion to The Wizard of Oz – Editor’s Note] He stops to chat with Valerie Kairys, who’s been wandering around the station, also not under the Frodis’ spell it seems. Ultimately, he ends up right in Glick’s clutches when he knocks politely on the station door and Glick is there to greet him.

Next scene, a very miffed Peter is tied up with the other Monkees. Peter notes that there’s a telephone and he hops over to it and calls the police, explaining to the cops that they’re being held captive at Mammoth studios by “these weird people that want to take over the world.” Somehow Mike’s hands have gotten free, so all four Monkees escape and turn the tables on Glick and his men. The cops show up, one played by Bob Michaels, who was also the cop that Micky “directed” in character in “The Picture Frame.” Seeing Glick and his henchmen tied up and the Monkees free, they come to the conclusion that the Monkees are the villains.

They’re not under arrest for long, as the cops suddenly have an urge to watch Dragnet and are easily tricked into looking at a television in the shop window. Unfortunately it also gets Peter. So he’s going to spend much of this episode out of his mind, as he did in the previous episode, “Monkees Blow Their Minds.” They carry Peter back into the TV studio but the ease of their escape ends up being a trick by Glick: now they are in chains and guarded by some guy called Otto.

Mike and Micky con Otto into giving them the keys to the chains by challenging him to a card game. Otto turns out to be a card shark, pulls cards out of his mouth, and shuffles like a pro. They realize they can’t play a real game with him, so Mike and Micky both make up a game on the spot, “Creebage.” (I guess they can read each other’s minds.) They bluff through the rules, declare that they won, and stand up and take the keys. Otto protests “But I have a Creebage.” This scene is reminiscent of the Star Trek episode “A Piece of the Action” when Kirk made up a card game called “Fizzbin” to facilitate escape from gangster-imitating aliens. [“A Piece of the Action” premiered on NBC January 12, 1968 – Editor’s Note]

Creebage or not, the Monkees unlock themselves and carry Peter off to somewhere else in the television studio. Frustrated with carrying him, they hang him on a coat rack. A hilarious screen caption points out that the coat rack is a “Prop.” Poor Peter is a prop himself at this point. The Monkees search in vain for The Frodis room, until Nyles (yeah, he’s still wandering around) comes out and hangs up a sign that identifies the right door (“Yeah, Frodis room”). According to the Imdb, “Frodis” was the Monkees’ code word for marijuana, and they would smoke it in a lounge built for them off the soundstage where the series was filmed (called the “Frodis Room”).

Mike, Micky, and Davy rush into the Frodis room and find a ridiculous plant with a football eye socket with the drawing of the hypnotic eye pasted over it. Frodis pleads with them that he’s being used by Glick, who kidnapped him when his spaceship crashed. He asks them for help. The boys are “moved” by the Frodis’ story and start crying. Micky gets off the hilarious line, “I can’t stand to see a grown bush cry!” They pick up the Frodis to carry him back to his ship, but before they get far, Glick and his men block them.

The onscreen caption announces, “Typical Monkees Romp.” This one is a spacy, slow-motion run through the backlot to the song “Zor and Zam” (Bill Chadwick/John Chadwick). The lyrics seem to be a mythological protest song. It’s a weird choice tempo-wise for a chase scene. There are lots of slow-motion shots, low angles, and odd close-ups, not to mention a random shot of show producer Bert Schneider lying on a stretcher.

The Monkees (carrying Peter and the Frodis) somehow reach the flying saucer before Glick gets there. As the song ends, the Frodis pops his head out and blows smoke all over the bad guys. Glick is utterly stoned: “I don’t want to fight anymore. I just want to lay down in the grass and be cool.” Frodis laughs in his demented, squeaky little voice. (Micky Dolenz’ own voice) This reminds me of Mel Brooks’ History of the World Part I (1981) when Gregory Hines blows the giant joint onto the Roman soldiers who are pursuing them. Since it’s a film, they didn’t have to be as subtle as “Frodis Caper” but there is a similarity.

The last segment, and the last scene ever on The Monkees, is Micky’s choice of musical guest, following the precedent set up with Davy/Charlie Smalls and Mike/Frank Zappa. Peter never got to bring his choice of guest on (“Monkees Mind Their Manor” would have been a good spot) but stated he would have wanted to bring on Janis Joplin. Micky introduces Tim Buckley (1947-1975) who sings “Song to the Siren.”

Buckley began his career in folk rock in the mid-1960s but experimented with other music styles, such as jazz and funk. The song he performs here, “Song to the Siren” (Tim Buckley/Larry Becket) was not on an album until Starsailor (1970). A better known version was a 1983 cover by the band This Mortal Coil, which made the UK top 100 and was used in the films Lost Highway and The Lovely Bones (and in a random perfume commercial I recall from the early 2000s). This beautiful song has been covered by many other famous musicians, including Robert Plant, Bryan Ferry, and Pat Boone. Read more about it here.

Sadly, Buckley died in 1975 from a heroin overdose. His estranged son, Jeff Buckley (1966-1997) was also a singer/songwriter. His only studio album, Grace, was a critical, though not commercial, success and Rolling Stone ranks it 303 among the “Greatest 500 Albums of All Time.” Like his father, Jeff Buckley also died young (drowning accident).

This episode didn’t take my breath away for the wittiest dialogue or unusual plot, nor is it one that I have a lot of personal attachment to, but it is still one of best and most memorable. I’m so glad The Monkees went out on a high note. It seems appropriate that this was the perfect way for The Monkees to end: a paranoid, Sci-Fi parody about an evil entity pacifying the world through television. The Monkees were self-aware and never afraid to mock the system that made them or to make fun of themselves. Micky Dolenz and crew took the surreal humor, present in many episodes, up a level, making “Frodis Caper” one-of-a kind. I wonder what would have happened if the four Monkees had spent less of their energy on taking over the music and instead put their creativity into the episodes as Micky did in this instance; they might have found an unexpected way to make a statement.

As it stands, I’m glad the show ended when it did. It’s a drag when shows keep going long after they’re any good, they “jump the shark” etc. The Monkees was already showing signs of wear and tear, which could have been a sophomore slump that might have been corrected by hiring fresh writers. We’ll never know. Fifty-eight episodes are what we got, and I enjoyed the majority of them. As Micky said the show was about individuality, and to me it’s also about rebelling against authority, being young, about going beyond what you think is possible, about music, humor, and friendship. I thank The Monkees, not just the four band members themselves, but everyone who worked on the show and the music. You’ve given me a lifetime of fun, laughs, and inspiration.

Thanks to everyone for reading and sharing! I’ll be back in the summer with another post listing my favorite moments of the series and again in the fall with a post about Head. In the meantime, I’ll see you in The Monkees Facebook groups.

by Bronwyn Knox

Every couple of weeks, “Monkees vs. Macheen” examined the crazy, spirited, Ben Franks-type world of the Pre-Fab Four: David Jones, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork alias The Monkees.

Advertisements

Monkees vs. Macheen: “The Monkees Race Again”

“You Flew All the Way to Hollywood for This Part?”

Buckle up your seatbelts because it’s going to be a bumpy ride. “The Monkees Race Again” was the last full episode filmed, wrapping on December 20, 1967. After the previous two terrific episodes, “The Monkee’s Paw” and “The Devil and Peter Tork,” this one is a bummer because the Monkees appear to have zero enthusiasm. It seems as though they had a case of “senioritis” and weren’t interested in making these types of episodes any more.

Directed by James Frawley, “The Monkees Race Again” first aired on February 12, 1968. The writers were Dave Evans and Elias Davis & David Pollock. Davis and Pollock worked together on many television shows such as The Carol Burnett Show, Frasier, and M*A*S*H. This episode was their first writing credit. Dave Evans wrote nine Monkees episodes, including the excellent “Find the Monkees” and “Your Friendly Neighborhood Kidnappers.” The “a.k.a. Leave the Driving to Us” portion of the title is an allusion to the iconic Greyhound Bus slogan “Go Greyhound and Leave the Driving to Us!”

The Monkees are in their driveway fixing the Monkeemobile when Davy gets a phone call. The audio sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher, but the caller is actually Davy’s grandfather’s friend, T.N. Crumpets, an auto racer who’s been “winning all the major races lately.” He needs the Monkees help. They try to start the car but instead the red phone starts up and drives back into the house. That cute sight gag was my favorite moment of the episode.

Peter, Davy, and Mike arrive at Crumpet’s garage and go bananas admiring his race car. Where the [cuckoo’s] Micky? The Butler startles them by… standing still and staring. They should be used to people staring by now. He introduces his boss, T.N. Crumpets, who is terribly British. There are Union Jack flags decorating the garage in case his nationality wasn’t clear. Crumpets tells the Monkees that some “absolute rotter” has been sabotaging his car.

Peter and Mike take a look at the engine and cause a small explosion. Micky, whom they’ve established as the group mechanic, wanders in. I guess he took the Greyhound bus or was out parking the Monkeemobile. Imdb trivia states that Micky Dolenz was a mechanic in real life in between acting jobs. I know little about car racing, but I assume this story is meant to mimic (very loosely) Formula One. Some legal races do take place on temporarily closed off public roads, making the finale of this episode not so unbelievable. The British dominated the Formula One Racing world from 1962-1973, connecting Davy’s line about Crumpets winning all the major races to reality.

The next scene takes place at the garage of Baron von Klutz, foreign-accented villain, who is having trouble with his own car, the Klutzmobile. He and his toady, Wolfgang, struggle to get the engine started. Both the Baron and Wolfgang are in World War I military dress and have a periscope installed in their garage, which they use to view black and white footage of a U-boat battle. They also use it to spy on Crumpets’ garage. They watch the Monkees do nonsensical things to “fix” Crumpets’ car: using a saw, hammering a nail into it, filing a piece of wood. Wolfgang wonders, “Who would be so stupid as to treat a machine this way?” The Monkees all look up and bow as though they heard him.

This periscope joke could have been weirder or more imaginative. They could have taken a hint from the episode “The Chaperone” where they had party guests looking at Alcatraz through a telescope. The execution of that gag was unexpected and funny. I realize that most of the jokes on The Monkees were corny or silly, but the difference is in how they are executed. Most episodes were very funny. With this and “The Card-Carrying Red Shoes” however, the humor falls flat due to the lack of joy and imagination. For that matter, the “Klutz” name isn’t that funny either because they never make use of the pun.

Baron von Klutz is a loose parody of Manfred von Richthofen, a.k.a. the “Red Baron.” He was a World War I airplane fighter pilot who destroyed 80 of the allied forces aircraft between 1916 and 1918 until he was shot down and killed himself. Baron von Klutz has the Iron Cross on his car, which was used on German WWI airplanes and was first a Prussian and then German military decoration. These World War allusions were a missed opportunity. They could have added a fantasy sequence where the Monkees become WWI pilots, or created some other historical parody, like Peanuts with Snoopy as the WWI Flying Ace. I’ve read in multiple sources that Frawley used to work with the Monkees in rehearsal of the episodes to re-work or add quick funny bits. I’m guessing no one felt up to it this time.

The Baron and Wolfgang march over to Crumpet’s garage counting, “Eins zwei drei vier.” The Baron approaches Crumpet to gloat over his car trouble. The Monkees cover that everything is fine; the engine was taken apart to “make it lighter.” Micky tells the Baron that the car is in perfect tune, and he proves it by smacking him on the helmet with a tuning fork. Baron laughs evilly and says he will see them at the race. I’m so glad someone is having a good time.

The Baron and Wolfgang repeat the same “I can’t move/ you’re standing on my foot” gag three times between this scene and the last and it’s not funny. David Hurst and Stubby Kaye are two great actors and I wish they’d gotten a better episode. After they go, the Monkees manage to get the engine working. Crumpets decides they should celebrate with tea. What a party animal!

The Baron and Wolfgang’s next plot is to capture Crumpets and Micky. Meanwhile, the Monkees have tea with Crumpets. (Heh.) For atmosphere, the Butler sprays the air with “London mist.” Stu Phillips has an adorable instrumental version of “London Bridge is Falling Down” scoring the scene. Baron and Wolfgang sneak up behind in plain sight and spray knockout gas. No one notices. Come on, the Monkees aren’t this dumb. Davy cracks that it smells like Liverpool (in a spot-on Beatles accent). After they pass out, the villains grab Micky and Crumpets and drag them out.

Micky and Crumpets are tied to chairs in the Klutz garage. Baron starts in with the villain cliché of revealing his plot. Micky guesses “You’re going to award me the Blue Max?.” This is a reference to the 1966 film The Blue Max, which was about a World War I German air force pilot striving to win the highest military order awarded by the kingdom of Prussia. It could also be Micky’s clever way of pointing out how anachronistic the Baron and Wolfgang are; like many Monkees villains, they seem to have stepped out of a time bubble. Speaking of history-related jokes , as the Baron discusses his plans to win the race and make the Klutzmobile famous, his speech comes to a Hitler-type shouting climax and there’s a “Seig heil!” chant from somewhere in the background. Between this and Wolfgang’s Hitler mustache, the required mocking of Nazis is present. Crumpets protests that Micky is not a mechanic and the Baron decides this is reason to gag him.

Knowing how The Monkees loved to spoof popular television shows of their day, this episode is also a parody of Hogan’s Heroes, with Baron as a stand-in for Colonel Klink and Wolfgang substituting for Sergeant Schultz. It’s not a great parody though. There’s no unique take on the topic. Compare this to the much funnier “Hillbilly Honeymoon” where they parodied “The Beverly Hillbillies” but made the episode guest characters dark parallel versions of the ones from the original show.

Mike, Peter, and Davy wake up and give a half-hearted “They’re gone!” when they realize Crumpets and Micky are missing. They rush over to the Klutz garage, where Peter finds Micky’s tuning fork on the ground. Wolfgang approaches to block their entry and fibs that it’s his tuning fork, an “a.” Wolfgang and the Monkees take turns hitting themselves in the head with the tuning fork, arguing over whether it’s Micky’s “b flat” or the Wolfgang’s “a.” Peter notices that Wolfgang has a good voice and asks if he’d like to join the group if they don’t find Micky. Cute line referring to the fact that Stubby Kaye was a star of musical comedies. He performed one of my favorite numbers in Guys and Dolls.

Wolfgang pulls a gun on them and tells them to go. Mike and Peter break the fourth wall to bust Wolfgang’s balls about having a gun on television. They must be joking, because the Monkees have had guns in their hands themselves many times. “The Monkees in Texas,” “It’s a Nice Place to Visit,” “The Picture Frame,” not to mention the crazy amount of gunfire in “Monkees à la Carte” and “Hillbilly Honeymoon.” I know they were probably making a statement against violence, but it was vague and chaotic as it played out. The Baron approaches and he intimidates the Monkees into leaving. Here’s a thought: Why didn’t he just take this opportunity to kidnap them too? It would have saved him trouble in the long run.

Mike, Peter, and Davy finish fixing up Crumpet’s car. Mike remarks they have no one to drive it, but Davy points out that as a British subject, the Racing Commission may allow him to drive the car. Yes, but why is it so important that they have representation in the race? There’s nothing at stake here that anyone cares about. All the same, they go to see the Official, (played by Don Kennedy, the policeman from Monkees à la Cart) who agrees to let Davy race. He has only one concern, “I don’t think he’ll be able to see over the wheel.” Punch him in the knees, Davy!

They go back to the garage where Mike and Peter put Davy in the car with a phone book (remember those?) under his butt to boost him up. He says he’s “a little high” so they rip out a few pages. No, Davy you’re not a little high. That was in “The Monkee’s Paw.” Davy takes a joy ride and it seems he’s also familiar with Peanuts.

The Baron spots Davy through the periscope and realizes the British car isn’t out of it yet. Wolfgang un-gags Crumpets, allowing him to breathe. Crumpets proclaims, “You’ll never get away with this!” and gets gagged again. Micky meta-comments to him, “Boy, you sure got a lousy part.” You said it, Micky. In order to steal Crumpets’ car, the Baron makes an announcement on the loudspeaker, calling the Monkees to the reviewing stand. Despite his heavy accent, the Monkees buy this and go running. This is even sloppier than the knockout gas bit; Peter is naive enough to fall for this, but Mike is not. These are all gaffes I’d happily ignore if the episode was funnier. Team Klutz takes Crumpets’ car back to their garage. They take parts from it and put them in the Klutzmobile. Un-gagged Crumpets helpfully comments that they’re putting the part in backwards. I don’t know why he’s helping them, but he gets gagged again for his trouble.

Mike, Peter, and Davy go back to the Official’s office where they try to convince him they can race without a car. The Official refuses, because you’ve got to have some standards. Davy remembers that the Monkeemobile exists, and they run off. Out on the track, Davy gets ready to race the Monkeemobile and Mike discusses their plan: during the race he and Peter will go to the von Klutz garage and find Micky and Crumpets. (The voice announcing, “ladies and gentlemen, cars and drivers are now on the starting grid” sounds a lot like Mike.) Davy wonders about the other contestants. The Baron pulls up and declares there are no other contestants. So, these dummkopfs managed to fool, sabotage, or murder all the other racers teams. I do like that they switched the Baron’s helmet for goggles and an aviation cap.

A girl walks by with a racing flag for her skirt. To her dismay, the Marshall tears her flag-skirt off so he can signal the start of the race. As he gives the signal to start, his pants come down. With these two gags, I suspect some “absolute rotter” sabotaged my DVD and swapped it for an episode of The Benny Hill Show. Mike and Peter burst into the garage as Wolfgang was about to shoot the prisoners. Wolfgang has the gun, but he runs away from Peter and Mike instead of shooting them. Yeah, they are two intimidating guys.

The Klutzmobile and the Monkeemobile race on real roads, mixed with superimposed footage of the actors in the cars. The Baron forces Davy off the road and leaves him hanging off a cliff. He gets going again and the Baron sends tires rolling at him. Davy swerves to avoid them and they roll in front of the Baron, causing him to crash into a tree. Davy wins. The girl in the checkered skirt (now intact) gives him the trophy, a flower wreath, and a kiss. The IMDB says this is Valerie Kairys but there’s no clear shot of her. I’m sure the Imdb would never lie to me.

It’s nice that Davy won, but in other episodes where the Monkees participated in races, “Wild Monkees” and “Don’t Look a Gift Horse,” there was something on the line. In “Wild Monkees” they would have been torn to pieces by bikers if they didn’t join the motorcycle race. Not to mention risking their manly reputation in front of the girls. In “Don’t Look a Gift Horse,” Davy raced a horse to help the broken-hearted little kid who wanted to keep it. With “Monkees Race Again,” I suppose Davy’s defending Crumpets’ reputation and the British and American honor against their World War I and II former enemies, but neither of these was worth rooting for as they played out.

Since the race is over, the romp to “What am I Doing Hangin’ ’Round?” (Michael Martin Murphey/Owen Castleman) ) is completely pointless. The actors do some goose-stepping and “heil” arms. German characters were used often as the stock villains for mid-to-late twentieth century pop culture and this episode is only 23 years after the end of WW II. I think that the British pop culture has done the best job at making dark comedy out of Nazi’s, etc. The funniest thing I’ve seen using the post world war tensions as humor was the Fawlty Towers episode, “The Germans.” It’s worth checking out if you’ve somehow missed it.

I wouldn’t have nitpicked so many little details in this episode, if the Monkees had given more enthusiastic performances. When they’re into it, it’s so entertaining that I don’t really care if it makes sense. Unfortunately, the actors playing the Monkees were interested in other things at this point in the series. Micky and Peter directed episodes around this time (Micky co-wrote his), Mike recorded The Wichita Train Whistle Sings sessions just before this, Davy opened a boutique called Zilch, and they were all getting ready to shoot Head. These are just a few of the things I found in The Monkees Day by Day book by Andrew Sandoval. I’m sure there were other distractions. They didn’t seem to care about performing for the show by this time. I watch these episodes to see the Monkees’ friendship, to watch them solve problems together in funny ways, and to see their interactions. I got none of that in “The Monkees Race Again.” There was none of the usual warmth or interest in entertaining and connecting with the audience.

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: “Alias Micky Dolenz”

header_text

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

alias-micky-dolenz

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.

peace

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.

am-is

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.

unusual-romp

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.

when-did-you-get-ou

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.

frawly_strauss

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.”

mike-and-peter

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]

micky-for-davy

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.

evil-alias

look-out-for-alias

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 Audition” aka “Find the Monkees”

header_text

“Life is so strange”

title3

This is one of those episodes that hits all the high points for me. It’s incredibly funny, it deals with The Monkees trying to make it as a band, and the characters are all working together to achieve a goal. And then there’s the guest cast. The two actors supporting the story steal the show. There were also some cool character moments with the Monkees themselves. Dave Evans wrote this episode which first aired January 23, 1967.

“The Audition” was directed by Richard Nunis, who died one week after wrapping at the age of thirty nine. The only other credit he has is as a production manager for a 1961 television movie called Witchcraft. Since he did such a top notch job with this episode, I can’t help but not think of what other wonderful work he would have done were it not for his untimely death at such a young age.

Micky rests on the hammock and opens his eyes to see four guys in gold lame and red costumes with stockings on their heads. He thinks they’re being invaded by Martians and runs all over the pad in spectacular bit of mania. He falls backwards over the couch and the lounge, bangs on one of the doors, and runs up the steps to gather the other Monkees. It’s just another band, The Four Martians, there to borrow a guitar string. The Monkees discover that TV producer Hubble Benson is auditioning bands for a new TV show and invited The Four Martians and two other competing bands, The Jolly Green Giants and The Foreign Agents.

Notice how gimmicky these other bands are with costumes and makeup? The only way the Monkees could be equivalent in “style” is if they performed in actual monkey suits. Clearly they have been left out, though they try to cover. They literally put their heads together and think about what to do. Davy suggests sending the tape they made on the rented tape recorder to Benson, but Micky forgot to remove the tape. This is a fantastically cool shot, and I love the rotation when Micky gets his line.

putting-your-heads-together

Now we get to the fabulous Benson and Chomsky, who should have had their own sitcom. I’d watch it. TV producer Benson is on his motorized table, receiving a massage. He wants his Dictaphone, but through the intercom, Miss Chomsky tells him it’s broken. He wheels himself out to talk to her, and she holds up her red jacket and plays bullfighter as he wheels past her, saying “Ole!” Miss Chomsky has wisely rented him a tape recorder to use while the Dictaphone is being repaired.

Over at the Facebook group Monkee Magic, group admin Melanie Mitchell has put together a “Script to Screen project” where she has the scripts of some of these episodes available with her commentary. Melanie points out a big difference between the script and the final episode is the character of Miss Chomsky. The script describes her as “thirtyish, nervous, and plain.” Irene Chomsky as played by Bobo Lewis is far from that. She’s bold and in charge, and give as good as she gets when it comes to her obnoxious boss. I’m just guessing that when the production staff saw what Bobo’s strong points were, they decided to go another way with Chomsky. There is a way you can play nervous as big and funny. Mike Nesmith was good at that. But what they did with Chomsky made for a great comedic conflict.

Chomsky sets up the tape recorder for her boss and accidentally plays the tape inside. Of course it’s the Monkees singing “Mary, Mary” (Mike Nesmith). Benson decides to skip the auditions and hire the band on the tape. Chomsky repeatedly explains she can’t possibly find the mystery band. Mr. Benson warns if she says “can’t” one more time, she’s fired. The tape player plays her back saying it and he fires her. She sarcastically thanks him.

NBC-brand-placement

The Monkees, ironically, are at the TV production offices trying to figure out how to see Benson. They enter Benson’s building, cleverly located at NBC. As they head into the elevator, Peter comes down with a bad case of hiccups. The Monkees go through a couple of unsuccessful rounds of trying to cure him.

Benson and the not-fired Chomsky continue to do what they do best: argue. Chomsky tells him all the places she called to find the Monkees. Benson suggests she try the hospital. Chomsky is not intimidated because she “needs the rest.” Later she tells Benson she’s checked the film and TV studios, etc. Benson stands up from the massage chair in his glorious polka-dotted boxers and declares:

When-I-want-an-idiot-to-do-a-job

In the lobby, Peter’s hopping on one foot and counting by twos as a cure for his hiccups. Benson runs by in his underwear. Chomsky comes out carrying pants. She asks if Benson came by and identifies him as the one with the polka dots. Peter’s hiccups disappear as the Monkees decide to chase after Benson.

Benson is at the Missing Persons Bureau to find The Monkees. Comical and subtle sight gag as he has a torn off sleeve, presumably the work of over-eager Monkees. The Missing Persons clerk can’t even find a pencil let alone any persons, and Benson loses faith quickly.

Beson at Missing Person office

Sight-gag callback as Davy walks along holding the torn sleeve. This also has a meta-humor value because real pop stars like the Monkees would get their clothes torn by hysterical fans [That bit in “Head” was a doozy – Editor]. They decide to go up to Benson’s office and greet Miss Chomsky at her desk. She doesn’t believe they know Benson so Peter explains that Benson cured his hiccups, but when he demonstrates he gets them again.

Outside, they mope while Peter hicks. Micky decides they need to scare Peter, so the editors cut in a Monkee in a monster mask from “Monkee See, Monkee Die” and the footage of Reptilicus used in “I Was a Teenage Monster.” A blonde in a two-piece dress with a little midriff exposed catches Peter’s eye. He waves and all the Monkees ogle her. I guess that cured it! The script mentioned that the other three were supposed to get hiccups at that point, but that didn’t make it in.

Missing

Benson is in his office getting a manicure from Tilda when the audacious Chomsky comes in and tosses her shoes on his desk. She tells him the newspapers want to know if it’s true he can’t find a “certain band.” Benson asks, what’s wrong with him? Chomsky doesn’t hesitate to tell him he’s “rude, irritable, impatient”… She goes on like this while Benson realizes his search for the band is a great publicity gimmick for his show.

The Monkees set up at a phone booth to audition for Benson via telephone. Benson has the press at his office giving the scoop on his search for the band on the tape. The Monkees play “Sweet Young Thing” (Goffin/King/Nesmith) over the phone but they’re connected to the wrong Benson. Davy and Mike tangle up in the phone cord as Davy goes into the booth to try and call. He gets the right Benson but Benson thinks he’s “Byron Jones,” someone he doesn’t want to talk to, so he puts the phone down and muffles it. Now they play for no one with Davy holding the receiver in his mouth for Mike to sing into.

Phone-audtion

A line forms behind them for the phone, including a Clark Kent look-a-like. The operator asks them for 10 cents for the next three minutes so they get it from Peter’s shoe where he has a tape label that reads “mad money.” They’ve been cut off and give up. The faux-Kent goes into the booth to change into Superman and struggles to get out while the “Monkee Men” theme plays.

Nice scenes of the Monkees hanging together at home in pajamas. The savviest Monkees, Micky and Mike, try to cheat each other at a game of cards, while the dummy, Mr. Schneider, watches. Peter’s reading the paper in the hammock and Davy hangs out below on a mattress. Davy grabs the paper and reads about Benson’s search for the mystery band. They’re annoyed since they’re busting their butts to audition while he’s chasing a band that “isn’t even trying.” [It appears we’ve come full circle within the music industry – Editor] Peter has the brilliant suggestion that they should be that band. The others are skeptical at first since they don’t know what kind of band the mystery band is, but Peter points out there are only so many kinds. In the script, it’s Davy who gets to come up with that idea. I’m glad they transferred it to Peter. It makes sense with the simplicity of the suggestion. Peter’s innocence once again makes him the smartest one.

This plan leads into the romp to “Papa Gene’s Blues” (Nesmith), credited at the end as “Papa Jean’s Blues,” which reflects the printing error on the early pressing of their first album, The Monkees. They dress up and play various musical styles while chasing Benson all around the parking lot and his office building. First, they’re a Salvation Army band chasing Benson on his own motorized table. Then they’re a jug band on a bandstand. They dress as a vaudeville group on bikes and in the background you can see the Monkees cast chairs. Benson picks up Mike’s chair to beat them back. They also chase him as a marching band and a Gypsy violin band.

Benson was played by Carl Ballantine, a comic magician who did tricks that never worked. He started out as an actual magician but found he was more successful at making fun of himself when his tricks failed. It’s quite possible the Peter’s turn as The Amazing Pietro in “To Many Girls” was inspired by Ballantine. Here’s a link to Ballantine’s act on The Donnie & Marie Show.

Benson gives up on finding the Monkees, and goes through with his original scheduled auditions. The Jolly Green Giants, Foreign Agents, and Four Martians are at his office. The Jolly Green Giants are up first and Chomsky sets up the tape recorder to tape it. Of course no one can operate a tape player on this show, so she plays the Monkees back and the Jolly Green Giants identify them, calling them a no-style band, which I interpret as “no ridiculous costumes.”

The Monkees official YouTube site released a video of the HD restored version of this episode.  The Jolly Green Giants look much greener in this version than they do on my DVD. [Slightly cleaned-up, brighter picture, but the difference is negligible with this episode – Editor]

HD-restored-Giant

Benson and all the bands descend on the Monkees pad. Benson and Chomsky realize they’ve found them and shout, “Eureka!” to which Peter responds, “No, we’re Americans.” They play for him, and he tells them they’re going to be stars of his new show. He asks Chomsky to perform the theme song. She sings and Benson decides she’s the new sound he wanted all along. He says she was “right under his own nose” and wonders what’s wrong with him. She begins to read off his list of flaws again as they leave together. I’m sure he’ll drop her as soon as he hears the next “sound he’s looking for.” I’m also sure Miss Chomsky knows him better than he knows himself, so she’ll be fine.

In the Monkeemobile, Peter laments losing the TV job and the chance to earn “$100 a week.” Mike points out TV stars get more than that, sometimes as much as $5,000 a week. The Monkees themselves earned something closer to the figure Peter’s naming, receiving $450 an episode for the first season, and $750 in the second season. Peter vanishes on hearing what he could’ve earned. The Monkees do the “He’s Gone!” bit and head to the useless Missing Persons Bureau. They describe Peter to the same hapless guy who still can’t find his pencil. The chaos-loving Monkees start tearing apart his office to “help” him find it.

To fill the last few minutes, they have an interview segment where they talk about the Sunset Strip riots, which occurred in late 1966 and in response to the imposed 10 p.m. curfew for kids under 18. These same riots were also the inspiration for the Mike Nesmith song, “Daily Nightly.” Micky says they were actually demonstrations, but “people and journalists don’t know how to spell demonstrations so they use the word ‘riots’ since it only has four letters.” Bob Rafelson asks Mike if he’d like to see all the kids wear their hair like his and Mike gives the best possible reply to such a question, “I would like to see all the kids in the country wearing their hair like they’d like to wear it.” That’s one of the best, if not the best, interview segment they did.

best-interview

That was one fast-moving, entertaining, and fabulous episode. The story itself was short since they tacked the interview on to the end, but they packed a lot in to each scene. The terrific acting, hilarious dialogue and sight gags, and engaging plot line make this one of the classics of the 58 episodes. I also enjoyed the character moments between the Monkees themselves and the central irony of the Monkees trying to “be” the band they already are. Of course in the end, they are not on the road to fortune and fame and will be back to struggling next episode.

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: “I Was a Teenage Monster”

header_text

“He’s a Monster. He’s an Android. Monster! Android! He’s a Monster and an Android. Forget it Bronwyn, it’s The Monkees.” 

Title

Hurray for Halloween episodes! Of course, “I Was a Teenage Monster” didn’t debut on Halloween. It originally aired January 9, 1967. Since they shot it from November 1-3 in 1966 there was no way it would be ready for Halloween [This would require a time machine – Editor]. All the same, I love their spooky-themed episodes which would include: “Monkee See, Monkee Die,” “A Coffin Too Frequent,” “Monstrous Monkee Mash,” and this one. Like the previous episode, “The Case of the Missing Monkee,” this is a genre-parody episode; this time it’s horror [This time, it’s personal!  Sorry – Editor]. The title is a spoof on the film I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957) starring Michael Landon. This freaky horror fest was directed by Sidney Miller, and written by Gerald Gardner & Dee Caruso and Dave Evans.

As in “Monkee See, Monkee Die” the Monkees arrive in a spooky house and are instantly disturbed by their surroundings. The boys are all wearing their matching blue Monkees shirts, ready to play a party, but their host, Dr. Mendoza, lets them know that it’s not the case. They’re actually there to teach a “youngster.” Groot, Dr. Mendoza’s “Igor” analog, interrupts and takes Mendoza away. They go to the lab where they pull a sheet off a giant Frankenstein type. It’s Richard Kiel, yeah!

When this ran on MTV in the mid ’80s I was so excited to see Richard Kiel on this show. I had seen him in The Spy Who Loved Me as Jaws a million times on cable and in that movie, he is genuinely scary. Here, he’s adorable. He’s so wonderfully expressive throughout the episode that it’s amusing the Monkees find him frightening.

The Monkees want to know if it’s Mendoza’s son they’ll be teaching and Mendoza creepily answers that it’s his “flesh and blood.” They go to the lab where Mendoza reveals to them the “little Monster.” Micky breaks the fourth wall to tell us “The little monster IS a little monster.” He’s more of a big monster since Kiel is over seven feet tall. There’s lots of breaking the fourth wall in this one, the most I’ve seen in an episode thus far. It gives this particular episode almost a “live” feeling. As does the mostly wide shots that resemble a stage-play.

The Monkees panic and try to make all sorts of excuses to leave. Except Peter of course. Peter gets attached and thinks the Monster’s harmless. Peter’s absolutely right, even though the Monster keeps roaring at them at a frightening volume. Mendoza explains they’re not teaching a monster, he’s really more of an android. Mike utters this little gem, “We can’t tutor a computer.” I never noticed before that Mendoza called him an android. In light of what happens later, the designation android makes perfect sense. Mike busts out the faux-macho deep voice again, and declares he can’t risk his men on this foolish plan. Mendoza exploits their need for money and offers to double the original payment from $100 to $200. So the Monkees agree in this little cutaway:

Science-Must-Be-Served

Left alone with the Monster, Peter becomes very much like a little kid and wants to keep the Monster/android as a pet. Mike treats him like a child saying he’d have to take care of it. Super-scientist Micky explores the lab, nearly spilling a beaker that Mike rescues and notes could have been the Monster’s mother. Upstairs in the parlor, they start to work on teaching the Monster to be a rock star. Micky decides his image is wrong and thumps him in the chest. The Monster replies with a deep-voiced “Don’t do that”. Micky conjures up a few items to dress the Monster: a Beatles haircut, dark glasses, groovy clothes, and a guitar.

longhaired-nearsited-monster-with-a-guitar

They call him “it,” but I’m going with “he.” It’s telling that they go with the superficial rather than teaching him any music. This is the stereotype of being a rock star, image over musicianship. What’s also humorous is their fear is also superficial; it’s just based on his size and his growly voice. The Monster hasn’t made any aggressive moves towards them at all. Next, they try to teach him to move on stage and play drums but both attempts end badly [Meg White, he ain’t – Editor]. He hip-checks Peter and Davy off stage and breaks Micky’s drumsticks. The Monkees want to leave, promising to come back tomorrow to work on his voice but Mendoza insists it late and they should stay the night.

The Monkees are in their creepy room. Meanwhile, Groot checks with Mendoza on the plan to transfer the Monkees talent and voices to the Monster.  He says some science mumbo-jumbo to explain it. The Monkees discover a girl in their closet, who introduces herself as the Doctor’s beautiful daughter. (There’s also a black lacy bra hanging in the closet behind her.) They shut her back in there and go to watch TV. A little meta-humor here, as the dialogue for the movie they’re watching involves a doctor transferring a man’s brain into and ape.  One by one, each Monkee disappears from the room.

Bonnie-Dewberry

Our boys find themselves chained to the wall in Mendoza’s lab, where Mendoza reveals his plan to give their musical talent to his creation. Mike tells Mendoza he could get the chair if they die, something he also told Bessie in “Monkees in a Ghost Town.” Nice of him to try and caution these wackos. Mendoza says the transfer won’t kill them and demonstrates by transferring current with two wires. He causes explosions to go off in the lab.

Amusing bit as Davy takes his hands out from where they’re supposed to be chained to make a pleading gesture. He breaks the fourth wall to apologize to the cameraman. Pink puffs of smoke go off behind each Monkee as Mendoza finishes the process. Mendoza asks the Monkees to sing, and they give an off-key rendition of the theme. The Monster meanwhile, opens his mouth and sings with four voices and all instruments. He’s more of a playback machine. The android description fits better than monster. Mendoza and Groot dance around with glee! This is so silly. I love it. It could have been a full length musical.

crazy-machinery

Mendoza warns them that he’s taking their memories away [Nothing the god of biomechanics won’t let you into Heaven for – Editor]. He has a long tube with two flat metal ends, and he puts one end to his neck and the other to each of the Monkee’s necks saying, “You will remember nothing.” They reply, “I will remember nothing.” I swear the actors or someone on set just pulled that out of their hat as a way to have them “hypnotized.” No wonder it doesn’t last long. I love Mike’s attempt to “resist” though. They have all this fabulous equipment on the set and this is the hypnosis device? It doesn’t compare to the amnesia ray in “The Case of the Missing Monkee.”

Back on the stage, the Monkees can’t play or sing or remember why. Mendoza actually takes back the money he gave them since they can no longer play. Wow, he really is evil. He steals their talent, AND has the nerve to take back the $200? Mendoza shows off the Monster, who plays “Tomorrow’s Gonna Be Another Day” with the Monkees voices.

The Monkees sit in their room and try to figure out what happened. Since the memory wiping was ridiculous, it doesn’t last long and they all remember having their talent stolen. They run to the lab, except Micky, who stops to ask the girl in the closet what she thinks of all this.

Sequel

Down in the lab, Micky is the one to try and figure out how to reverse the process. I guess Mendoza’s done playing with his toy, because there’s the Monster, in his old clothes and strapped to the wall. Speaking of that, it’s kind of a shame that Mendoza is talented enough to make a functioning humanoid android, and this is what he wants to do with it? That cynicism of the writers again, telling the audience everyone just wants to be in showbiz.

Mad scientist Micky starts monkeying around with everything in the lab to reverse the process. One of the bits of equipment looks like a turn-table with a stack of records on it. Micky realizes he can’t reach the devices while strapped to the wall so he gets a long cane to hit everything with. His first attempt changes the Monster into a hippie, “Let’s split and go to my pad. That’s where it’s at. Groovy. Dig” Micky’s next attempt gives Mike the Monsters’s voice, “Kill! Kill!” But that’s not really the Monster’s temperament.

Meanwhile, Mendoza suffers various distractions. He asks the mirror who’s the evilest one of all, and is disappointed it isn’t him. Well, he’s got my vote! The Mirror voice was provided by James Frawley. Mendoza next gets a call from a lady asking if he wants bossa nova lessons. That’s just got to be Miss Buntwell from “Dance, Monkee Dance,” right? Groot reminds Mendoza he promised to turn him into a tall, strong monster. Mendoza promises to turn him into a vampire.

decorator

Micky’s lever-pulling in the lab turns the Monster momentarily into a flamboyant decorator. I just want to mention how great Richard Kiel’s acting is through all this; comical and engaging facial expressions and gestures. He may be an android, but he’s no stiff! Mike gives us a skeptical look. Micky promises to get it right. Instead, he spills a glass container, alerting Mendoza and Groot. They rush in and try to stop Micky. Micky shouts a non-sequitur “Curse you, red baron!” (Prescient shout-out to “Monkees Race Again?)

Mendoza orders the Monster to attack the Monkees, but Peter tries to use his friendship to stop him. The friendship could have been developed a little more, but Peter is the only person to give him a name, “Andy” presumably short for android. Also, this is the first real aggression we’ve seen from the Monster. Peter tells the Monster that Mendoza wants 60% of the Monster’s income, and the Monster turns to kill the Doctor instead. The Monster goes back and forth between Mendoza and Peter, not sure who to attack, until his swinging back-and-forth outstretched arms turn into a dance, leading into the romp for “Auntie Grizelda” (Diane Hildebrand/Jack Keller).

That was truly a genius moment, the lead-in to the romp. The romp is fun too, one of the best of the series and the second really good one in a row. Lots of chasing and fake scare bits, and the song suits it very well. Highlights include the Monster dancing, Micky as a DJ, and footage from the movie Reptilicus (1961). Davy leaps into the Monster’s arms and materializes a boxing glove. The Monster also meets the “villagers with their torches,” aforementioned in “Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth,” and he roasts marshmallows with them.

Romp-highlight

Mike calls the police and tells them to pick up the bad guys on “Rosebud” lane. Cute and random nod to Citizen Kane when Mike says, “I thought that was the name of the sled.” The Monkees try to play their instruments but instead they break them all. Also, what are they going to do with the Monster, just leave him down there? I know he’s an android but will they just leave him shut off? No really, I’m very worried about this. He’s the best character.

There are a couple of loose ends I’d say. Not that they have to tie everything up in a neat little bow. I like shows that leave some things to the imagination. Also, the events of these episodes never have consequences anyway. Next episode, the Monkees will be able to play again. There were no plot strings like in today’s TV shows. Every episode can stand alone. This one stands alone as a groovy and charming monster movie parody, in large part due to the fabulous guest cast, cool set direction, and a smashing romp.

If you’ve missed any of these previous recaps, they are now conveniently available in an archive page.

Evil-Monster

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: “Too Many Girls” aka “Davy and Fern”

header_text

“Talent Show, My…(Whistle)!” 

Title

I wasn’t super excited to write about this one, I admit. The storyline for “Too Many Girls” revolves around an often used plot device: Davy is in “love.” On the plus side, writers were obviously aware of it and making fun of it themselves; using a well-established trait of Davy’s to drive the story. Similar to “Success Story,” the conflict is about the possible loss of Davy as a band member. The best part is the talent show – that’s the centerpiece and most memorable sequence. The teleplay was written by Dave Evans, Gerald Gardner, Dee Caruso, from a story by Dave Evans. The episode aired on December 19, 1966, and James Frawley directed.

The opening scene is the Monkees rehearsing, and I do love it when they have story elements about them as a band. The actors are actually playing this bit of “Stepping Stone” that you hear. They had just returned from a two-week promotional tour of the series, in September of 1966, when they started production on this episode, so the four of them were probably very used to playing together by now. Davy spaces out during the rehearsal when he sees a girl. The object of his affection is Valerie Kairys; it’s always fun to spot her in an episode.

The Monkees that are not love-struck get rid of Valerie, and Davy snaps out of it and starts playing the maracas solo. He realizes what’s happened and makes a vow to the others: “no more girls.” Mike, who dominates in this episode with his efforts to keep control of things, wants to hold Davy to his word. Davy doesn’t even get through the vow before he’s locked eyes with yet another girl. Micky, Peter, and Mike find young women stashed all over the apartment and they escort them all out. They think they’ve found them all and collapse against the door, but when they look up, there’s Davy, surrounded by all the girls.

Deeply-jealous

The Monkeemobile screeches to a halt on the street. Our villains of the episode, Mrs. Badderly and her teenage/young adult daughter Fern, watch the Monkees from outside the tea room. Mrs. Badderly, says “the little one is Davy. He’s English. He likes tea.” But how did she know they were pulling up just then? Holy cow, maybe she really is psychic.

These women plan to swindle Davy, but not for money this time. Mrs. Badderly insists Fern needs Davy as a partner for a show business career. Davy’s such a sweet guy. I’m sure if Fern had just asked him to be her partner for the talent show, he would have said yes. No need to trick him. But that’s not enough, as Mrs. Badderly wants Fern to have a career with Davy. She’s on the phone with Mr. Hack, assuring him that Fern has an act for his TV amateur show. Mrs. Badderly has pepper and a nail and tells Fern to do as she says, laughing manically for good measure.

The Monkees conveniently decide to patronize the tearoom. Ms. Badderly goes to their table to read their tea leaves. She “sees” that Mike’s a musician, composer, and raconteur. Micky does a W.C. Fields impression to add that Mike “also contains lanolin and won’t upset your stomach.” (I enjoy noting Micky’s various impressions. Unlike Locksley, he is a master.) Mrs. Badderly also sees that Mike’s about to have a flat and Peter will come down with a 24-hour virus. Fern sprinkles pepper on Peter’s coat and presumably off-screen she stuck that nail in Mike’s tire. It’s easy to predict the future when you create it. I’ll have to give that a try.

Now the hook: Mrs. Badderly tells them that Davy will fall in love within 24 hours and he’ll leave his friends and home over it. Davy denies the possibility, but she says the tea leaves “never lie.” There’s a stand-up sit-down gag as the Monkees stand politely when she leaves the table. The score of violins crescendos whenever they stand. I suspect they used some of this music again in “Son of a Gypsy.”

Practical Mike’s not buying any of this. He goes on about the silliness of believing tea leaves as they approach their car, which indeed has a flat. When Peter starts sneezing, Davy reasons that’s two predictions and asks big brother Mike if his will come true too. Mike stuffs Davy into the back of the car and starts blowing up the tire with his mouth. In addition to being a “musician, composer, and raconteur,” his spit patches nail holes.

At home, Mike forgets he doesn’t believe Ms. Badderly’s predictions. He wants to keep Davy isolated from women for 24 hours. Davy says, “that’s half the world.” The other Monkees ignore Peter’s obsessive freak-out about “half the world” with half a globe. Mrs. Badderly and Fern have stalked the Monkees back to their home, and Mom pressures Fern into continuing with their nasty plan to break up the Monkees.

Now begins the series of scenes where Fern becomes a worthy opponent for the Monkees, borrowing their tactics of changing voices and disguises to get Davy alone. She is a bunch of different girls, trying to figure out which one can ensnare Davy. I wish there were more characters like her. The Monkees rarely came up against anyone their own age. Most of the baddies are older, established authority figure types. It would have been fun to see them in conflict with more girls like Fern, or competing with other bands that were their equal in antics. That said, Fern is acting on her Mother’s instructions.

First, Fern shows up at the Monkees door as a curvy and mature looking Girl Scout. With a squeaky voice, she pretends to sell cookies, hoping to get to Davy, but they quickly shut her out. Micky says, “Girl Scout my…” and the soundtrack helpfully fills in the implied “ass” with a whistle. Micky’s mouth didn’t say it, he just stopped at “my.” (Different than “The Devil and Peter Tork” when they’re all clearly mouthing the word “hell” that gets bleeped out.)

The next day, I assume, since they’re all wearing different shirts, they send Davy upstairs when they hear a knock at the door. It’s Fern posing as a passport photographer. Micky foolishly says yes to her, and she takes a picture of the three of them with a turn-of-the century camera, which magically gives them turn-of the century costumes for a second. The flash blinds them and she rushes upstairs to find Davy. Mike quickly stops her, trying hard to keep control of this situation. The boys show her the door.

Davy is tired of being confined and he starts to lose it, but Mike is firm with him. Davy argues they’ll have to tie him down if they want to keep him inside. Mike and Micky exchange glances and Mike makes a comical face, ridiculously pleased with the idea.

Mike-gives-good-face

Mike, you da man in this episode. They chain Davy to a chair and give him the TV to keep him occupied. When the others leave, Davy gets a “special delivery” note under the door. He makes an excited “whoop” and leaves, dragging the chair outside. The other Monkees find the note and tell us that it’s an invitation to judge a beauty contest, the ideal lure for Davy. Off they go to try and catch up.

Two funny sight gags as the Monkees search. The first is on the street when they ask a group of strangers which way he went; all of them point in different directions. I’d love to hear how that conversation went, “Have you seen a little guy chained to a big chair? He’d be sort of dragging it?” They think they’ve found Davy, but it turns about to be…another identically dressed guy, also dragging the same chair. This had me falling of my chair laughing.

mistaken-identity

Davy arrives, not at all suspicious that the pageant is at the same tea room where they met Mrs. Badderly or that there’s only one contestant. It’s Fern, disguised in a cave-girl costume and long brown wig. This is the scene with the blurring where her bikini would be, due to NBC-TV Broadcast Standards and Practices (the same standards that didn’t want anyone to see Barbara Eden’s belly-button on I Dream of Jeannie, or any woman’s navel on Star Trek). YouTube has an uncensored clip, with some full body shots of her. On my DVD, they go right to a close-up of her face.  In the context of the un-blurred version, Davy’s expression changes from “stunned” to “turned-on.”

Fern-uncensored

The couple hears music every time they touch. Davy think it’s love, but it’s Mrs. Badderly in the next room with a record player. Davy says “I’m Davy Jones, and I think I love you.” (Wrong show, Davy, “I Think I Love You” is The Partridge Family.)   The Monkees arrive too late. Mrs. Badderly comes out and Davy “introduces” her to Fern. She reads Fern’s tea leaves and tells her she’s going to be a great success on a television show with Davy. Fern coaxes Davy into helping her. The Monkees sit in Davy’s chair to stop him. But…

A-man-in-love

That was pretty hot – rubber chain or no. [I noticed that Davy’s shirt is designed to resemble a straitjacket – Editor.] Davy, Fern and her blurry body leave, and the Monkees sit in the chair and sulk. The phone rings and some unseen person [Frawley, I presume – Editor.] pushes it out to them. After a little hand-over-hand contest, Peter answers. Who picks up the phone in someone else’s place of business? The Monkees, that’s who. It’s Mr. Hack calling Mrs. Badderly to say that her daughter and Davy are scheduled to appear last on the amateur hour. Peter hangs up and relays to Mike and Micky. They all realize “her daughter and Davy!” They’ve been had again.

Now comes the part I’ve been waiting for: the talent show. The other three Monkees are at Mr. Hack’s televised Amateur Hour, performing under aliases to cause some trouble, as usual. Very nice Dickensian naming convention for Mr. Hack by the way. Although it’s also a reference to Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour. First up is the Astonishing Pietro. Peter is less than competent as a magician, but he gets the best line: “You’ll notice that my fingers never leave my hand.”

Mr. Hack announces “very gifted folk singer” Billy Roy Hodstetter. Mike gives a flustered performance of his own composition “Different Drum”. Hats off to him for this awkward self-parody, and he even mocks his own wink to the camera. I always loved “Different Drum” even before I knew Nesmith wrote it. This episode debuted almost a full year before the Stone Poneys’ version and this probably played even funnier once the popular version of the song was known.

Talent-Show

Locksley Mendoza: “Master of Impersonations” is up next. This is Micky as a comedian, being so unfunny, he’s back to funny again. All his impersonations sound exactly like his Cagney. While he does his act, Peter and Mike put rocks in Davy’s pocket and replace his dance cane with a rubber one. Peter helpfully tells the camera what they are doing. Mike gets Davy’s attention and sprays him with something to mess up his voice.

Davy and Fern go on stage to do a song and soft-shoe number, but Davy can no longer sing or keep up with her dancing. She screams at Davy, storms off stage and goes to her mother, who comforts her. A little contradictory, as it seemed at the beginning she was being pushed into this plot by her Mother, and now it seems like she wanted this to work. Davy is surprised to learn Mrs. Badderly is Fern’s mother.

rocks-in-your-pocket

Mr. Hack says there will be one more act after these words from our sponsor. The three Monkees let us know it’s “our” as in The Monkees sponsor. Mr. Hack advertises a product called SDRAWKCAB, which is Backwards, um…backwards. The last act is The Monkees, who play “I’m a Believer” (Neil Diamond) in beige Monkees shirts. Fern keeps crying to her Mom and, speaking for all the foes of the Monkees, Mrs. Badderly says:

Curses-Foiled-by-the-Monkees

Mike tells Davy that Fern and her mother were conning him. Davy blames himself for believing in the tea leaves. The winners of the contest? Davy and Fern. What? It’s not the Monkees? This is an outrage! Like in “Your Friendly Neighborhood Kidnappers,” the Monkees have unfairly lost a contest. As Davy said in “One Man Shy,” it’s not how you play the game, it’s whether you win or lose.

Of course the Monkees are never allowed to succeed in show business, but at least they didn’t lose Davy. It’s a more realistic plot-line, similar to “One Man Shy” where the story depends on character conflict and not high adventure, as in an episode such as “The Spy Who Came in from the Cool.” “Too Many Girls” isn’t as funny as some but there are a couple of laugh-out-loud moments. There’s also a central irony. Fern and Mom trick Davy into thinking he’s in love, because Davy’s always looking for love. He didn’t really love Fern, but he’s not in love with any of these girls anyway. The opening scene set that up very well. He gets infatuated with the next girl and the next girl and the next…He’s in love. For the very first time today.

Evil-too-many

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: “Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth”

header_text

“The Year of the Monkee (Horse)”

"Don't Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth"

One of the wonderful things about this television show is watching it with my nine-year-old daughter. I discovered The Monkees when I was five on WKBD 50 Detroit. (“In Detroit, the kid’s choice is TV 50”) Last summer, I was feeling a bit down and was looking for something to cheer me up when I noticed IFC was running The Monkees. And what a great thing to be able to share with her, this show that I fell in love with as a child. She especially likes this episode, and I can see why it might appeal to children. It has animals and a little kid; silly comedy, fun sequences. The Monkees are the Nicest Guys in the World, helping out the boy the way they do.

“Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth” was the first episode shot after the pilot but the 8th one to air on October 31, 1966. (Another shout-out to Melanie Mitchell, whose book, Monkee Magic, allowed me to see the shooting vs. airing order of the episodes.) The episode was written by Dave Evans and directed by show producer Robert Rafelson. Compared to the pilot, which moves very fast, this one takes its time to show the Monkees interacting together, and to make them likable; make them, in fact, into sweet, selfless good guys. There is more character development and less style and techniques. For instance there are no onscreen captions at all, nor do I notice much in the way of breaking the fourth wall. The main thing that is missing for me though is the usual dose of ironic and subversive humor that was present in most episodes. That type of humor is one of the elements that kept me enjoying the show well into adulthood.

The first part of the episode is a screwball comedy with lots of wacky misunderstandings. It starts with Davy alone on the beach (like “Royal Flush”). A little boy brings him a horse (a real horse – Editor) and asks him to watch it. The kid runs off and vanishes, leaving Davy stuck with the animal. By the look on Davy’s face, he knows he’s screwed.

I never would’ve thought Peter would be the one to do the cooking but he’s made cream of root beer soup for Mike and Micky. Micky gives his review of the meal by turning into a werewolf and howling all over the place. Peter says “here we go again” and it cracks me up that this is common behavior for Micky. Mike helpfully salts his hand and offers it to Micky for a snack. Henry Cordon is back as nasty landlord Babbitt, and he enters with his villainous organ theme music (dun, Dun, DUN). Micky’s howling convinces Babbitt they’re keeping a dog, which they’re not allowed to do or he’ll kick them out. Micky awkwardly explains he was just doing his werewolf impression.

Babbitt lays down the law.

Just as they get rid of him, Davy enters with the horse from the entrance by the windows, with a comical apologetic look on his face. Mike looks stunned as they roll into the opening theme. Davy explains how the kid abandoned him with the horse on the beach. Mike is worried about Babbitt and the conversation turns into a wacky verbal mix-up, which Micky tries to sort out by howling again.

The noise brings back Babbitt. The boys try to hide the horse in the bedroom but he won’t budge. Mike tells Davy and Peter to hide in the bedroom and somehow convinces Babbitt that the actual horse is Peter and Davy in a horse costume. Both the werewolf bits and Davy bringing the horse were really nice scenes, with lots of character interaction.

None-too-bright landlord taken care of, Mike wants to get rid of the horse, but he still won’t move. Davy stands there looking at the other three like they’re the idiots. They think the horse is hungry and feed him some of the root beer soup, which sounds like a bad idea. Sure enough, the horse licks it and collapses.

See, somebody appreciates good soup.

Mike goes to see the veterinarian, Dr. Mann, who has a huge mustache and magnifying glass. After more wacky verbal mix-ups, the vet agrees to come see the horse. Mike gets so flustered in this scene. One of the charming things about the Mike character/Mike Nesmith’s performance is the awkward, stammering bits he does. He’s natural, he’s affable, and it’s funny. Micky and Davy are pretty slick but Mike’s charm comes from seeming a little unsure sometimes, despite being the leader. This scene was good example of that.

Mike and Dr. Mann

There are a lot of out-of-focus shots in the episode, including some here when Mike brings Dr. Mann back to the pad. There is also a grainy look that makes me think it was shot on a higher speed film stock to accommodate the later outdoor setting.

Anyway, Dr. Mann finds Peter and Davy in an actual horse costume so he starts examining them. Even by The Monkees standards this is all very silly.

Yegads! This is worse than I thought!

They hear a knock and assume it’s Babbitt. Now they have to hide the vet. But it’s their nice, elderly neighbor, Miss Purdy, with a cake to share with them. Miss Purdy faints when she sees the horse and then two more times when she sees Dr. Mann in the horse head and finds out he’s a veterinarian. “Why did she faint?” My daughter wants to know. “Well um, I guess people were more fragile in the ’60s?” But my actual guess is that writers thought fainting was really hilarious back then. To prove my point, Mr. Babbitt strides in, preparing to catch them with all kinds of animals, but he collapses when he hears Peter talking from inside the horse costume.

Then, the tone of the episode changes  to become more laid-back and outdoorsy, beginning with Davy riding the horse on the beach. He finds the boy who explains he can’t keep Jeremy (now we have a name for the horse) because his father thinks he costs too much. Jonathan (whose name they have not said yet) wants Davy to talk to his father. I guess he thinks his Dad is susceptible to English accents like the rest of us!

They drive out to the kid’s father’s farm in a jeep, no Monkeemobile. I wonder if the jeep is borrowed and has a trailer for the horse. They don’t give us a clear shot of it, so who knows? The father says the horse is useless and too expensive to care for (Why did you buy it, Dad? – Editor). Davy offers to pay the original investment, but they don’t have $100 of course. Mike suggests the Monkees pay it off by offering their labor on the farm for a week. Farmer Fisher wisely takes one look at this bunch and wants to try them out for a day first (The whole thing smacks of a “Paper Moon”-style scam – Editor).

Fisher wakes up the Monkees at sunrise; they’ve been sleeping in the barn in their farming overalls. He gives them their list of chores that they are too sleepy to comprehend. Later, they are enthusiastically doing chores when Jenkins, a suave looking farmer in a leather jacket, comes and mocks the kid’s father for having “city slickers” working for him.

They don’t mention the character names here. It takes 2/3 of the plot to mention the kid’s name is Jonathan. We never hear the adult farmer’s names. I got the names from the IMDB because I didn’t want to call them “Farmer” and “Other Farmer in a leather jacket.”

Peter gets ready to feed the hogs, but Micky has to demonstrate the hog call for him. It brings chickens (“now why don’t you try the chicken call?”). There’s a funny call-back gag where Micky’s attempt at a hog-call reaches Babbitt back at the house, who thinks they’ve got some other animal in there.

You know, it's just as well the hogs didn't come. Why's that? I forgot their food.

The Monkees aren’t very good at the farm chores. They’re supposed to milk the cow but start playing catch/football/kick the can with the milk bucket, inspiring my daughter to say “They’re just too much fun for this work.” The game leads to an accompanying romp to “Papa Gene’s Blues” (Mike Nesmith), the Monkees song my daughter and I are most likely to be found singing out loud. There’s a romp/fantasy sequence where they picture themselves as bullfighters, complete with stock footage of real bullfighters, and costumes. Mike mirrors the stock bullfighter using his moves on the cow. He successfully gets milk, but Peter spills it all over Fisher. Fisher is now done with them.

The episode uses the usual guitar wipes, but here there’s this weird dripping transition to this next scene. Maybe representing the milk spilling?

Davy says a sad goodbye to Jonathan and apologizes for failing him. Jenkins pulls up and says the horse is useless anyway. Davy and Jenkins make a bet that Davy can beat his horse Charlemagne in a race*. If Davy wins, Jenkins will pay the $100 for the horse. If Jenkins wins, he gets to keep the Monkees guitar. The Monkees are far too nice, putting their guitar on the line like this to help this kid. I don’t get what’s in it for Jenkins either, unless he needs a guitar and bragging rights for Charlemagne?

(*Note from the Editor – farm horses are not the same as race horses. There is a world of difference between both horses, involving a regiment of training and exercises that farm horses would not be required to accomplish.)

Micky does his WC Fields impression while giving Davy advice on how to race and Davy and the horse have racing silks (… blouse and cap worn during a race …) from somewhere. Various methods are used to start the race: a bugle, a racing checkered flag, and a gun. The racing scenes are set to “All the Kings Horses” (Michael Nesmith). The racers race, the other Monkees jump around on the beach; the farmer and his kid cheer. Davy wins! Even the father is happy about it. Davy gives him the money (exactly $100, suspicious – Editor) (You’re viewing this with 21st Century cynicism – Editor’s wife) he won to keep the horse, and Fisher invites them back to visit, but not to help with the chores.

Tag sequence where another kid approaches Davy, this time with a camel.

Davy and the camel.

The others haul him out of there and we hear more “Papa Gene’s Blues,” with some of the performance footage used in “Monkees In A Ghost Town”, where they’re wearing the gray suits. Mike looks like he’s having so much fun playing this song, and he does that famous wink to the camera.

Mike's wink.

So there we have it. The Monkees help the underdogs as they did in “Monkees vs. Machine,” “Monkee See, Monkee Die,” and other episodes later in the run. (I won’t count “Royal Flush”, though they did help her selflessly, because a princess about to be a queen is not an underdog.) I have to admit, if my daughter hadn’t enjoyed it so much, I would have had a hard time finding so many positive things to say. I always found this one a little dull and not as funny, and I didn’t understand why the Monkees were being so altruistic when the stakes weren’t that high this time. But I have a final word from my daughter, who wanted to know: “Why did you wait so long to show me The Monkees, Mom?” Better late than never.

Guest Cast

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.