Monkees Vs. Macheen: “Alias Micky Dolenz”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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by Bronwyn Knox

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

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Monkees Vs. Macheen: “The Prince and The Paupers”

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 “Everyone in the world has a doppelganger” 

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“The Prince and The Paupers” first aired on February 6, 1967. The teleplay was written by Gerald Gardner and Dee Caruso, from a story by Peter Meyerson. It’s a spoof on the Mark Twain novel, The Prince and the Pauper, but just barely. The novel is about two boys who look alike; one’s a prince, one is very poor. Through a plot of mistaken identity, each boy learns what it’s like to live like the other. “The Prince and The Paupers,” on the other hand, has more in common with The Monkees’ earlier episode, “Royal Flush.”

Davy and Prince Ludlow are identical, but the plot revolves around Davy charming a girl and keeping a young royal from getting killed by an ambitious, greedy adult relative.

 “The Prince and the Pauper” was the only Monkees episode that James Komack directed. He has many credits as a director, including Get Smart, Welcome Back Kotter, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and Star Trek. I don’t find this episode as funny as it could be. I don’t know if that has anything to do with the director, since he was very experienced with comedies. For whatever reason, most of the jokes fall flat and no one seems to be having much fun.

The story starts off with the Monkees hoping to get a gig at the embassy. The Count’s assistant, Max, comes out to the hall where they are waiting. He tells Davy the Count has been looking everywhere for him and insistently drags Davy into the throne room. The Count wants to know why Davy is wearing “bizarre clothes.” (He’s wearing his red Monkees shirt.) A young man, identical to Davy, enters from a side door. The Count realizes his mistake and dismisses Davy, but Ludlow wants to talk to him.

Ludlow tells Davy his troubles; he has to be married by his 18th birthday or lose the throne to Count Myron. Davy’s awkward characterization of Ludlow is adorable. It’s fun to see him pull off a different character. Ludlow explains he’s shy and bad with women. How is this possible?  Davy tries to pump him up.

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Meanwhile, corrupt adults Count Myron and Max fence in another room and discuss their plan to prevent Ludlow from ever getting married. Seems Ludlow’s personality has been doing most of the work for them up to now. Ludlow’s best prospect is Wendy Forsythe, but the scheming Count has told her that Ludlow’s no good.  Unfortunately, though the guest cast is made up of talented actors, they aren’t as entertaining as the cast from most episodes. These two don’t seem to be having much fun, and feel a bit stiff. The guest cast is usually one of the best elements of any given episode, especially when the performers are really relishing their “evil” roles.

Mike, Peter, and Micky enter and see the two doppelgangers. Davy fills them in on Ludlow’s problem. A courtier (played by Donald Foster, who was also the Rolls Owner in “Success Story”) announces the arrival of Wendy. Ludlow panics so Mike, Micky, and Peter decide Davy should talk to her as him. They dress him in Ludlow’s clothes.

Everyone but Davy hides and watches as Wendy enters. Davy really does charm her somehow. It’s certainly not the lines he says that get her to want to come back, messing up her name and telling her to call him “high.” But their eyes and facial expressions convey that they like each other. Davy Jones was good at generating chemistry with other actors. That’s not an easy task for a performer so I’m always impressed when it happens. I wish the scene would’ve been longer though. He should have had to work harder, and had wittier dialog to work with. After Wendy leaves, Ludlow asks Davy to substitute for him for a few days and convince Wendy to marry him.  [These are the kinds of problems you WANT to have – Editor] 

Davy sits on the throne dressed theatrically in a crown and robe. Mike’s staying behind because he doesn’t trust the Count and suspects he’s up to no good. Ludlow will go back with Micky and Peter and learn how to behave around women. Peter says he’ll teach him “all he knows.” Presumably what he learned in “One Man Shy”?

Micky gets one laugh from me in the scene, telling Davy to “free the serfs.” Maybe because it felt spontaneous. Micky and Peter carry “Ludlow” away from the embassy. Most likely they were carrying Rodney Bingenheimer who is the Ludlow/Davy stand-in for this episode. Bingenheimer auditioned to be a Monkee himself. He later became a successful and prominent DJ on the Los Angeles rock station, KROQ.

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Max approaches and offers to tell “Ludlow” information about treason for a bribe of $1,000. Davy doesn’t have that of course. Max’s “offer” confirms Davy’s suspicions that he’s in trouble. Mike and Davy head out of the throne room, and Davy says when he opens the door, he’ll be the Prince of “Peruvia” (which is a less funny, but more realistic sounding country name than “Royal Flush’s” fake kingdom, “Harmonica”). He opens a closet and everything falls on them, then looks at the camera to tell us, “wrong door.” As far as fourth-wall breaking jokes go, that one is too obvious to get a laugh from me.

At the Monkees pad, Peter and Micky entertain Gloria, who has a loud, squeaky voice. She’s there to give Ludlow a chance to practice talking to females. Mostly, he bores her with his genealogy while Micky and Peter worry about Davy.

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So far as I’ve been recapping this, I’ve been ignoring the creepy chemist character, played by Monkees stand-in David Price. He has intercepted a note from Wendy, written to express her love to Ludlow. The chemist gives the note to Max along with some poison so they can just kill Ludlow in case he actually succeeds at getting a girl to marry him. I don’t see the point of this guy. These plot-points could have been handled through dialog between Max and the Count. The Chemist is not interesting or funny, and he’s not a reference to anything in the Mark Twain novel.

I’m not slamming David Price (my irritation is with the writing). He was usually Davy Jones stand-in and also an extra in many of The Monkees episodes. My favorite bit of him is in “Too Many Girls.”  You can find a list with images of Price’s on-screen appearances at “Another Jumbled Monkees Archive.” 

Max poisons “Ludlow’s” saber, as Davy prepares to take Ludlow’s fencing lesson. Davy brags to Max that he’ll compose a poem, Cyrano de Bergerac style, as he duels with him. Max somehow doesn’t notice “Ludlow’s” much cockier personality. They duel and both drop their weapons. The chemist picks them up but Davy wants to trade swords. Max suddenly makes an excuse to leave. Davy wonders why and demonstrates “sticking” Max by poking a plant, which then dies from the poison. Max, by the way, breaks the usual Monkees stereotype of the villain having a clueless sidekick. He’s fairly sharp. (No pun intended.)

Back in the throne room, Mike points out how “uptight” Myron is. I’d say we’re seeing that more from Max than Myron. But all the same, Davy needs to move fast with Wendy. When the Courtier brings her in, Davy immediately asks her to marry him. Mike notes, “ooh, that’s fast!” Okay, Mike’s reaction was a little funny. She says yes. Wendy runs to the throne and she and Davy gaze at each other fondly.

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The Courtier brings Myron in. Davy tells him they’re getting married right away and orders him to see to the details. Wendy and Davy kiss and Mike wanders around embarrassed. He finds that early twentieth century-phone prop they always use and calls Micky, telling him to bring Ludlow back to get married. Pan over to Wendy and Davy, who are still making out.  [A bit weird and inappropriate – Editor]

Davy gets ready for Ludlow’s wedding. Mike does what he’s been doing for most of this episode; fussing over Davy and his clothes, prompting Davy to shout, “You’re not my real mom!” Davy’s upset that he might end up “marrying a beautiful girl and ruling a nation of millions.” Yeah, that would be terrible.

Myron enters with Ludlow, Peter, and Micky; they are clearly busted. Count Myron orders Ludlow put in the dungeon and tells the Monkees to leave. Mike and Micky try to stand up to him but he threatens to have them killed. If Myron were smart, he would have had the Monkees put in the dungeon as well.

Myron enters the throne room where guests have gathered for the wedding. He announces that the prince was called back to Peruvia on business. The Courtier breaks his cane, the fourth one he’s broken since the beginning of the show. Not a sight gag that’s working for me, sorry. Neither is the Count losing his monocle all the time, which had to be a tired gag, even in the 1960s. The Courtier is wearing the same jacket that Mike has been sporting. (By same, I mean the same style; during the wedding there’s a shot with both men in the jacket. It doesn’t look like trick photography to me.) Davy and Mike enter and announce that the wedding will take place. Davy whispers that Mike should stall until Micky and Peter can get Ludlow out of the dungeon. I guess Myron can’t kill them all in front of the embassy wedding guests.

Micky and Peter arrive in the dungeon and ask the jailer if he’s ever seen The Road to Morocco (1942). He hasn’t, so Micky and Peter play patty-cake and punch him, taking his keys. This is a reference to the road movies starring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, where they would play patty-cake before throwing punches. (However, in The Road to Morocco the patty-cake trick didn’t succeed.) We don’t usually see the Monkees punching people. In “Monkees in the Ring,” sure, but it’s not their usual tactic. They tend to be tricksters, not fighters.

At the wedding, the cardinal gets to the point in the ceremony where they ask if anyone knows a reason these two “should not be joined…,” etc. Mike stands up and starts his established awkward shtick, which he usually does so well, but here it doesn’t get a giggle from me. He’s just meandering with no impact. Micky, Peter, and Ludlow burst into the scene and Ludlow and announces he’ll marry “the girl.”

Then, the best thing happens. Micky goes temporarily nuts. He jumps up and down excitedly, boxing the air, saying something unintelligible that sounds like, “Right, hey baby, come on mother, yeah!..” Peter’s reaction is also hysterically funny as he flinches away from him and tries not to laugh. Micky keeps this going as the romp to “Mary, Mary” (Michael Nesmith) begins. I wound that back and watched it several times. The little bit of unexpected and random craziness made my day.

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The romp itself is a brawl/food fight between the Monkees against Max and The Count. There’s some “cowboy” business where Micky and Peter tie up the baddies. Kind of a lame, unfocused romp, but the Monkees look like they’re having fun at least. At the end, Ludlow kisses the bride; the newly married King has the villains taken away (like in “Royal Flush” when Bettina turns 18 and orders her uncle arrested).

Davy wonders if Wendy is going to be all right. Good question, since she’s marrying someone doesn’t know instead of the person she’s actually into. Mike’s response to Davy is the other bit that makes me chortle with glee. The lines are helped tremendously by Mike’s folksy delivery and Davy’s rapt attention:

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Aftermath. Micky reads the newspaper story about Ludlow and Wendy’s honeymoon. Davy mopes because he has feelings for Wendy. Mike tries to make Davy feel better, and then they leave him alone to get over it.  A reporter from Teen Tale Magazine enters through the back door, looking for the Monkees. She looks exactly like Wendy! Davy invites her to sit down and they go right into making out.

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Overall, “Prince and the Paupers” has far too few laugh-out-loud moments and feels a little drab. Some of the usual elements seem forced to me, like they were put together with no enthusiasm (now it’s time to look at the camera, now it’s time for Peter to misunderstand, etc.). I’ll put up with anything from this show; plot holes, nonsensical dialog, bad lighting, film stock that doesn’t match, recycled gags, anything as long as it’s still funny. There’s also some missing piece: the Monkees never go into a shared fantasy in this one, and they’re split into two groups so we don’t get the pleasure of seeing them working together. The con they come up with isn’t even that much fun because it’s mostly perpetuated on poor Wendy, who doesn’t deserve it.  For me, this is a rare dud from the first season which was mostly pretty consistent.

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by Bronwyn Knox

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

Monkees Vs. Macheen: “The Audition” aka “Find the Monkees”

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“Life is so strange”

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.