Monkees vs. Macheen: “Your Friendly Neighborhood Kidnappers”

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“Monkees, Swine, and Crabs”

Your Friendly Neighborhood Kidnappers

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

The story opens with a band contest, and the group onstage is the Four Swine. Micky describes the leather wearing, cigarette puffing Swine as “seedy characters.” This is interesting because in the second season “Wild Monkees” episode, the Monkees will put on similar outfits to impress some biker girls. The “seedy” Swine make fun of the Monkees on their way off stage, handing Micky a banana. The Four Swine manager arranges for the audience to hear Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony instead of the Monkees music when they get on stage and try to play.

Monkee-Talent

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

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

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

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

Mikes-face

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

Trump calls the kidnappers, one of whom is Mel from the television sitcom, Alice! Always fun to see a famous actor before they played their iconic part. The kidnappers are busy putting a poor victim’s feet in cement, but they agree to take the job. Trump tells the Monkees to dress “black tie” for a daytime kidnapping. Peter tries a few different magical costume changes to get this right, and Davy’s wearing a red smoking jacket that’s different from the others who are in  black tuxes. Mike is skeptical of Micky’s suggestion that they call the late-arriving kidnappers, which leads into a pretend call with the kidnapper’s answering service where Micky resurrects his phony-salesman voice from “Royal Flush.”

Answering-Service

After going to the wrong house, the kidnappers knock politely and check the address with Mike. This is the first mention of their 1334 N. Beechwood address, which was also the address used for the Monkees original fan club. The kidnappers bust out guns and scare the crap out of Peter. They tie up the Monkees with Mr. Schneider replacing the missing Davy. Horace (Louis Quinn) tells George (Vic Tayback) he has to pick up Davy at the disco; however George is intimidated because he can’t do those “crazy dances.” There’s a brilliant screen caption when George practices dancing that reads “Cassius Clay Watch Out.” (Referring to boxer Muhammad Ali, known by his birth name Cassius Clay until 1965.)

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

Back at the pad, the gun-wielding thugs have lost control of the situation because the kids, the staff, even the furniture from the Vincent Van Gogh-Gogh are now in the Monkees pad. The overwhelmed kidnappers tie everyone up, but the kids keep dancing to “Let’s Dance On”  (Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart) (not credited at the end of the episode) and “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone” (Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart). Getting tied up does’t bother the kids at all. They make it into a new dance craze. Horace calls Trump to tell him he’s going to have to cough up more money to kidnap the entire crowd, but Trump refuses. Davy helpfully empties the room for them by playing a polka on the jukebox, causing the kids to stampede right back out of the house.

dance

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

The Monkees try to figure out how to escape in time to make the contest. Micky has more ideas in five minutes than I have all day. The editors put an image of light bulb directly over his head to signify this, but he complains, “I can’t think with this bulb hanging over my head,” and it pops like a balloon and vanishes (“thank you”). His first plan is to toss a hypnotized Peter out the window. (I would love to have Micky’s hypnotist talents for putting kids to bed.) Once this idea is dismissed, Micky makes a rope for them to crawl down until Mike points out they’re on the first floor. Okay, hold it, in that case why don’t they all just go out the window?

Mike, who really is the group skeptic, tries to warn Micky against his idea of punching the kidnappers. He’s proven right when Micky’s fist hits George’s hard face. Throughout this, Peter keeps the audience aware that the Monkees’ need to hurry by announcing the time, which the screen caps helpfully display in Central Time. Micky finally manages to con their way out, pretending he has a vial of Nitroglycerin and threatening the kidnappers with it until they back into the bedroom. Micky confesses to the other three that he has no idea what’s really in the vial and tosses it off the set where it explodes in a surprisingly good effect.

The freed Monkees head for the contest in their matching Monkees shirts. But wait: the gangsters get out of the “locked room” right away and begin a romp chase scene to “Last Train to Clarksville” (Tommy Boyce/Bobby Hart) . This is the third time in as many episodes they played this song. The chase includes scenes in a city park, a desert, a western scene, and stock footage of covered wagons. It ends with the Monkees clobbering the kidnappers and playing their song in the contest. Before the MC can announce the contest winners, there’s a fourth-wall-breaking bit from Peter:

Peter

The Four Swine and Trump go to jail in matching jail-striped outfits. The Monkees get “special consideration” for their trouble, but the winners are Lester Crabtree and the Three Crabs! Screaming girls run onstage to rip Lester’s clothes off again. Success eludes the Monkees who conclude that all it takes to get famous is having your clothes ripped off. They immediately tear off each other’s shirts in the most unintentionally homoerotic moment ever on the series. It’s also one of the many cynical comments about show business that The Monkees made over the course of the series.

Clothes-ripping

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

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

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

Micky-Mania

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

by Bronwyn Knox

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

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NEW PODCAST: “Save The Texas Prairie Chicken”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“And Then There Were Four”

Monkee See, Monkee Die

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

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

The Monkees arrive at the late Mr. Cunningham’s spooky house and are immediately startled by an obviously fake bat. The creepy butler, Ralph, takes them to the reading of the will. I love the shot of Ralph leading them to the parlor with Mike in front and the other Monkees hiding behind him.

Next, they meet the fabulous Madame Roselle, Mr. Cunningham’s spiritualist, and Mr. Kingsley, Cunningham’s travelling companion and hack travel author. Last but not least, they meet Ellie, Cunningham’s cute niece. She and Davy fall instantly in love and the editors used the starry-eyes special effect for the first time.

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

Ellie was played by Stacy Maxwell, who, before The Monkees, had acted alongside Davy in an episode of a show called The Farmer’s Daughter, in which Davy and Stacy performed a very familiar song to Monkees fans: Boyce/Hart’s “Gonna Buy Me a Dog.”

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

Monkeemobile

Ralph tells the Monkees they’re trapped on the island due to the “foggy season,” so they go upstairs to bed. I’d ask where they got their pajamas since they didn’t have any luggage (perhaps they have TARDIS technology), but then I’d have to ask why they wear boots to bed. Peter startles Micky, who utters the first “Don’t do that” line that recurs in many future episodes. After getting frightened out of their room, they run into Madame Roselle who tells them the butler may be dead.

Madame Roselle: “I just had a vision about the butler. Either he’s going to take a long, pleasant journey and enjoy good fortune, or he’s dead.”

Micky: “Well, which is it?”

Mademe Roselle: “Six of one, half a dozen of the other.”

They run downstairs and see a knife in the wall, but no dead Ralph. Micky and Davy act out a Sherlock Holmes/Dr. Watson fantasy and work on solving the mystery. Failing that, they go back to the room to think of a way to escape. This leads to my favorite scene of the episode: Mike explains his plan to get a message out of the mansion with a carrier pigeon and then a Saint Bernard. Including a link to the clip, because my words can’t do that justice.

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

General Sarnoff

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

Shes-Gone-web

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

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

Monkee-Shirts

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving, Monkees Fans!

You're Evil

Look out for (guest cast)

Sweet Young Thing

by Bronwyn Knox

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