Monkees vs. Macheen: “The Picture Frame”

“What’s My Motivation?”

“The Picture Frame” starts out with the “Hurray for Hollywood” sound-alike incidental music and the sign for the fictional Mammoth Studios, first used in “I’ve Got a Little Song Here.” Some previous episodes where the Monkees tried to break into show biz were “Captain Crocodile,” “Find the Monkees,” “Monkees at the Movies,” and “Monkees in Manhattan.” Mike, Micky, and Davy wander onto a soundstage and meet Harvey and J.L., who tell the Monkees that they want them to play bank bandits in their picture. Harvey and J.L. are wearing berets, and it amuses me that berets are what crooks think will let them pass for legit Hollywood producers. The film flips over and the three Monkees appear in gangster-wear with guns, cigars, suits and hats, etc. (It’s probably a sign of illness on my part, but I find them sexy here.) Other episodes where the boys pose as gangsters include: “Monkees in a Ghost Town,” “Monkees à la Cart,” “The Monkees on the Wheel,” and Micky in “Alias Micky Dolenz.” In all those cases however, the Monkees were trying to fool crooks into thinking they were of their kind.

J.L. asks the Monkees for a picture to see “how they photograph” and Davy whips out a baby picture. J.L. throws it away and asks for something more recent. Micky grabs a medium format camera to take a picture of the crooks with Mike and Davy, despite J.L.’s protests of “no pictures.” They get an instant picture which J.L. tosses in the same trashcan. J.L. tells them they’re all set up to shoot “the bank stick-up scene” at the 9th National Bank. He tosses scripts at them and explains they use the “hidden camera technique” so they won’t see the film crew. The Monkees, who have perpetuated dozens of cons aren’t suspicious of any of this.

“The Picture Frame,” directed by James Frawley, originally aired on September 18, 1967. The filming dates for the main episode were April 5-7, 1967, not long after they finished Headquarters. Jack Winter wrote “The Picture Frame” as well as “Everywhere a Sheik, Sheik,” “Monkee Mayor,” “Hitting The High Seas,” and “The Monkees In Texas.” The first three on that list were among the group of leftover first season scripts. Musical numbers in this episode were part of the Rainbow Room performances, shot on August 2, 1967.

Back to the story, the Monkees awkwardly enter the busy bank, guns drawn. Some highlights of this scene include the squeaky voiced bank teller (Joy Harmon) who keeps asking Davy, “Do you have an account here, sir?” Micky’s brief Cagney impression, and Mike’s magic power to speed up time and open a safe by imitating a clock. The bank Vice President was played by Ronald Foster, who was also the Rolls Owner in “Success Story” and the Courtier in “Prince and the Paupers.” As they leave, the boys read the “scripted” lines, telling the bank customers and staff not to move or say anything. The “extras” put their arms down once the door shuts, but then Micky sticks his head in to say “cut, print that’s a wrap” and they all put their hands back up.

Mike, Micky, and Davy are back on the soundstage. Peter arrived, having gone initially to the wrong stage at the wrong time. J.L. congratulates them, gives them each $100 bucks, and tells them they’ll call tonight about tomorrow’s shoot. Mike offers to take the stuff back but J.L. tells him the “prop people” will handle that, as the Monkees are going to be “big stars.” As they leave, J.L. tells Harvey he’s going to make an anonymous call to the cops.

There’s stock footage of police cars with sirens blazing. Outside the Monkees house is Dort Clark as the Sergeant, previously in the “Monkees à la Cart” episode in a similar role. He’s a funny actor and I wish they’d used him as well for “Alias Micky Dolenz” (though Robert Strauss did a fine job as the Captain.) The Sergeant is with two uniformed policemen. Peter thinks they want his overdue library book, so he crawls to the door and puts the books outside. The Sergeant tells them to stop fooling around. Davy goes up to the lookout window and repeats the gag from “Monkees à la Mode” where he opens it even though he’s too short to see out. Somehow he reports what’s out there: cops, lights, etc. Mike decides it must be tomorrow’s shoot moved up to tonight.

The Sergeant sends one of the uniformed cops in, after some comic uncertainty on the their part. The cop goes into the Monkee pad, stammering and telling them to follow him. Micky says that’s no good and starts directing him how to hold the gun and to be more steely-eyed. Cute, unintentional meta-moment because the cop is played by Robert Michaels, who was also in “The Frodis Caper,” Dolenz’ directorial debut. The cop exits and re-enters, accidentally scaring the Monkees and himself by shooting up the place. The editors cut to stock footage of planes crashing, cars crashing, etc.

At the police station, the Sergeant shows the Monkees the film of themselves robbing the bank. They’re disappointed that it’s black and white, but I think it’s actually improbably good for security camera footage. Mike tries to decide what movie star he looks like: Barry Sullivan, Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, while Micky and Davy also admire their own performances. Not getting that they’re in deep trouble, they agree it is them on film. Peter walks in with popcorn and the scene becomes a clever parody of a movie audience, with a lady in a hat, a couple making out, a guy sleeping in sunglasses. The Sergeant tells them he’s booking them for the robbery of the 9th National bank. The Monkees are confused. Davy explains, “We were shooting a movie. Some cat came up and said ‘do you want to shoot a movie?’ We said, ‘yeah, we’ll shoot a movie’ So we shot a movie.” Mike realizes the trap they’ve fallen into and has a nervous breakdown, with hilarious facial expressions.

Now we have the comic sequence of Taking Everything Literally. The Sarge tells the three busted Monkees to “start talking” and so they mutter lyrics to “Zilch,” the isolated vocal track from Headquarters. Sarge tells them to change their tune, so Mike blows a pitch pipe and talks in a higher pitch (okay, not technically changing their “tune.”) He threatens them with the 3rd degree so Micky passes out three diplomas. The cops bring over the bright light but the Monkees respond by pulling out dark glasses and sun-tan lotion. Sarge asks them if they’re ready to spill the beans, and of course the Monkees pour out cans of beans. The Sarge loses it and says to throw the book at them. The cop tosses a book. In the shot where Mike catches it, he’s not wearing his glasses but back in the closeup he’s wearing them again. I’m thinking this is not an accidental continuity error but a deliberate one so he could see to catch the book. In a callback gag, the book is Peter’s overdue library book.

The Monkees, minus Peter, are now pacing around a jail cell. Peter brings them a file, which turns out to be an emery board instead of the expected metal file. Peter unleashes this nonsensical gem, “I don’t think you’re guilty. I just don’t see how you could possibly be innocent.” He found a lawyer from the classifieds but the lawyer won’t attempt get them off, “With that kind of evidence? No chance.” He points to Davy, “him maybe with the cute face.” The not-so cute faces of Micky and Mike are told to plead guilty. The lawyer wants $40,000 to represent them, which they don’t have. The lawyer states the seemingly obvious, “Of course you do, you just robbed a bank, didn’t you?” The lawyer was portrayed by Art Lewis, who was the missing persons inspector in “Find the Monkees.”

Now, the court scenes. The judge asks the Monkees if they’re represented by council. They say yes, but clearly they don’t have a lawyer. She asks them to bring in the first prospective juror. The DA calls in Philip Jackson. It’s actually Mike playing a similar character to the janitor he played in “Captain Crocodile.” The DA objects on the grounds that “Mr. Jackson“ is one of the defendants. The judge scolds Mike for trying to pull a fast one. Mike starts flirting and pulls out some flowers for her. She melts (as do I) as Davy and Micky look on hopefully.

Meanwhile, Peter is back on the soundstage, snooping for evidence against the actual crooks. He has the Sherlock Holmes hat that Micky used in “Monkee See, Monkee Die” and a sleuth-cliché magnifying glass. Peter runs into Harvey who correctly guesses that Peter is snooping. If this were logical, Harvey could have gotten rid of Peter right there, but instead he watches him snoop. Peter finds a picture in the wastebasket and is happy/excited with this evidence. Harvey calls J.L. and tells him what Peter has found. J.L. assumes it’s the incriminating picture of them with the Monkees and orders Harvey to keep Peter there.

Back at the court, Micky adopts a British Barrister persona and questions the bank VP on whether he can be sure Mike was the one who held him up. The bank manager is sure, so Micky asks him a bunch of irrelevant trivia questions (What is the capital of Nova Scotia?) Micky wants to dismiss on the grounds that it is late and everybody’s hungry. The judge joyfully claps her hands for food and Mike and Davy are suddenly ballpark vendors with hot dogs and popcorn. The prosecutor freaks, “Your honor, this is outrageous!” as the judge obliviously enjoys her hot dog.

Mike argues that the dynamite that they supposedly threatened to blow open the safe with was actually harmless. There was no bit like that in the robbery scene, but just roll with it. He lights it, and it goes out as it burns down the wick. The prosecutor objects and grabs the dynamite. Of course it explodes, leaving him not blown to bits, but covered in soot and smoke, a la Daffy Duck. It is to laugh. The judge overrules his objection because this is all insanity anyway.

Peter tries to leave the studio but J.L. comes in with a gun and tells him to hand over the picture. This launches a romp to “Pleasant Valley Sunday” (Goffin/King) with Peter running all over the soundstage area we saw in “I’ve Got a Little Song Here” and in and out of the “Mammoth Studios” area. This is mixed with Rainbow Room footage of the Monkees performing the song. The gangsters catch Peter in the shower at one point and he pretends to be offended. If this was meant to make sense, they could have shot him a while ago. Outside the soundstage, Peter drives a Monkees logo golf-cart. He seems to have evaded them by climbing the chain-link fence but they simply open the gate.

Somehow he gets to the courthouse with the picture. The music is still playing as Peter runs all over the courtroom with the gangsters chasing him. The Monkees protect Peter while the police grab the gangsters. Romp over, J.L. yells at Harvey for not emptying the wastebasket (or you know, shredding the picture, destroying the negative etc.) Mike, Micky, and Davy crowd around Peter hoping he’s got the picture they need, but naturally it’s the baby picture. They hand it over to the judge anyway who gasps at the cuteness and decides they’re “obviously innocent.” That was certainly in keeping with the ridiculous logic of everything else in this story.

Next up is more Rainbow Room footage of “Randy Scouse Git” (Dolenz). This series of song performance film clips were shot in the summer of 1967, in the middle of the Monkees concert tour. Due to race riots taking place in both Milwaukee and Detroit at that time, a couple of the Monkees performances were cancelled so they ended up with some extra time in Chicago. The Monkees producers booked time in Fred Niles Studios (later Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios was there; sadly it is now torn down). In the Fred Niles Studies room with a robin’s egg blue and rainbow background, the Monkees filmed promo clips for “Daydream Believer,” “She Hangs Out,” “No Time,” “Randy Scouse Git,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” “Love Is Only Sleeping,” “What Am I Doin’ Hangin’ ‘Round?,” and “Salesman.” If you look at the recording dates of these songs, some of them were not complete yet so the Monkees were lip-syncing to rough versions. More about this here.

I enjoy all the Rainbow Room performances, they have an iconic look and are the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Monkees performance clips. Last summer I was lucky enough to be invited to discuss the Rainbow Room with a panel of smart Monkees fans on Zilch! A Monkees Podcast. Check it out here.

The Monkees are in great form in this story, working together with crack comic timing to create mischief in the justice system. With the dynamite, the literal sight gags, and the absurd plot points, “The Picture Frame” would certainly get my vote for Most Cartoony. It’s a tightly put-together farce, with it’s own insane sense of logic that builds up to a wacky finish. The solution with the baby picture certainly isn’t any more ridiculous than the Monkees just tying up the bad guys at the end of the romp like they usually do. “The Picture Frame” has one laugh-out-loud scene after another and it’s certainly worth watching for entertainment value.

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: “It’s a Nice Place to Visit”

“Just a Loudmouth Yankee, I went Down to Mexico”

I’m glad season two started with such a bang. “It’s a Nice Place to Visit” was shot May 30-June 2, 1967, except for the musical number, “What Am I Doing Hanging Around?,” which was shot August 2, 1967 as part of the Rainbow Room musical numbers. James Frawley directed this episode, which aired on September 11, 1967. Treva Silverman wrote it. She’s one of my favorite Monkees writers, and in my recap for “Monkee See, Monkee Die,” I mentioned some of her other credits. “It’s a Nice Place to Visit” spoofs the western film and television genre. Westerns were at their peak in popularity from the 1930s-1960s and shows like Bonanza and Gunsmoke as well as the less traditional science-fiction fusion, Wild, Wild West were on the air at this time.

The story begins with the Monkees sitting on the broken-down Monkeemobile. They’re stranded on a very familiar set on the Columbia Ranch that was used in “Monkees in a Ghost Town” and other episodes that I mentioned in that recap. Mike reads a sign that says “Welcome to El Monotono, Mex.,” which translated means “monotonous.” Since this is a musical show, it could also be a pun on “monotone.” Despite the other sign that says, “Yankees, Go Home” the Monkees decide to enter the cantina. Either the town hates Americans, or they’re Mets fans.

Mike wears a new version of his green hat, with six buttons, mimicking the Monkees eight-button shirts. He also has a new deeper voice, which I like. On May 23, 1967 Mike went to the hospital for a tonsillectomy. Besides presumably improving his health, the other result was that when he recovered, as Davy Jones put it, “his vocal presentation changed.” (Thanks to the book The Monkees Day-By-Day by Andrew Sandoval for this info and date.)

A pretty waitress, Angelita, comes to the table and Davy instantly falls for her, despite the mockery and annoyed protests of the others. They exchange names and Davy shares that Angelita means “Little Angel.” She asks what David means and Mike snarks from the table, “David means business, baby.” Funny line and unexpected out of Mike’s mouth. Davy asks her out, but the bartender chases the Monkees away because Angelita is El Diablo’s “girl.”

There’s a bandit at the bar, complete with sombrero, poncho, and bandolier, who warns them that El Diablo says they must leave. When did El Diablo say that? The Imdb lists this character name as Jose (Nate Esformes,) and he is the only one of El Diablo’s men who has dialogue. He throws a knife at the Monkees to make them leave.

Season two launches the new opening sequence with different images of them fooling around. This is the opening I remember from syndication and it makes me feel at home. After the opening, there’s some incidental music that sounds like The Magnificent Seven theme. The show goes all out with the references in this one.

Lupe, the mechanic, tells the Monkees that their car will need a new motor. Lupe is played by Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez, who performed in many westerns with John Wayne, including Rio Bravo and Wings of the Hawk, as well as western TV shows Laredo and The Texan. Peter Whitney (El Diablo) and Nacho Galindo (bartender) also had many western television and film credits under their belt. The clever casting was a nice touch.

The Monkees don’t have the money to fix their car so they go back and ask the bartender for a job. Despite what happened earlier with Davy and Angelita, he agrees. In the next scene, the Monkees play “What Am I Doing Hangin’ ’Round?” (Michael Martin Murphey, Owen Castleman) in matching blue Monkees shirts. The editors mix in the Rainbow Room performance with the cantina footage from the episode, and though they decorated the background to match the episode, it was clearly shot at a different time. I’ll go into the Rainbow Room in a later recap but here’s some basic info.

The cantina is packed and hopping and the bartender hands them their payment. The Monkees plan to take the money and leave town. But not so fast: Davy wants to say goodbye to Angelita and kisses her many times. An extra runs into the bar shouting, “El Diablo is coming!” There are more extras than usual, giving it a feature film vibe. El Diablo enters wearing the furry vest that we saw on Boris in “The Spy Who Came in from the Cool” and on Marco in “Son of a Gypsy.” Four gun-carrying bandits accompany El Diablo as he strides into the bar while Angelita and Davy are still making out.

Finding Davy with “his woman,” El Diablo makes him dance by shooting at his feet He wants Davy to beg for his life and the other three Monkees come down and join in. Angelita, on the other hand, boldly describes Davy’s finer points to El Diablo: his beautiful mouth and eyes, his “ tiny, tiny ears.” She’s really playing fast and loose with Davy’s life. El Diablo chooses to kidnap Davy instead of killing him.

I’m going to take a moment to mention how gorgeous this episode is. There’s a cinematic quality including some rare aerial shots, for instance when El Diablo enters. We see a lot more tight close-ups than usual, including cool shots of the ceiling fan shadow on the actor’s faces. Irving Lippman was the cinematographer for this; he shot 56 out of 58 Monkees episodes (the exceptions were “The Pilot” and “Monkees on Tour”). Making this resemble a feature film makes the comedy even tastier. If you haven’t seen this one in a while, go pop in that disc and watch it just to appreciate the cinematography.

Davy has now become the “damsel in distress,” and the episode switches from being about Davy’s love life, to a western pursuit and rescue mission. After Micky fails to get help from the townsfolk, they fret outside the cantina. Mike points out they have to sneak into the bandit camp so they instantly pop (Pop! Pop! Pop!) into bandito costumes, complete with mustaches. They look fantastic, but Mike has doubts, “Don’t you think we ought to take something else with us, like a club card or some badges?” 

The original line is from the western, Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) starring Humphrey Bogart, and goes like this, “Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges!” Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles uses Micky’s version. Here’s a link to a video montage with variations on this line.

The Monkees get in the car and drive off. We don’t see them park anywhere; they run on foot into the bandit camp, firing their guns and shouting. El Diablo’s gang ignores them and continues to drink and poke the fire. The Monkees think they’ve intimidated them, but the bandits surround them, guns drawn. Jose (aka the bandit with all the dialogue) takes them to El Diablo. If you’ve ever seen the film Three Amigos (1986) I’m convinced that film took inspiration from this episode. Facing El Diablo, Mike fast-talks that his leader, Micky, “the greatest bandit in the world,” wants to join forces with El Diablo.

Funny dialogue as the Monkees create their “bandit” personas on the fly:

El Diablo: “They call me El Diablo. Also known as the bandit without a heart.”
Micky: “They call me El Dolenzio. Also known as the bandit without a soul.”
Mike: “And they call me El Nesmitho. Also known as the bandit without no…without any conscience.”
Peter: “And they call me El Torko. The bandit without a nickname.”

In an episode with many funny scenes to choose from, this is one of the best. The Monkees are bluffing as usual, and they are so spectacular and awkward at the same time. Of course they’ve done this kind of scene many times in the first season. Peter Whitney makes a funny and intimidating straight man and part of the humor for me is the notion that he’d buy the Monkees as bad-asses. The gorgeous close-ups are a nice touch also. As a topper, Mike and Micky try and fail to execute that cool gun twirling trick, but Peter Tork succeeds.

The Monkees must pass a series of tests for strength, skill, and bravery to join the bandit gang. My favorite part of this sequence is Peter’s mock-diabolical attitude and menace as he beats El Diablo at Go Fish, that game of “skill and determination.” After the Monkees miraculously survive the tests, El Diablo hosts a celebration for the new “bandits” at a long outdoor table. The Monkees don’t want to drink but El Diablo insists, so they toss their wine over their shoulders. When they go to make another toast, they crash cups which somehow still have wine in them. Peter sneaks off to locate Davy; Mike making the excuse to El Diablo that Peter got sick from the wine.

Peter finds Davy is tied up and guarded. He tries in many ways to tell the guard about the party over the hill, but to my tremendous amusement, the guard can’t understand until Peter says, “booze.” Peter needs to free Davy but doesn’t know how to untie a square knot. Repeating a gag used in “I Was a Teenage Monster,” Davy pulls out his supposedly tied-up hand to demonstrate a figure eight for Peter. Back at the party, Mike and Micky tell El Diablo that now they “need some air” and El Diablo is amused at the notion that they can’t handle their liquor.

Micky and Mike come rushing up to Davy and Peter. Micky unties Davy in nothing flat, and they dash for the Monkee mobile. There’s an amusing, surreal bit as they attempt to drive away: A parking lot attendant (played by comedian Godfrey Cambridge) appears out of nowhere and charges them 50 cents for parking. They accidentally run over his foot as they leave. In my mind, it’s a predecessor to the Blazing Saddles gag where the heroes stall the bad guys with a random toll bridge. “Anybody got a dime?”

El Diablo orders Jose to go after the Monkees, but Jose runs into a tree. There’s a lot of drinking and drunk humor. Also, most of the action of this episode takes place outside, a key feature of the western genre.

The Monkees are now back in El Monotono, because the car’s out of gas. Mike deals with Lupe while Davy kisses Angelita some more. Suddenly, Jose rides up and hands Micky a note, declaring that El Diablo wants to challenge him to a duel at high noon. It’s Micky he wants to challenge, even though Davy’s the one currently kissing “his woman.” When it’s a Hollywood spoof, Micky’s your man.

Micky and Mike immediately agree they’re going to “split” rather than fight. One of the sources of humor here is the opposition to real westerns where the hero is always impossibly tough and brave. (Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, etc.) The Monkees, while quick and clever, are not usually tough or brave. (Though pulling off con after con takes some nerve.) As it’s almost noon, they all rush for the car, but Angelita pleads with them.

That’s my favorite joke in the entire series. The line is clever, and Micky’s delivery kills me every time I watch it. He’s one of the all-time funniest television actors.

The Monkees are now all in western-style good-guy clothes with Micky in all white. Notice how handsome Micky is photographed here. He’s switched from bandito to brave western hero. The dialogue combines tough talk with fourth-wall breaking humor:

Peter: Are you scared?
Micky: No, I’m not scared; I’ll welcome this duel. The symbol of good against the symbol of evil, and I know I’m gonna be the victor.
Davy: Because the symbol of good always wins?
Micky: No, because the lead in a television series always wins.

The Monkees bring him all his lucky guns and holsters, and one of them is his lucky “Hobaseeba”–another sound-alike to the “No Time” song lyrics like Davy used in “Monkees in the Ring.” Micky collapses from the weight of so many guns and holsters and the others carry him off.

Now for the showdown, another important plot point in your classic western. Micky walks into the square while a “western” trumpet version of “The Monkees” theme plays. (According to IMDB trivia, the church bell rings only 11 times, not 12.) There’s a lot of witty lines, and then they duel. El Diablo fires about a dozen times and every bullet misses. Micky gets cartoony, mocking him, “You missed!” He runs off as El Rompo to “What am I Doing Hangin’ ‘’Round?” commences.

El Rompo is a gunfight between the two groups: the Monkees and El Diablo’s bandits. It’s a standard Monkees romp and the one weak point in the episode, lots of running around that resolves improbably with tying the bad guys up. Notable moments are when the Monkees are shooting on the same side as the bandits and we can see Davy with a copy of The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. There are a couple of shots used in the second season opening such as the holster falling around Davy’s legs, and Mike’s hat getting shot off. The shows ends with credits and the lovely, “For Pete’s Sake” (Peter Tork, Joey Richards) replacing The Monkees theme song

Excellent Monkees comedy, heightened by adherence to western conventions such as: natural settings, good guys vs. bad guys, a chase or pursuit, and a final showdown. The cinematography, the casting, and the writing shows the huge effort put into making this half hour spoof resemble a real western. The production values heighten the comedy of the Monkees antics. The sight gags, dialogue, and the performances were all top notch. I realize this story isn’t profound or complex and I do have other favorite episodes, such as “I’ve Got a Little Song Here” which touches my heart and “Monkees à la Mode” which epitomizes the themes of The Monkees to me. However, “It’s a Nice Place to Visit” is my pick for funniest episode. It’s obvious the episode has had an influence on comedies that came after. Unfortunately, this set the bar high for season two, and many of the later episodes didn’t live up to this level of attention to detail and comic energy.

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: “Monkees Chow Mein”

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“If you’re going to steal, steal from yourself”

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Similar to “The Spy Who Came in From the Cool”, “Monkees Chow Mein” compels the Monkees to help out the CIS (a quasi-CIA) against our nation’s cold war enemies. The title indicates that this time the villains are from China rather than Russia. James Frawley directed and Gerald Gardner and Dee Caruso wrote this episode, which aired March 13, 1967. Gardner and Caruso borrowed heavily from one of their other writing gigs, Get Smart, for this one.

The Monkees are eating in a Chinese restaurant, and Peter is packing many leftovers. In the back-room of the restaurant, the villains, Dragonman with his assistants, Toto and Chang discuss their nefarious plans. They’re putting a “secret formula” into fortune cookies; each cookie will contain a different part of the formula to be put together. Spies will sneak the cookies out of the country and give them to their “Asian Masters.”

Joey Forman, who played the title character in “Captain Crocodile,” plays the Dragonman in this one. As far as I know, Forman isn’t Asian, so they’ve got a heavy makeup job on him for the part. Dragonman is a parody of pulp fiction super-villian Fu Manchu, created by British author Sax Rohmer. There was a series of Fu Manchu films produced around this time, from 1965-69, starring British actor Christopher Lee. [Don’t forget the Peter Sellers parody! – Editor] 

Forman underwent a similar makeup process when he played Chinese-Hawaiian detective Harry Hoo, on two episodes of Get Smart, “The Amazing Harry Hoo” (1966) and “Hoo Done It” (1966). Both episodes were written by Gardner and Caruso. Harry Hoo is also a parody of another pulp fiction character, detective Charlie Chan. The villain in “The Amazing Harry Hoo” was another Fu Manchu analog, known as The Claw. In that episode, he has a very similar scheme to the one here in “Chow Mein”: The Claw was sneaking out parts of a secret formula in dry-cleaned shirts.

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Back to the Monkees: Peter (of course) accidentally grabs one of the fortune cookies containing the formula. The restaurant staff and other customers detain him. Peter calls Mike for help and the Monkees manage to get out onto the street, where they hide from their pursuers behind a newspaper. After the spies pass, Peter says, “Boy, those Chinese were sore at us.” Micky responds, “Maybe they thought we were Russians” in an allusion to “The Spy Who Came in from the Cool.”

Davy wonders what they wanted. Mike offers, “You never can tell. Orientals are a curious people.” Agent Modell (Mike Farrell from M*A*S*H) approaches and forces them all into a car at gunpoint. Davy wonders what they want, and Mike points out, “I don’t know. Occidentals are a curious people.” Aside from poking fun at the possible cultural insensitivity of Mike’s previous line, it also evens things up. People from the western or eastern parts of the globe are hard to understand.

At the CIS office, Agent Modell shines a light on the terrified Mike, and Micky and Davy who cling to Mike’s arms. Modell explains they haven’t been kidnapped; they’ve been taken into custody by the CIS for picking up stolen security information [Sure looks like a kidnapping. – Editor]. He’s tough and no-nonsense, in contrast to their cartoony panic. Modell, “You’re frightened, aren’t you? Mike, “Oh, you’re very perceptive.”

Inspector Blount comes in with Peter and clears them, “They’re in a rock n’ roll band!” Blount pulls Modell away to tell them he’s found one fourth of the formula for the Doomsday Bug. There’s a funny sight gag as the Monkees celebrate their freedom behind the two agents. Davy asks about the Doomsday bug. (Davy is a “curious people.”)

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Blount tells the Monkees that Dragonman is a “weirdo” with long hair and strange clothes, inadvertently insulting the Monkees. Embarrassed, he concedes that maybe Dragonman is not that weird. There’s a theme of insults that runs throughout this episode. The Monkees don’t want to help the CIS. As they leave, they back into the intimidating Agent Modell and scare themselves. The stern Modell and daffy Blount seem to be a reverse of the solemn Chief and bumbling Honeywell characters from “The Spy Who Came in from the Cool.”

Back at the Monkee’s house, Mike speculates that the inspector was just trying to scare them into helping. Micky is not so sure.

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The joke in the graphic above was borrowed from the Get Smart episode, “The Diplomat’s Daughter” (1965), written by Gardner and Caruso. Agent Smart and the Chief have the following exchange: Agent Smart: “We just came from the Smithsonian Institute, and we saw the plane, The Spirit of St. Louis.” Chief: “So?” Agent Smart: “Chief, Was Charles Lindbergh Chinese?” Chief: “Of course not!” Agent Smart: “Then, I think we’re being followed.”

Right after the Monkees go to bed, Chang and Toto sneak in to kidnap Peter. They take Mr. Schneider instead, indirectly insulting Peter by mistaking him for a wooden dummy. (And repeating a joke from “Your Friendly Neighborhood Kidnappers.”) After Dragonman scolds them, they return to the Monkees pad and nab Micky. Toto’s in trouble for bringing the wrong one yet again. Toto, “Forgive me master, but all Americans look alike to me.” This punch line was also used in “The Diplomat’s Daughter” when the villain, The Claw, explains to Smart why they kidnapped many blonde women, not just the Princess they wanted, “Unfortunately, Mr. Smart, all Americans look alike to us.” A joke deriving humor from the reversal of the usual stereotype.

Mike, Peter, and Davy go to the CIS to get help. Blount is comically inept at security in this scene. He takes a phone call and fills the caller in on the situation. Mike asks, “Who was that?” Blount enthusiastically replies, “I don’t know!” Blount assures them that they’re in secret headquarters and the enemy has no idea of their location. Yet, he shows no alarm or suspicion when a little boy comes in, takes their picture and runs off. Blount tells them to go home and “put their faith in the CIS.” I really enjoy the actor playing Blount with his energetically goofy performance.

Dragonman and Toto have Micky tied up in their backroom. Dragonman wants Toto to “find the Monkeee, get the cookie and bring the Monkee and the cookie to him.” Toto can’t get it right and Micky further confuses him by repeating it as, “you monk the cookie, cook the Monkee then find the cookie.” It’s similar to the “good and the hoods” bit from “Alias Micky Dolenz.” Toto is played by Gene Dynarski and was also in “Son of a Gypsy” as Zeppo. I know there’s concern about the characters in this episode that are played by non-Asian actors. I want to point out that Chang is played by Kay Shimatsu, who does appear to me to be Asian.

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Chang comes into the restaurant backroom to tell Dragonman that Peter is there. Micky rolls his eyes so hard it must have hurt. Dragonman says: “So, he has fallen into my crutches!” Micky: “You’re crutches?” The Dragonman: “Not my crutches, my crutches!”

This joke was recycled from (you guessed it) “The Diplomat’s Daughter” when The Claw introduces himself to Smart: Claw: “My name is the Craw.” Smart: “The Craw?” Claw: “No, not the Craw, the Craw!” (Here’s a little info on this myth about East Asian people and the r/l pronunciation.)

Back in the restaurant, Peter tries to order food but instead gets a mallet to the head from Toto. Peter cracks me up by stating gravely before he passes out, “No, I don’t think I care for that a bit.”

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Toto proudly drags Peter into Dragonman’s office, now that he’s got the right one. Micky sarcastically says, “Thank heavens, you’ve come!” Micky’s attitude toward Peter, with this and the earlier eye roll, is an insult. He knows Peter didn’t mean to do this, but he’s openly annoyed with him anyway.

Dragonman and his minions resort to torture to get info from Peter and Micky. Toto starts describing red ant torture. Dragonman says, “Stop! I thank you to do your fiendish work. But don’t tell me about it.” Yet another instance of repurposing “The Diplomat’s Daughter” as The Claw says the very same thing to his henchman, Bobo. The line is verbatim so I won’t retype it. (Bobo was played by Lee Kolima who was in two Monkees episodes, “The Spy Who Came in from the Cool” and “The Devil and Peter Tork.”)

Meanwhile, outside the restaurant, Davy and Mike attempt to rescue their pals. They wear lab coats and pose as inspectors from “The Pure Food and Drug Administration.” The boys try and push their way in to “inspect the kitchen” but Chang pushes them back out.

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Dragonman wants to move up to Chinese ice torture. Micky and Peter are frightened, “Chinese ice torture!” But then they ask, “What is Chinese Ice Torture?” They’re afraid of something they don’t even understand. Misunderstanding is the source of much of the xenophobia they satirize in this episode. Brilliant.

Davy and Mike return to the restaurant to engage in a different ethnic cliché: they pose as Italians wanting pizza, complete with accents and curled mustaches. Chang tells them they don’t make pizza there, so Davy and Mike aim for the kitchen to fix it themselves. Once again, Chang blocks them. I truly enjoy Mike and Davy working together in all these bits.

As Toto conducts the Chinese Ice Torture, Micky breaks down and admits they don’t know anything. They’re a singing group, which they demonstrate with an off-key rendition of “Last Train to Clarksville.” Dragonman is skeptical, “You expect me to believe you make money singing like that?” Micky clarifies, “I didn’t say we made money, I said we sing.”

Outside, Mike and Davy go into a phone booth to change into Monkeemen. The transformation includes putting on, instead of removing, Clark Kent-style glasses. It’s wonderful to see the Monkeemen again.

Dragonman decides to kill Peter and Micky if they have nothing to tell him. But, he offers them a Let’s Make a Deal-style choice to save their lives, There’s four doors, three will reveal sudden death, but the fourth leads to freedom. All they have to do is pick the right door. The bad guys leave them to it. Door one, we don’t see but hear an animal roar. The second door contains our old friend Reptilicus from “I Was a Teenage Monster.” The third reveals a cannon. The fourth door should be a way out, but instead the spies enter and menace Peter and Micky with weapons.

Just in time, the Monkeemen break down the door. An incredulous Dragonman shouts, “The door was open!” Peter and Micky declare, “We’re saved!” The Monkeemen prepare to fight Dragonman and his minions with insults, or as they call it, “psychological warfare.” Davy and Toto circle around each other and do faux martial arts moves.

Davy to Toto: “You’re a nail biter. You’re a nail biter and your mother never, ever loved you.” Toto to Davy: “You are too short. You are too short and you have no ear for music.”

Davy takes this hard, and turns to Mike for help with Toto.

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Toto is wounded, but Dragonman has had enough. He orders Toto to get the formula for the Doomsday bug. Mike fakes them out holding a pretend bug. Davy “takes it” and flings it at them. This brand of psychological warfare works on Toto and Chang. Dragonman orders his men to “get them”. A waiter with a gun prevents the Monkees from escaping.

Time for a romp to “Auntie Grizelda” (Hildebrand/Keller). Lyrically, this is a good one for this episode, since it’s about an unpleasant aunt who dislikes the song’s narrator. The romp makes use of the doors with the Monkees and the spies running in and out of them. Peter, Mike, and Micky carrying some girls through the doors, and a man in a gorilla suit carries Davy. The chase ends up in the restaurant where the Monkees put in earplugs and use the giant gong to stun the bad guys. The CIS agents come in and arrest the spies, who are quivering from the gong.

Tag sequence where the Monkees are hungry and eat more Chinese food in the restaurant. Mike notes, “Gee, I didn’t realize you could get so hungry saving your country” and Davy points out, “I come from England, and I’m hungry.”

Obviously, there was a recycling of dialogue from Get Smart to The Monkees. Interesting that the jokes they chose to repeat were those that satire Hollywood and literary stereotypes of Asian culture. The comedy is subversive and reflects back on US and British paranoia toward other ethnicities, which had been going on since the 19th century and termed “Yellow Peril.”

I do see a notable difference between the two shows. On Get Smart everyone is a straight man for Don Adams and the story follows a standard spy plot. There’s more flexibility on The Monkees and more opportunity to make a statement about relations between different cultures. Possibly even an anti-war statement, given that this was during the Vietnam War, and China was backing North Vietnam. In “Monkees Chow Mein,” there is a parallel between the way the CIS suits view the “long-haired weirdo” counterculture Monkees and the Asian spies, the fear and the distrust. At the end of the day, it’s the “long-haired weirdos” who save the day, not the g-men.

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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: “Monkees in the Ring”

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“’Round and ’Round We Go!”

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“Monkees in the Ring” was directed by James Frawley and written by Gerald Gardner and Dee Caruso. This is a combination of director/writers that frequently worked on these Monkees episodes, yet somehow this episode for me, doesn’t feel like a Monkees episode. This could be because the story is very similar to a 1965 episode of The Smothers Brothers, also written by Dee Caruso (and Richard Newton and Aaron Spelling.)

Round I

Peter and Davy are walking along the street when Peter accidentally bumps into a really large man. Big guy wants to start a fight with Peter so Davy jumps in and defends him. I love Davy’s nerve, I really do. The man takes a swing, and Davy taps him on the chin and he goes down. There’s an older man watching this entire thing, which is clearly a set up. They’re looking for a patsy. The older guy, Mr. Sholto, tells Davy he’s going to make him a featherweight champion after seeing what he did. I note that Davy’s British accent is especially strong in this scene.

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The Monkees are at home, and they try to talk Davy out of going to see Mr. Sholto. Davy points out they need the money and he has fought before. In actuality, David Jones did do some boxing. He boxed at a place called Newmarket, the same place where he trained to be a jockey. Micky pops in as an old man and tries to “guilt” Davy into giving up this idea. What’s funnier than Micky’s little sketch is Mike’s over the top laugh at him and the look Peter gives Mike. You can’t script something like that. Almost makes this episode worth the trouble.

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At Mr. Sholto’s office, Sholto and his stooge Vernon discuss the plan to build Davy up by having other boxers take a dive, and then make a killing when Davy loses to the champion. Davy arrives at the office with Micky, Peter and Mike. Sholto wants Vernon to get rid of the other three Monkees, but Davy firmly states he won’t stay without them. This is one thing that makes me feel this isn’t a very Monkees episode: It’s all about Davy. Davy is the main character and the other three act as his backup band or Greek chorus. “Royal Flush” and the pilot were a bit like this too. Not that I expect every episode to be structured the same. That would be boring.

Sholto, who’s name they keep mispronouncing as Shakespeare character “Shylock,” decides it’s time to see what Davy can do in the gym. Vernon says “right boss” and his gesture/voice telegraphs that they’re up to something. Continuing the precedent started with “Royal Flush” with a smart bad guy and a dumb bad guy, Vernon is obviously the “dumb one.”

The Monkees, Sholto, and Vernon go to the gym. The boxers currently working out there all laugh at them. Is it the hair? Or is it that they don’t look like boxers? Davy is in his boxing shorts and gloves and he tests his skills on a light bag, which he sends flying. The other Monkees look surprised; they didn’t know he had such talent. Next, Sholto brings over “The Smasher” and he asks Davy to punch him with his left. Smasher falls right over. Micky decides it must be easy so he takes a few cracks at Smasher. He can only injure himself on The Smasher’s solid jaw and stomach.

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Back in Sholto’s office, the con-game on Davy continues. Sholto bargains with The Monkees that if Davy doesn’t win his first three fights by knock-out, they can have him back. Sholto and Vernon give Davy a boxing robe, christening him “Dynamite Davy Jones.” Sholto taps Davy on the jaw in an “atta boy” way, and Davy falls to the sound of shattering glass.

Round II

At home, the other three continue to worry about Davy and, though it’s unsaid, the future of the band, I presume. Peter plays a classical piece on the banjo in the background while Mike and Davy do my favorite bit of dialogue:

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At the gym Sholto and Vernon prep Davy for his new grueling training schedule. The training becomes a romp to “Laugh” (Hank Medress, Phil Margo, Mitchell Margo and Jay Siegal). This isn’t much of a romp. Furthering my above argument, Davy is the only Monkee in the sequence. The best bits are him jumping rope with two cute girls holding either end, and Davy boxing and losing to his own shadow. On the other hand, Davy was actually a very athletic guy; this was a good part for him. Part of the romp shows Davy knocking down fighter after fighter in one punch.

Sholto holds a press conference in his office because Davy is set to fight “The Champ.” Davy annoys the other Monkees by working the press, making jokes and saying he had to fight his way out of “the slums.” Mike picks up the ringing phone: it’s The Smasher complaining he got paid less than other fighters to take a dive while fighting Davy. Now Mike knows what’s up. He grabs Davy right there in the office and tries to tell him, but Davy stays in his over-confident groove. Vernon approaches and Davy says he doesn’t believe Mike. He punches Vernon, who pretends to fall. Mike gives several helpless, flustered looks to the camera. 

Round III

Now it’s The Monkees turn to set up a counter-scheme. Mike and Micky are at the gym in Sweatshop shirts. They try to get into the practice ring and there’s a very long sequence of them getting comically tangled up in the ropes. The Champ watches them dubiously. Mike and Micky pretend to be from the boxing commission and they proceed to warn The Champ that Davy is too tough to fight. The Champ’s dialogue all rhymes and this character is loosely based on Muhammad Ali, who also liked to rhyme.

Peter arrives in bandages, posing as a previous, badly beaten opponent of Davy’s. While he talks to Peter, somehow the tricky Monkees bandage The Champ’s hands. He’s smarter than most and figures out that these are Davy’s musician friends, here to talk him out of fighting Davy. The Champ loses his temper and says he’ll slaughter Davy. Quoting Ali he shouts, “I am the greatest!” and chases them off.

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Round IV

Vernon has overheard the whole thing, and he and Sholto must step up their game. Sholto tells Vernon to keep Davy’s friends out of the way until after the fight, and to give Davy a sleeping pill before the fight. Davy holds court with the press backstage before the boxing match, and says something that sounds like the lyrics at the beginning of the song “No Time,” “Hober reeber sabasoben Hobaseeba snick Seeberraber hobosoben.” Sholto tries to force Davy to drink water that’s been laced with a sleeping pill. The Champ comes over to wish Davy luck and he drinks the water instead.

Vernon arrives at The Monkees’ pad to hold the other three at gunpoint until the fight is over. At the fight, the announcer introduces Davy and the now sleepy Champ. The Monkees and Vernon watch this on the TV and irritate Vernon, requesting he make adjustments to the reception, since they’re in handcuffs. Micky remarks he wishes The Champ would go to the corner of Crescent Heights and Sunset, hoping no doubt he’d get caught in the Sunset Strip riots mentioned in “Find The Monkees.” Mike starts to mess with Vernon and asks if he was ever a prize fighter. Micky follows Mike’s lead and they suggest Vernon is out of shape now. Vernon challenges Mike to a fight and Mike quickly agrees but says Micky has to be his “second” and Peter’s the referee. All of this means slow-witted Vernon has to remove their handcuffs.

Round V

At the actual fight, Sholto is excited because they’ve reached the fourth round he thinks the pill should be wearing off by now. So far, The Champ has been too sleepy to fight and keeps grabbing Davy and the referee to stay upright. The ring, by the way, was also used in the boxing scene of The Monkees film, Head. Also appearing in Head was boxing champion Sonny Liston, who Muhammad Ali (then known as Cassius Clay ) defeated in 1964.

The Monkees meanwhile prepare Vernon for their “fight.” Peter does a Hollywood tough-guy accent. They get Vernon in “his corner,” which ends up being in the closet where they can trap him and help Davy. A little social commentary [A little more than social commentary, it’s almost like they’re making fun of their own television show – Editor]:

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Now that the champ is wide awake, Davy’s strategy is ducking punches and telling him, “don’t do that.” A romp to “I’ll Be Back Upon My Feet” (Sandy Linzer/Denny Randel ) launches. Vernon arrives somehow, but it makes no sense that he got there before The Monkees, who left their pad first. While he had to struggle to get out of the closet, right? Vernon chases The Monkees into the ring. Mike and Micky run around the ring while Peter rings the bell. Mike keeps Sholto busy while Micky does the same with Vernon. Davy keeps sitting on Mike’s lap, while Micky and Vernon sit on each other. The announcer narrates all these goofy happenings. Peter announces that the winner is The Monkees.

The cops arrest Sholto and Vernon for fixing fights. Sholto says The Monkees are “ruining the fighting game,” and Vernon repeats it back as “fighting the ruining game.” That actually makes sense in a way. Mike and Micky try to make Davy feel better about the fixed fights. They tell him he’s gentle, kind, sincere, a great friend and musician, and a great man. They don’t mention he has a tendency to fall for this kind of stuff, like he did in “Too Many Girls.” Peter announces “The National Anthem,” and Davy knocks himself out as he salutes.

And that’s that. I had a few complaints obviously, but the episode has some funny, spontaneous-feeling moments. When it’s a James Frawley-directed episode, I can usually count on having a few laughs even if I don’t love the premise. Mike’s the only other Monkee who got much to do in the episode. As usual, Mike is the voice of reason trying to talk his friend out of a bad idea. There must be something special about Davy that makes outside characters always want to take him away from the group.

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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: “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.

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.

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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.

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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 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 how many kinds of groups are there. 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]

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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.

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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. And 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”

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

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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 7 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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 takes 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.

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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.

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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!”

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.

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Mike calls the police and tells them to pick up the bad guys on “Rosebud” lane. Cute and random reference 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.

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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: “The Case of the Missing Monkee”

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“A Funny Thing Happened to Me on the Way to the Bandstand”

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The Monkees really parodied a lot of genres didn’t it? It has more in common with cartoons than sitcoms in that way, as they don’t stick to the “situation.” There were Monkees episodes inspired by westerns, gangster films, science fiction, horror, mystery, and spy stories to name a few. If you were seeing these for the first time, you certainly wouldn’t be able to guess what they might try next. They just incorporate the notion that they’re a band right into the storyline, whatever it is. “The Case of the Missing Monkee” is a cross between mystery, sci-fi, and a spy story. Director and Monkees producer Bob Rafelson gives the episode a cinematic feel using more medium and close shots than usual. There is also a dark edge to the whole thing. “The Case of the Missing Monkee” which premiered January 9, 1967 was written by head writers Gerald Gardner and Dee Caruso.

Speaking of the cinematic effect, the opening shot is a lovely pan across a banquet room where the scientist Professor Schnitzler is giving a speech. The Monkees sit on the bandstand, waiting to play. Schnitzler tells his audience, “war is war, peace is peace, and science is science.” Mike’s puzzled face reflects my own, but Peter’s impressed. He introduces himself to Schnitzler, who admires the Monkees music and discretely passes Peter a note. Peter reads. “They are taking me to the Remington Clinic.” He tries to tell Mike, but Mike’s all business because they have to perform. Peter ignores him completely and wanders off to look for Schnitzler. This week’s villain, Dr. Marcovich notices him. Good for Peter, doing his own thinking. Unfortunately, he wanders over to the curtain at the side, gets hit with a large mallet, and dragged off. The mallet is a silly contrast to the serious setup. This is one of the many instances in the series where Peter is the one finding trouble with his naivete and curiosity.

After the opening theme, Mike, Micky, and Davy look for Peter. Mike finds Dr. Marcovich and tugs on his coat, earning a “Don’t do that” from Marcovich. The Doctor dismisses them and tells them to play music as they’re supposed to. Mike remembers the note, reading it as “I am being taken to the Remington Clinic.” Outside the Remington Clinic, I’m surprised to see daytime as I assumed the banquet was at night. Inside, they attempt to get help from the Nurse at the desk and describe the missing Peter. The cheerful but clueless Nurse knows nothing about him or Schnitzler.

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Go figure; Mike doesn’t mention Peter’s charming dimples and manly shoulders (like I would have). Also, in every picture I’ve ever seen of Peter Tork, his eyes look brown to me. The nurse tells them to go to the police. A subtle dig at authority as Davy mutters something about going to see “the man” and they go. Dr. Marcovich overhears the entire thing and denies to the nurse knowing anything about Schnitzler. He stops to make “evil faces” for good measure. I enjoy this actor; he is dramatic and menacing in most scenes and then he pulls off goofy stuff like this.

Davy, Mike, and Micky have indeed gone to the man, and bring a cop to the banquet location. The former French restaurant is now a Chinese restaurant complete with a ridiculous stereotypical Chinese restaurant owner. The owner makes The Monkees look like dopes and the cop tells them not to bother any more policemen until they know where they were. We have another situation where the boys have no responsible adult they can trust. “The man” indeed. The restaurant owner is of course Marcovich in disguise and he really hams it up, laughing and jumping up and down after peeling off his disguise.

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The Monkees try to fool the nurse into rushing them into the clinic, but the Nurse is too diligent and bureaucratic. Davy gives her his address as 1438 instead of 1334. He either really hit his head or he doesn’t want these questionable people knowing where he lives. I love the performance of the Nurse. She’s aggressively perky and nice, pathologically efficient, and not at all helpful. The Monkees don’t love her and lose their patience, especially when she says she can’t admit Davy immediately. In the meantime, she gives him a cough drop. I don’t know what’s in it, but it motivates Davy to drop his crutches and dance and sing “Old Folks At Home” (Stephen Foster) again, as he did in “The Spy Who Came in from the Cool.” Coincidentally or not, both of these episodes were written and directed by the same team. Getting high on her own supply, the nurse takes a few wacky cough drops and inspires stock footage of rocket ships.

The Monkees resort to breaking in to the Remington clinic. Davy questions the legality of this. I can’t believe a Monkee is questioning breaking the law but it leads to the following witty exchange: Micky: “So what do you want to do? Do you want to run home where it’s safe and leave Peter here in trouble all alone?” Davy: “Of course not.” Micky: “Well, it was just a suggestion.” Instead, Micky busts out what he refers to as the Bathook. Mike sensibly points out the ladder right behind them. The Bathook, by the way, is one of the many references to Batman made by The Monkees. This is beautifully listed here, on The Monkees Go Ape for Batman!

Finally in the clinic, Davy, Mike, and Micky disguise themselves as patients and begin to search for Peter. A very creepy atmosphere was created in the hospital with the Monkees nervous reactions, the lighting scheme, and the music. It would have been even better without the laugh track. Meanwhile, Marcovich and his partner Bruno have Peter tied up in another room. They discuss how they will sneak Schnitzler out of the country and “America will lose one of its greatest scientists.” Finally, we have an idea of the plot of the villains. This dialogue makes me think it’s a sort of foreign espionage story they’re going for, though like the Maltese Vulture it’s just what drives the story along.

Bruno wants to know what to do with Peter. Peter lists his woes but he’s really quoting the medical drama Ben Casey. There’s a Ben Casey connection as David Jones appeared in the 1965 episode, “If You Play Your Cards Right, You Too Can Be a Loser” as a glue-sniffing wife-beater [What? – Editor]. Try to picture that, will you? Speaking of Batman, Davy’s co-star on Ben Casey was pre-Bat Girl Yvonne Craig.

Bruno pulls a gun on Peter since he “knows too much.” (Peter: “Thank you!”) Sidekick Bruno is truly threatening, enhanced by Vincent Gardenia’s intense, no-nonsense performance and dour expression. Marcovich has a better idea. Peter tries to rescue himself by calling “Shazam!” at the mirror but only manages to break it. Catch a little “Monkee Men” theme here. Meanwhile the other non-missing Monkees try to get out of the one room where they have been searching, but here comes Bruno to give physical therapy.

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There’s a silly sequence as they receive their therapy using the (now ancient) exercise equipment. Micky pulls on the wall pulleys, Davy uses the “vibrating belt machine” to get rid of his spare tire, of course leading to a site gag where he pulls out an actual tire. Mike is on the rowing machine, but not exercising; he serenades the lovely and lucky Valerie Kairys with a banjo.

After Bruno leaves them, The Monkees resume the search for Peter but stop to answer the ringing phone. There they go, answering phones that aren’t theirs again. In a cute fourth-wall-breaking bit, Mike takes a call from TV Guide and updates them on the plot. Meanwhile, Marcovich uses his sci-fi, super-science ray on Peter to erase his memory. Peter writhes in agony and thinks about being on the beach with the kids in the “Saturday’s Child” romp.

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Just as Mike, Davy, and Micky are about to give up hope, they enter a room and Peter wanders in behind them. Peter has no idea who they are. After a couple of false starts, they scare his memories back. Peter remembers that Marcovich and Bruno plan to smuggle Schnitzler out of the country. The nurse comes in and Mike, Davy, and Micky hide, telling Peter to play dumb. Peter gets sensitive about his perceived intelligence, “Why am I always the one to play dumb. Why can’t I play smart once in a while?” The Nurse covers Schnitzler’s face with an oxygen mask.

When she goes, Micky admires the villains’ plan to smuggle Schnitzler out in an ambulance. The mask gives Mike a plan of his own, and he puts Micky in the Professor’s place. Micky protests this with one of my all-time favorite bits of Monkees dialogue: Mike: “Believe me Micky, there’s no other way. Besides, Dr. Marcovich is an evil man.” Micky: “Well, what about me?” Davy: “You’re not evil, is he Mike?” Mike: “No, he’s not evil. He’s crafty and selfish maybe, but he’s not evil.” Dr. Marcovich and Bruno come to get Schnitzler and the non-disguised Monkees hide under the cart as they wheel out Micky.

This leads to my favorite bit of the episode, where Mike, Peter and Davy play “doctor.” In the operating room, Marcovich and Bruno prepare to do something to “Schnitzler.” Mike, Davy, and Peter enter in surgical scrubs. Mike adopts Micky’s typical shtick of pretending to have authority where he has none. Marcovich actually apologizes for questioning them. Bruno and Marcovich are marvelous at the thankless job of being straight men to the boys.

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This whole scene is reminiscent of The Marx Brothers’ A Day at the Races scene where Marx Brothers take over the Standish Sanitarium. Many sight gags and one peanut butter sandwich later, Mike and Marcovich end up physically tugging the “patient” back and forth until Micky says he’s dizzy and sits up. Marcovich and Bruno recognize them as “those musicians” and it leads into a wonderful romp to “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone” (Boyce/Hart).

The romp is also packed with silly, energetic gags, including a lot of running in and out of doors in the hospital corridor. All the characters, heroes and villains, do this funny run where they take little steps with their hands up like dog paws. In the equipment room, Micky rides the exercise bike like a horse and Bruno also rides it, cut together like a chase scene. Micky and Mike have binoculars and stop to ogle a pretty nurse for a moment. I love their saucy looks to each other. Mike does the frantic bit on the rowing machine we see in the second season opening credits. Bruno “chases” him on the same bike. The Monkees get the bad guys in a two-man pile on a gurney.

After the wackiness dies down, Schnitzler thanks them for saving his life. Micky and Mike tell the bad guys they’re going to get 20 years and a wrist slapping from the AMA. As they leave, Marcovich looks more relieved to be rid of these lunatics than upset at being caught.

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In this episode, the comedy is stirred in beautifully with the mystery and adventure of the plot. There are lots of great scenes of The Monkees working together, even if Peter is missing a lot of the time. They do tend to isolate him a bit, don’t they? The guest cast is excellent as usual, these great characters were never afraid to go over the top, and always made great straight men to The Monkees. One element that keeps these episodes fun to watch for 50 years, is the fun with different genres. This is probably something they were willing to try with a show geared towards kids, not adults. Kids might be more open-minded and entertained by a show that regularly bends reality, even its own rules of reality. Of course I’m an adult and enjoy it tremendously even after watching for many decades. Although the writing of the episodes did eventually get into a rut, it was more the plots and the gags themselves, and not the styles they tackle that were ever lacking imagination.

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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.