Monkees Vs. Macheen: “Monkees at the Movies”

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“Sometimes The Clothes Do Not Make The Man.”

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I’m a little sad. This is the last narrative episode of season one for me to recap. I’m glad it’s a decent one. “Monkees at the Movies” aired April 17, 1967. It has many points in common with the previous episode, “Monkees in Manhattan.” 1. It was directed by Russ Mayberry and written by Gerald Gardner and Dee Caruso. 2. It was shot earlier but aired later (shot #12 but aired #31). 3. The Monkees are involved in a showbiz story. 4. It has a similar structure of story, two romps, interview, and music performance.

The show starts off with the Monkees playing checkers on the beach. Micky tosses a piece away, and they all end up jumping around as the hot sand burns their feet. B-movie film director Kramm and his assistant Philo spot them. Kramm thinks they’re “typical teenagers doing typical dance moves” and wants them as extras in his newest beach movie. We’ve heard them called “typical teenagers” previously in “Monkees a la Mode” and this is a similar instance of the older generation trying to use the Monkees in an attempt to stay relevant. The Monkees aren’t impressed with Kramm’s previous movie, “Beach Party Honeymoon” and aren’t interested until they hear it pays $30 a day [Quite a lot for an alleged “low-budget” production – I think Kramm skims off the top, if you know what I mean]. At this, they scramble around with the red suits and surf boards used in the opening credits of the second season.

The Monkees walk onto the outdoor beach set and the incidental music is a sound-alike to “Hooray for Hollywood” (Johnny Mercer, Richard A. Whiting for the 1937 film Hollywood Hotel). Other episodes used this piece, including: “I’ve Got a Little Song Here,” “Monkees in Manhattan,” and “The Picture Frame.” This episode is where I’m able to most clearly hear the resemblance to the original song.

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Kramm is shooting “I Married a Creature from Outta Town.” He explains to cast and crew, “It’s a message picture. And the message is: If we don’t finish it in ten days, we’re in trouble.” The Monkees creative teams are parodying a few different things here. First, Kramm’s film title alludes to the 1958 film I Married a Creature from Outer Space, directed by Gene Fowler Jr. (Fowler Jr. directed I Was a Teenage Werewolf which The Monkees parodied in the episode “I Was a Teenage Monster.”) Second, Kramm’s film is also low budget. The 1960s-70s was the “Golden Age” of the independent, sometimes exploitation b-movies, and drive-in sci-fi movies were part of this. Lastly, the introduction of Kramm’s leading man, Frankie Catalina.

Frankie struts out of his dressing tent with a blond coif. Frankie Catalina’s name is parody of beach party movie star Frankie Avalon, a geographical joke because Avalon is a city on the California island of Catalina. Beach party movies were popular in the 1960s, and Avalon was in six of them, as was Annette Funicello who appeared in Head. One of the last of this genre was called Catalina Caper, and featured Venita Wolf from the episode “I Was a 99-pound Weakling.” So that’s three types of movies being parodied, and possibly more that I’m not catching.

The crew prepares to shoot the volleyball scene. Yes-man Philo tells the Monkees the “versatile” Catalina can’t sing, is afraid of water, and breaks out in a rash around girls. In other words, he’s the perfect teen. (Philo was played by Hamilton Camp, part of folk duo Gibson and Camp and the voice of Greedy Smurf on The Smurfs.) Cramm tells Catalina to dominate the game but the energetic Monkees rule instead. Catalina accuses Davy of upstaging him and wants him fired. Then he insults Peter’s facial expressions, Mike’s hat, and calls Micky a “scarecrow in shorts.”

I had always thought that Bobby Sherman, who plays Frankie Catalina, was already a teen idol by the time this episode was shot and aired, but I was wrong. He recorded songs in the early ’60s and appeared on the show Shindig!, but it wasn’t until he was cast on the series Here Come the Brides in 1968 that he became a big star. His first top forty hit was “Little Woman” (Danny Janssen) in 1969. Sherman has another Monkees connection; in 1998 he was part of the Teen Idol Tour with Peter Noone and Davy Jones. (Micky Dolenz replaced Davy in 1999.)

At the Monkees place, they complain about Catalina. Micky busts out a different type of showbiz parody: Hamlet. Like they did to Ronnie in “One Man Shy,” they plan to make a fool of Frankie. They could have just quit the film. But let’s see what kind of havoc they shall create!

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First, Davy replaces the makeup man at Catalina’s beachside dressing table. He makes up Catalina to look like the werewolf and causes all the girls scream. Next, Micky messes with his cue cards, so Frankie’s speech to a girl that probably should have ended with, “I love you” ends with, “You’re under arrest.” Micky trashes Frankie to the press, implying he tried to proposition and shack up with Micky’s sister. Then, when Catalina has to lip sync to the movie’s big song, Mike messes with the record speed, making Frankie have to move impossibly fast, then slow, then fast etc. Kramm furiously yells, “Cut!”

During these scenes, Kramm wears some familiar clothes. For example, we see him wear a blue/white shirt that Peter wore in “One Man Shy,” and a red checked shirt that Davy wore at the end of “The Prince and the Pauper.” He wears other things that appear on the Monkees in other episodes, but I won’t list them all. I bring this up because clearly they’re trying to convey that middle-aged Kramm is wearing these clothes to appear hip like the kids. Technically, since this episode was shot earlier Jerry Lester would have worn these first, but I think the point remains valid: Kramm is desperately clinging to youth.

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Catalina, Kramm, and Philo watch the dailies, or actually a romp to “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” (Neil Diamond). There’s the footage of the Monkees ruining his scenes and footage of Catalina dancing ridiculously fast, and the Monkees in red-suspendered suits from the 2nd season opening. I’m not sold on their motivation (though I am wildly entertained). They only took the job for the $30 bucks a day. There’s no moral imperative here. Sure Kramm’s full of crap and Catalina’s an egomaniac, but if the Monkees shut the film down, the whole crew will be out of jobs [Editor’s note – Hey, hey! We’re here to destroy the local economy!]. When the romp ends, Frankie Catalina gets mad and accuses Kramm of “conspiracy” to ruin him. He quits and says he can “do a mystery at Mammoth Studios.” This confuses Philo and Cramm.  Philo: “Mammoth Studios has been out of business for years!” Cramm: “That must be the mystery.”

Fictional studio Mammoth Studios seemed active during episode 12, “I’ve Got a Little Song Here,” but is abandoned when the crooks use it to lure the Monkees in the season 2 episode, “The Picture Frame.” I also learned that “Mammoth Studios” has been used in other film/television shows and books.

Monkees are at home. Peter makes an uncharacteristically cutting observation, “You know it’s going to be tough to replace a man like Frankie. After all where do you find a guy that can’t sing, act or surf?”  Mike suggests Davy go out for the part. That’s a bit unfair since Davy can sing and act. 

There’s another romp, this time to Boyce/Hart’s “Last Train to Clarksville.” Micky is a mustache twirling villain (wearing Babbitt’s cape and hat from “Monkee Mother”) and Mike is his somewhat reluctant assistant. Micky and Mike tie Peter to the railroad track. They’re hilariously incompetent at tying Peter and at one point, hand him the gun. Mike engineers the train to run Peter over. Here comes Davy to the rescue. Davy fights Mike and Micky, stops the train with his bare hands, and unties Peter. In an ironic “twist,” Peter punches Davy out, ties him to the track, and twirls his own evil mustache. It’s a cute filler romp that parodies silent films and has its own narrative. 

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Davy does NOT want to take over for Frankie. Mike concedes they can draw straws for it. But watch Mike and Micky’s faces, they’ve already decided Davy’s doing this. They literally draw straws and …

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Now they have to sell the idea of Davy to Kramm. Mike and Peter are on the beach pretending to trade records. Peter trades all his precious records for the Davy Jones solo record. They use the real 1965 David Jones solo album, released by Colpix. Next, Micky, Mike, and Peter wear the gray suits and pose as the press, questioning Kramm about his replacement star. With every star Kramm and Philo mention, the Monkees say “he’s no Davy Jones.” All of this is a satirical comment on the making of a star. Simply puffing someone up using the media [Editor’s note – Brilliant, actually]. By the end of this scene, they’ve got Kramm saying “he’s no Davy Jones.”

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Next, Micky takes over Kramm’s radio and becomes “DJ Micky the D.”  All the “hit songs” Micky plays are Davy singing “Baby I love you” over and over. Funny comment on the banality of a lot of pop songs. These shenanigans have convinced Kramm he needs Davy to star in the movie. We find out that Philo is also Kramm’s nephew.

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In a scene paralleling his intro of Frankie Catalina, Kramm now introduces Davy to the set. Davy comes out of the little tent with the same blonde hair and beach costume that Frankie had. He proceeds to behave the way Frankie did, showing off, shoving Micky and telling him to “watch it,” hamming it up for the cameras and so on. The Monkees look on incredulously as Davy asks Kramm, “did you get my good side?” Before the reshoot of the volleyball scene, Micky, Mike and Peter watch Davy arrogantly dismiss Philo and fuss with this hair. They agree that it’s gone to his head, and they need to save him from himself. The other Monkees keep the ball away from Davy easily as they play. As Kramm shouts, “Cut!,” Mike, Micky, and Peter grab Davy and wind him up in the volleyball net, burying his lower half in the sand.

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Davy tells Kramm he quits; he’s a musician and the film business is spoiling his character. The editors echo him saying “character” to accompany a series of clips of Davy in various costumes: as a painter from “Monkees Get Out More Dirt,” a chef from “Monkees a la Cart,” the prince from “The Prince and the Paupers,” as a boxer from “Monkees in the Ring,” Whistler’s Mother” from “Monkee See, Monkee Die” and “One Man Shy,” and more.

There’s no story end on what happened to the production. I’m okay with that, I like leaving things to the imagination. Presumably they found a new star or shut down. It’s hard to tell from the sequence of events how many of Kramm’s ten days of filming the Monkees wasted, between antagonizing Frankie, and Davy leaving the production without a star. I almost feel bad for Kramm. While he is probably guilty of bad taste and trying to make a quick buck from teenage moviegoers, he didn’t do anything to actively harm or take advantage of the Monkees. They had nothing to lose or gain. It was entertaining to see how easily they were able to sabotage an independent film shoot. It’s one of those episodes where the Monkees are more bad boys than heroes. I can dig it.

After Davy quits, they go straight into the “Valleri” (Boyce/Hart) performance that they used in “Captain Crocodile.” Here, you can see the two of the shirts that Kramm wore in the episode. This time Peter is wearing the red checkered shirt and Davy the blue one. Mike wears the jean jacket and jeans that he wore in the earlier “Clarksville” romp. The jeans suit was Mike’s own clothing, and he also wore them in “The Pilot,” “Captain Crocodile,” and various interview segments.

“Valleri” is followed by an interview segment with Bob. The significant moment is when they address the comment that people say they don’t play their own instruments. Mike says a reporter asked this just as he was about to walk out on stage. “Wait a minute, I’m fixin’ to walk out there in front of 15,000 people. Man, If I don’t play my own instruments, I’m in a lot of trouble.” It’s a well-placed topic since the next episode was “Monkees on Tour.”

I mentioned in the intro that this was similar to “Monkees in Manhattan,” but “Monkees at the Movies” is the much stronger episode. The romps, the sight gags, and the satire were all right on the money. The guest cast was perfect in their roles. The Monkees writers and producers are exceptional at satirizing Hollywood. I’m pretty sure you have to know something well to make fun of it. While “Monkees in Manhattan” was mild, here we see the Monkees attacking the star system, the press, exploitative filmmakers, and the concept of adults capitalizing on the young. It’s also a meta-statement because they mock a Hollywood system that made the Monkees themselves stars. As short as this actually is, with the two romps, interview and music performance, The Monkees did a lot with a little.

If you are interested in seeing more of the Monkees shared wardrobe or more about who wore what when, the Facebook Group Monkee Magic has photo galleries organized on these topics.

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Happy New Year!

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: “Monkees in Manhattan”

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“Darling, I love you, but give me Park Avenue.”

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“Monkees, Manhattan Style” or “Monkees in Manhattan” first aired April 10, 1967. Written by Gerald Gardner and Dee Caruso, the plot is very similar to the 1938 Marx Brothers film, Room Service. Russell Mayberry directed this episode and the one that follows: “Monkees at the Movies.” Mayberry had many television directing credits, including episodes of: Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, The Rockford Files, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and In the Heat of the Night. He had a few directing credits before The Monkees, such as Love on a Rooftop and an episode of National Velvet, making him one of the more relatively experienced Monkees directors. The episode was filmed in October of 1966, shot 17th, but airing later at #30.

To set us up with the notion that this takes place in NYC, the opening sequence begins with stock footage of Times Square. As the Monkees enter the Compton Plaza Hotel lobby, Davy is singing “New York, New York” from the movie musical, On the Town (1949). At the desk, Buntz, the concierge (inexplicably listed as “Buntz, the Compton” in the credits) is on the phone. The Monkees explain that they’ve come to see McKinley Baker, Broadway producer, who wants them to star in his new musical. Buntz is unimpressed, “great more showbiz types.” He distractedly tells them Baker is in 304.

Baker lets the Monkees into the room. They came from California on a “Blem” bus, and Micky says, “It’s such a pleasure to take Blem, and leave the driving to them.” This alludes to the Greyhound Bus slogan, “Go Greyhound and leave the driving to us.” They have no money for a hotel so Baker says they can stay with him. Hotel manager Mr. Weatherwax and Buntz come in to kick Baker out for not paying his bills. Baker is waiting for his backer to send money. Weatherwax gives them one hour.

The Monkees plot to stay for three hours so Baker has a chance to get money from his backer by 12 p.m. Should be easy for the clever Monkees! The room set, by the way, was used for the Monkees debut episode, “Royal Flush.” In the lobby, Weatherwax tells Buntz he wants to give the room to a big shot from the rabbit breeder’s convention. The conventioneer comes out, drunk and carrying two rabbits in his arms.

When the hour is up Weatherwax and Buntz go back to 304 to throw them out. Mike answers the door and lets them in to see a “sick” Peter and Dr. Micky. *Note the room number as Mike opens the door says 305. This is one of my favorite scenes, a classic Micky-con. He’s ridiculously funny: the lab coat with nothing under, the faux-serious acting, and upside down glasses. Weatherwax wants to move Peter of course, but Micky says they can’t move someone with the plague. The house doctor, played by Alfred Dennis who we also see in “Monkee Mother” comes to the door. Micky chases him off with a threat about an “ethics practice committee.”

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The Monkees really do love impersonating physicians, don’t they? I’m pretty sure that’s illegal…

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The Conventioneer now has more rabbits–three in his arms–and wants to know if his room is ready yet. Weatherwax wants to get the Monkees out by refusing to send room service to 304. So, Mike calls down to order food, pretending to be from 305. The waiter comes up and knocks on 305; the bride and groom staying in that room don’t appreciate the interruption. Mike catches the waiter in the hall and cons him into bringing food to 304 by convincing him he could be a Broadway star. That makes no sense at all, but it works on the waiter, Bronislaw Colonovski. Mike repeats the name-in-lights “all the way around the theater Marquee” gag with him, also used in “I Was a Teenage Monster.”

The Conventioneer keeps coming back, more inebriated and now has so many rabbits they’re in a cage. Get it? Because rabbits breed a lot and very fast? I enjoy The Monkees use of corny jokes when they do it with some style, but no such luck here. The Monkees decide to “try on” one of the songs from the musical. Weatherwax brings the house detective to chase them out, which launches a romp to “The Girl I Knew Somewhere” (Nesmith). (Listed incorrectly as “A Girl I Knew Somewhere” in the end titles of this and the previous episode, “The Monkees Get Out More Dirt.”) This song was recorded in January 1967, a few months after the filming of the episode.

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The romp shots outside the Compton hotel with the wet sidewalk and the scenes of the vendor carts are the only things in this episode that convey any feel of New York City. It disappoints me as a New Yorker sure, but I think they missed an opportunity. After all, this is “Monkees in Manhattan.” Surely there was a standing NYC set from some other show or old movie they could have borrowed for a scene or two? The action is mostly inside a hotel, which could have been anywhere. Back to the romp, there is footage from “The Case of the Missing Monkee” (shot after “Monkees in Manhattan”) and from “The Pilot,” as well as some shots where you see a California landscape in the background. The song ends as the Monkees use the fire escape to get back into the room and sit down to eat the food that Bronislaw sets up.

Weatherwax comes to kick the boys out again but he accidentally barges in on the honeymoon couple shouting, “All right, you’ve had your hour. Your time is up!” He realizes the mistake, backs off and apologizes. Weatherwax notes that 304 should be across the hall and accuses the Monkees of switching the room numbers.

*Wait, they did? They’ve established that the Monkees are in 304, and the couple is in 305. However, the Monkees never mentioned a scheme to switch numbers. That’s not how Mike got the waiter to bring food; he just called the waiter to 305 and intercepted him in the hall. Since Weatherwax suspects that they swapped the numbers, and there’s the earlier doctor scene where we see that the Monkees room incorrectly read 305, it seems some other plot point got dropped. The joke of Weatherwax busting in on the couple is weak, because the setup never occurred.

Weatherwax bursts in on the Monkees telling them the room is “under siege.” The bride and groom unexpectedly come in ask for help with the cork, the Bride making the suggestive complaint that, “He can’t do anything.” Micky walks into the shot in his cowboy hat and holster to tell us it’s “High Noon,” the time Baker should be back from his backer. Well, Baker comes back, but his backer backed down. Weatherwax gives them 20 minutes or he’ll call the cops. Speaking of cops:

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The Monkees all start shouting. The groom gets the cork out and it breaks the window, cutting to the breaking window footage from “Monkee Vs. Machine.” The bride is thrilled and hugs her hubby. Glad someone’s happy.

The Monkees help Baker pack. Actually at first, they unpack him as he hands them things, until they realize the hopelessness of the situation and start to pack again. They get ready to go home, but then Peter notices a Millionaire’s Club across the street.

Now is the best part of the episode. The Monkees go in disguise to find a new backer at the Millionaire’s club. The Butler who answers the door is played by American character actor, comedian, and musician Doodles Weaver. Davy introduces himself as David Armstrong Jones: His family “dates back 400 years to the earliest rich people.” Mike is H.L. Nesmith (in his Billy Roy Hodstetter outfit) who owns Houston. Micky is Sheik Farouk Dolenza, and Peter is Peter Dewitt, a rich man’s son. They con their way into the club to look around.

Inside, Davy plops down next to a millionaire and asks the obvious, “You’re a millionaire, aren’t you?” Millionaire: “That’s right, how did you know.” Davy: “Oh, that’s easy. I watch What’s My Line a lot,” (alluding to the TV show they parodied in “Captain Crocodile.”) My daughter wants one of the fuzzy toys that Davy is carrying but I don’t think they make them anymore.

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The Monkees try to sell the show to potential investors. Mike does a wipe with his arms, a clever way to introduce another romp. This one’s an edit to “Look Out, Here Comes Tomorrow” (Neil Diamond) with footage from previous episodes: “Dance Monkee Dance,” “Monkees at the Circus,” “Son of a Gypsy,” “Your Friendly Neighborhood Kidnappers,” “The Chaperone,” “I’ve Got a Little Song Here,” “Captain Crocodile,” “Monkee Mother,” and “Monkee See, Monkee Die.” I’m sure there’s more, but that’s what I caught. Playing into the episode’s rabbit theme, at the club there’s a girl in a bunny costume, and Davy and Peter wear bunny ears in a few shots.

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The romp puts all the millionaires to sleep. Not really. The Butler drugs them because he has some money and wants to invest in the show. Happy Monkees celebrate finding a backer. But not for long. Baker meets the Monkees in the hotel room and tells them the new backer wants the leads to be four girls. Baker doesn’t want to go through with it after all they did to help him find an investor. The selfless Monkees tell him he should take this opportunity, and this is his chance to get a start etc. Davy handles the awkward sentimental dialog in this scene.

Weatherwax stops the Monkees from leaving the hotel to tell them they owe $180 for room, food, and incidentals. Of course they have no money, so Weatherwax puts them to work in the hotel. If you were enjoying the rabbit joke, there’s a final payoff gag of Davy, Micky, and Peter as bellhops bringing three cages filled with the growing family of bunnies to the hotel desk.

There’s an entertaining interview segment, during which Peter and Davy introduce makeup artist Keeva Johnson. Mike sarcastically deflects Bob Rafelson’s question about why he wants a house. “Why do I want a house? To keep the wind off of me!” There’s also this funny exchange:

Bob: “You’ve reached a certain amount of success. If that were something, like taken away, wiped out, where would you be today?”
Peter: “I’d go back to the Village and be a folk singer.”
Bob: “How about you, Davy?”
Davy: “I’d go back to the Village and watch him be a folk singer.”
Bob: “Mike?”
Mike: “I’d probably go burn the Village!”

After this bit, there’s a performance film of them playing an earlier version of “Words,” recorded in August of 1966, before the version from Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, & Jones, Ltd was recorded in June of 1967. In the performance clip, Micky is in front and Davy is on the drums. It it would have been cool if they done it that way the entire series since Micky was the lead singer and a great front man. Davy could have been a charming Ringo analog.

This is one of those episodes that’s cute but bland. If you consider the interview, the two romps, and the performance there’s not a lot there. Micky has some fun moments, and Mike is the idea man, but mostly the Monkees personalities don’t get a chance to shine. Many of the jokes are clichés, and it all feels a little mild and colorless for a Monkees episode. The best comedy from this show is subversive, surreal, or specific to The Monkees humor. Shot in between the much stronger “One Man Shy,” and “Dance, Monkee, Dance,” I wonder why this one falters. The next episode, “Monkees at the Movies” has a similar structure and the same director as “Monkees in Manhattan” but is more successful. More about that in two weeks.

Shout out to the books Monkee Magic: a Book about a TV Show about a Band by Melanie Mitchell and The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story of the 60s TV Pop Sensation by Andrew Sandoval, which helped me piece together the shooting order and dates of episodes and recording dates of the tunes.

On December 14, we bade a sad farewell to Bernard Fox (also known as Dr. Bombay from Bewitched), who played Sir Twiggly Toppen Middlebottom in the episode “The Monkees Mind Their Manor.”

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Thanks for reading! I hope you all have a wonderful Holiday and Happy New Year!

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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 on the Line”

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“Live, Live, Live! Love, Love, Love!”

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The Monkees are hanging out in their pad and not answering the ringing phone. Mike gets to it too late. He calls the boys together to point out they haven’t had any jobs and might be missing a few calls. Always a man with a plan, Mike wants to hire an answering service. He calls the service to set this up, going on about the doors that will open up for them when someone is always there to answer the phone, etc. Ironically, no one answers.

This fast-paced, physical comedy-filled episode was directed by James Frawley and aired on March 27, 1967. The plot was borrowed from a 1960 film called Bells Are Ringing (screenplay by Betty Comden, Adolph Green based on their popular stage musical), starring Judy Holliday, about an answering service operator who gets a little too involved with her customers (also with Dort Clark, who was in “Monkees on the Wheel,” “The Picture Frame,” and “Monkees à la Cart.”). Gardner/Caruso and Coslough Johnson were the writers. Johnson went solo on other episodes produced in the second season: “Art For Monkee’s Sake,” “The Monkees On The Wheel,” “The Monkees Watch Their Feet,” “The Monkee’s Paw,” and “The Monkees Mind Their Manor.” He also wrote an unproduced teleplay: “The Monkees Toy Around.” Coslough Johnson is the brother of Arte Johnson from Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.

At the Urgent Answering Service, the Monkees meet Mrs. Drehdal, played by Helene Winston, who appeared in “Monkees à la Carte” as Big Flora. Mrs. D offers them a job and free service if they’ll answer the phones. In a brief fantasy sequence, she becomes the Statue of Liberty and her impassioned speech compels them to be a “warm heart of this cruel world” and that the city will “be in your fingers.” The boys get all choked up and agree. After all the warmth talk, she points to the sign that says “Don’t Get Involved With The Clients.”

Mike cheats at choosing fingers to win the first shift. Micky explains that Mike always wins because he has six fingers on that hand. The connection of fingers and phones reminds me of the old “Let your fingers do the walking” slogan from The Yellow Pages, which originated in 1962.

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After the others leave, Mike skips over to the switchboard in excitement. Funny to see a tall, lanky man skip. “Monkees on the Line” does a good job of utilizing Mike’s established character traits. He needs to be useful, to take care of people and advise them, etc. For their part, the other Monkees treat him as a protector and big brother. Mike’s ready for the chance to be helpful to the entire city this time.

At the switchboard area, there are a bunch of phones that connect into the wall with their own lines, instead of one big multi-line phone. Looks like there should be about 10 people working there at once, not just the one person. Mrs. Drehdal announces she’s off to Jamaica and gives Mike a quick tutorial: plug in the ringing phone, answer and take the message, and give it to the client when they call in. Duh.

Mike finds a big red button, which she explains is for when you get tired. He breaks the fourth wall to tell us that, since monkeys are notoriously curious, he’ll push the jolly, candy-like button. [“Push the button, Frank!” 10 points to anybody who gets that reference. – Editor] When he does, a bed comes out of the wall. I’ve seen this type of gag used in many comedies, where a bed falls down or out of the wall. But I still enjoy it in this episode; they put it to good use.

A phone rings and Mike performs some physical comedy trying to figure out which phone is ringing. Ellen, the caller, declares, “I had to speak to someone. I just can’t go on, I’m so terribly alone.” Ellen goes on about being alone while all the other phones start ringing. Flustered, Mike delivers this nonsensical gem to one of the callers, “No, I’m sorry, you must have the wrong number. We don’t have a telephone.” Both the phone Mike uses when he talks to Ellen, and Ellen’s phone are yellow. Helpful to the viewer for keeping track, though not for Mike who can’t see her phone. Ellen continues her suicide threats while phones keep ringing. Frantic, Mike picks up all the phones and shouts, “Don’t do it!” He’s amazingly polite the entire time.

Later, Mike’s passed out on the phone table. Peter, Micky, and Davy, dressed as surgeons, revive him with a seltzer squirt. Mike shouts about getting to the girl on the phone before it’s too late. The Monkees use her line number to find her info in the file cabinet. Mike finds it right away; hilariously, the others are still searching in the background. Mike and Micky rush off to prevent Ellen’s suicide. Peter and Davy caution that they’re not supposed to get involved with the clients. Peter’s right again, what do you know? Fourth-wall breaking gag where Mike asks off screen for someone to give him his hat and they toss it to him. Micky: “Where’d you get that?” Mike: “From the wardrobe.”

Once Davy and Peter are on their own, all the phones start ringing at once. Crazy, fast motion business of them answering all the phones and taking tons of messages. Once it’s quiet again, Davy finds something that grabs his attention: “Mr. Smith call Zelda Baby, love, love, love, urgent.” Davy decides to deliver the message by hand as it says “urgent.” He’s now involved in a mini-plot.

Davy knocks on the door of the Smith apartment. Mr. Smith answers still in shaving cream and an undershirt. His wife is played by Lea Marmer, last seen as Madame Roselle in “Monkee See, Monkee Die.” Davy reads the message and angers Mrs. Smith, who hits her husband in the head. They both chase Davy down the hall and into farce territory. They all run into another apartment. A pretty girl in a towel runs out, and Davy chases her enthusiastically. He’s followed out by the Smiths; Mr. Smith suddenly fully dressed in his cop uniform.

At Ellen’s apartment, Micky and Mike walk right in and find all her suicide props. They search the apartment for her in ridiculous places where she couldn’t fit: under a throw pillow, in a small cupboard, under an end table, and behind a framed painting. Micky and Mike look in her day planner, which tells them she’s supposed to be at the theater today.

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At the theater, Ellen rehearses the same lines she said to Mike on the phone. The pretentious director encourages her to suffer, live the part etc. He says “live, live, live!” which echoes the “love, love, love” message from Zelda Baby. The audience now knows she’s preparing for a part and using an unwitting Mike as her scene partner.

Peter now gets his own plot. He takes a call from Manny Spink who pretends to be a theatrical booking agent, booking a job for the Popsicles. Manny and partner are actually placing bets on horses, using the answering service as bookies.

Mike and Micky arrive at the theater and ask about Ellen. The director hams it up; she’s nervous, depressed, and ready to end it all. Mike wants to go back to her apartment. Micky says he should relieve Peter, but Mike says Peter will be fine. Cut to Peter pressing the red button and falling into that famous bed. The bed slides back into the wall and traps him.

Back at the chase scene, Davy runs through the halls with an Olympic torchbearer, a football player and a gorilla (the one from “Monkees Chow Mein”), in addition to the Smiths [“I know, I know … it’s serious …” -Editor] and the girl with the towel. They all enter the Smith apartment. Davy comes out alone with the towel and the torch. Subversively suggesting that there’s a naked girl left in the apartment. These chase scenes remind me a lot of The Benny Hill Show (1955-1991). I’m not alone in thinking it may have been an influence.

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Ellen answers the door to Mike with a noose around her neck and dramatically poses, calling him “Jeffrey.” Mike says he’s from Urgent Answering Service, checking on her phone since she hasn’t called in for her messages. Still acting, she says she doesn’t have any messages because no one cares if she lives or dies. Mike reads little pieces of paper from his shirt and pocket, “Dear Ellen, We need you, we love you. The city wants you. Don’t be depressed, don’t be unhappy.”

In his comically awkward way, Mike blocks her every attempt to “kill herself.” Mike chases Ellen around the table, like he did Miss Buntwell in “Dance Monkee, Dance.” It amuses me that his scenes with women end up this way, even if the contexts are different. She asks him to help her with the noose she has around her neck. Mike wants to talk instead. In a funny visual, he picks up the rope and walks her off camera, like she was a dog on a leash.

The actress playing Ellen is fun when she drops the “acting” with him here and there. This is all very sweet, and would be more so if she wasn’t just using him for rehearsal. Not that I’m saying it would be better if she really was suicidal. All the talk of suicide, Mike’s emotional commitment to being her hero, and the irony that she’s just using him give this episode an dark quality that I enjoy.

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At Urgent Answering Service, Micky and Davy search for Peter. They push the red button, ejecting the bed with a sleeping Peter on it. Peter wakes up and explains that he pushed this red button… So they push it again and Peter goes back into the wall. Micky and Davy start looking for him again. Sometimes they’re not a lot smarter than he is.

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Mike reasons with Ellen, “Now look, I know things get kinda bleak sometimes, and It looks like the whole world’s just running around in circles.” Cleverly the editors cut back to the chase scene, still progressing wildly without Davy. Ellen promises Mike she won’t kill herself until tomorrow.

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At the answering service office, the gangsters are holding up the Monkees. Manny Spink calls them “bright boy” several times, an expression used in “Monkees in a Ghost Town.” Turns out Peter changed the bet from the Popsicles to the Pelicans, since he thought it was a real gig and the Pelicans needed the work [“Come on pelican!” -Editor]. Why didn’t he give it to the Monkees? Spink has lost money, and wants them to cough up 90K. The boys start pulling stuff out of their shirts and pockets and between them, they come up with $8.12 and two buttons that “ought to be worth a nickel.”

Mike walks in and ignores the tense scene, heading for the ringing phones. There’s physical comedy as he tries to squeeze between the two gunmen, who don’t yield. He misses the call and tries to leave the office, not really taking in what’s happening.

The two smaller stories now converge tidily. Mr. Smith and Mrs. Smith walk into the scene; Mr. Smith is still angry at Davy for giving him the “wrong message.” While they argue, the crooks try to escape, but Davy stops them. Davy tells Officer Smith that Manny and his partner are gamblers, and they’ve been using the answering service to place bets.

Entertaining romp to “Look Out, Here Comes Tomorrow” (Neil Diamond). Highlights include Mrs. Smith joyfully hitting her husband and the gangsters with her purse, the Monkees and gangsters riding the hidden bed, and Peter pointing out the “Be Courteous” sign on the wall. After, as Mr. Smith is handcuffing his prisoners, Davy says he thinks the message was for another Mr. Smith, and the Smiths seem to make up.

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Micky wants to know about Ellen. Mike uses his faux-manly persona and assures them that “with my masculinity and my persuasiveness” he made her promise not to do anything until tomorrow. Davy points out Mike was hung up on her. Mike agrees, “she was so sad, and weak and depressed and pathetic and poor.” Weird to think this is what attracts him to a woman, but it goes with the need to be needed. As an actor, Michael Nesmith was charming, likeable and funny throughout this episode.

The not-poor Ellen comes in with a fur coat and lots of jewelry to thank Mike for helping her rehearse. She promises to send him a free picture when her name is in lights and she leaves. I feel for Mike. Ellen emotionally screwed him over. He gets in one of my favorite cynical lines from the entire series, “Behind every dark cloud, there’s usually rain.”

This is another episode that’s very close to my heart (no, it’s not my lungs). I admit it’s partly because it’s a Mike episode, but I also appreciate the episode structure and that each Monkee gets a piece of the action. The writers and director constructed the story carefully with the three separate plots that tie together via the answering service. So much happens, and the points are punctuated with well-executed sight gags. “Monkees on the Line” is a hilarious and satisfying episode, with an added dark edge that makes it a classic.

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evil-line

by Bronwyn Knox

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

Monkees Vs. Macheen: “Too Many Girls” aka “Davy and Fern”

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“Talent Show, My…(Whistle)!” 

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

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

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

Deeply-jealous

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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: “Dance, Monkee, Dance”

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“If You Can’t Beat ’Em, Annoy ’Em”

Bernie Orenstein is the only writer credited for this episode. He wrote two others, “Success Story” and “Monkees à La Carte” with the team Gerald Gardner & Dee Caruso. Since this is his third and final in the broadcast order, I’ll mention some of his credits: He was a producer and writer for That Girl (1966), The New Dick Van Dyke Show (1971), Sanford and Son (1972), Love, American Style (1973) and What’s Happening! (1976), among other shows. He also appeared in four episodes of The New Dick Van Dyke Show. “Dance, Monkee, Dance” first aired on December 12, 1966 and was directed by James Frawley. There’s some fun, surreal humor in this episode with lots memorable dialogue and sight gags.

Miss Buntwell, with her big hair and New York accent, calls the Monkees phone and offers Peter a free dance lesson if he can answer a question. All Peter has to do to win his dance lesson is to name the eighth president of the United States. After much prompting and a bit of a mental struggle, Ms. Buntwell finally gets him to say “Martin Van Buren,” and he races off to pick up his free dance lesson. Through the scene, there was one action that distracted me:

Smoking

She’s holding a cigarette, never taking a puff, but it still surprised me. When I watched in the mid ’80s I thought I didn’t consider this odd because it wasn’t that unusual to see smoking on films and TV throughout the ’70s-’80s.  But in more recent years, it’s not treated so casually. According to “TV Stubs Out Smoking” on parentstv.org, over time, fewer and fewer characters on TV shows are shown smoking, especially if the entertainment is geared towards young viewers. Recently, I can only recall “evil” characters like the Smoking Man on The X-Files, or Patty and Selma on The Simpsons and all of whom suffer for their habit. Around this time, in the mid to late ’60s, there was growing information about the health risks of smoking. Even writers on The Monkees seemed to be expressing an opinion about it, calling the smoking Four Swine, “seedy characters” in “Your Friendly Neighborhood Kidnappers.”  I’m not sure if they’re saying she’s a seedy character, or if her smoking is meaningless. Radio and TV advertising of cigarette’s wasn’t banned until 1971, so at this time it was still legal.

Now, we return to this episode’s scam. Peter is excited to have won something he never wanted, or needed, before getting her call. Now, here he is at Renaldo’s Dance au Go Go enjoying his “free” dance lesson with Miss Buntwell, who flatters and flirts with him even though he’s stepping on her feet. Renaldo himself comes in to get what he’s after: Peter’s signature on a lifetime contract of dance lessons that Peter will pay for. Miss B flirts and growls and calls Peter “tiger,” and Peter eats it up.

At home, Peter practices dance steps while the others fret about the contract he signed. Peter rolls out the very long document for Mike to look at. It’s a lifetime contract, with option for renewal. Where Peter is standing, we can see the “Money Is The Root Of All Evil” sign over his shoulder, just like it was emphasized in “I’ve Got a Little Song Here.”  The Monkees are caught in the web of yet another money-making scheme.

Peter’s insistence that no court in the world would convict him leads to a hilarious courtroom fantasy with Mike as the judge. As the prosecutor, Micky has a headshot of Hal March, who plays Renaldo, and asks Peter if he recognizes him. Peter wonders if this is a “trick question.” Clever, as Hal March was the host of The 64,000 Question in the 1950s, a game show that was part of the rigged quiz show scandal. Throughout the scene, watch Peter’s face as he looks like he’s on the verge of cracking up. Maybe it’s because Mike goes hysterically over the top. Usually that’s Micky’s job, while Mike plays it cool. Here, Mike takes the crazy-ball and runs with it, eating his wig, clubbing everyone on the head with his gavel and maniacally repeating that Peter is “Guilty, guilty, guilty…!”

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Micky thinks he can get Peter out of it, because one good hustle deserves another. He goes to Renaldo’s pretending to be Peter’s “solicitor” and says Peter has ballpointitis, making him sign long-term contracts. Renaldo says there are no loopholes, so, in demonstration Micky signs the contract binding him to a lifetime of dance lessons. Micky kind of fell on his own crafty sword there, heh.

Peter and Micky dance together at the pad while Mike watches with concern. He does that cute, striving-to-be-manly-but-ending-up-awkward shtick again. He looks at us and says “Well, I see you can’t send a boy to do a man’s bodge..uh, j’uh, job, badge…” etc. 

Mike is tricked into signing the same way Peter was; he gets seduced by Miss Buntwell. In his case, at least he gets to make out with her first. It’s nice to see Mike kiss a girl for once. It’s usually Davy, with Peter a distant second. It’s a good choice, as Miss Buntwell seems a little too mature for any of the other Monkees to handle. However, this is what happens when you send a “man instead of a boy.” He falls for a woman. At home, he tells Davy that he signed the contract and enrolled for graduate work. She must be a helluva kisser. So Micky and Mike, the “smart ones,” are just as foolish as Peter this time. Finally, a possible solution as Davy says what they need is a “man on the inside.”

Davy can dance, so he auditions to be one of Renaldo’s instructors. Renaldo probably sees Davy’s potential in charming the ladies and hires him. There’s a clever edit between two scenes while Renaldo briefs Davy, and in the outer room, Miss Buntwell is getting another pigeon to sign a contract. Everything Renaldo says contradicts what Miss Buntwell says. Renaldo says he doesn’t care if Davy has ever taught at all, while Miss Buntwell assures her customer all the instructors have four years experience. Renaldo tells him the three most important words are “just sign here” and “money is everything,” just as Miss Buntwell asks her victim to sign and says, “money isn’t everything.”

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Davy’s first lesson is with none other than Mike, Micky, and Peter. Renaldo says he’s leaving the boys in Davy’s capable hands, “or should I say feet.”  He laughs at his own joke and the Monkees all mock him. Another note about Hal March, the Internet Movie Database and Wikipedia both note that Hal March died from lung cancer that he’d developed as a result of his chain smoking. Pointing it out so I don’t miss the irony of my earlier paragraph about smoking.

How is Renaldo hooking all these people? He’s not preying on the hope for success like Bernie Class. It must be sex, not actual sex, but the promise of becoming sexier after these lessons, and being around the hot dance instructors. The Dancing Smoothies are comic, stereotyped lady-killers, even down to naming them “Smoothies.” Renaldo’s using seduction on these men and women, and they go for it. Ms Buntwell wears a flashy, tight outfit and is flirty and sexy. She implies Peter will become studly after the lessons, and you can see his smitten look. Is Miss Buntwell a crook too? She seems to be in on the set-up, but comes to Peter’s defense when Renaldo calls him a sucker. She is clearly afraid of her boss, so maybe she desperately needs a paycheck.

Davy “teaches” them to dance in a romp of “I’ll Be Back Up on My Feet” (Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell). They do various dances, including the iconic footage of them dancing up the side of the rooftop in tuxedos and top hats. At the end, three of The Monkees say how fun it all was but Davy breaks the fourth wall with, “You must be joking. You know how much it costs for those sets and costumes.”

At home, The Monkees try to figure out how to get out of the situation.

Brilliant-idea

This leads to Micky breaking the fourth wall in an extended bit. He walks off set and into the “writers’ room” for a fast, hip, groovy idea. The writers are older Asian men with long mustaches, and traditional garments. There’s a young guy in the back with a whip. That’s the part that kills me. The “writers” were a surprise, but the implication of the other guy? This is so absurd, subversive, not very PC, probably offensive, and very, very funny. You could almost miss the guy in the back, but once I thought about, it gave a weird edge to what I was seeing [Especially when I note the whip-master is white. – Editor]. [That could be your modern cynicism acting up again – Editor’s wife.] The writers start frantically typing and hand Micky paper. Micky takes the idea back to the set, say it’s terrible, and the writers are overpaid.

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No problem, because Davy has seen Renaldo’s ad in the paper and says tomorrow the studio will be filled with suckers. Peter says “all day” and pulls out an all day sucker. Micky gives me one of my favorite quotable lines when he says: “Little joke. About that big,” and shows the tiny space with his fingers.

At the studio, Davy sets Mike up to keep Ms. Buntwell busy. This leads to the segments of Mike chasing Buntwell around the office, like he’s Pepe Le Pew, and she’s the painted cat [I never understood why a skunk would be attracted to a cat. – Editor]. The soundtrack aids the cartoony feel with zany music and sounds. Of course Mike just wants to occupy her, not actually catch her, and since Mike is more awkward than aggressive, this isn’t as creepy as it could be. In addition to the the funny dialogue, the thing that kills me about the scene is that both actors are incredibly expressive and huge with their facial expressions. We never forget it’s a comedy.

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In the ballroom, Davy sets his plan in motion to chase off the potential customers. (You can hear a lady whisper “isn’t he cute” about Davy when he enters.) Similar to “Monkees vs. Machine,” the Monkees are here to ruin a business. Davy tells the ladies that the teachers are patient with mistakes. Peter comes out in a dress, and Micky pretends to be an angry, threatening instructor. Next, Davy tells the crowd they’ll learn all the latest dances and Micky and Peter contradict this by dressing and dancing as cavemen. Davy assures the ladies that the instructors are all perfect gentlemen. Micky’s in drag and Peter chases him, pulling his hair and pestering him for a kiss, while Micky shrieks a lot. Davy gives a big over-the-top wink to the camera.

Meanwhile, Mike’s got Miss Buntwell trapped on the table. Renaldo comes in and tells her to go talk to the new applicants. He’s smiling angrily with lots of white teeth. He’s looks like a mad game show host, and I thought this is before I knew he hosted The 64,000 Question.

Renaldo talks to the women in the ballroom, attempting damage control. Miss Buntwell prepares the Smoothies: four identical male dance instructors with matching outfits, mustaches and poses. The Monkees see them and approach, after plotting together with a round of “rhubarb, rhubarb. Mike offers to teach the Smoothies the Magooma: “first you raise your right arm, then you raise your left arm.” Smoothies raise their arms, and the Monkees hold them up at gunpoint. Probably toy guns, but if not:

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Our boys come out in the Dancing Smoothies clothes and take over the ballroom, to a romp of “I’m a Believer” (Neil Diamond). Renaldo recognizes them and is horrified. The Smoothies appear in underwear and loose ropes. I guess the Monkees are bad at knots. The Monkees play volleyball against the Smoothies, and there’s lots of dancing and running around. Mike coaches the women and gets them to surround Renaldo and the Smoothies. The Monkees tie them up with the “Renaldo’s Dance Au Go Go” sign.

Tag sequence where the Monkees go into Renaldo’s office and jump around, annoying him. Renaldo rips up their contracts to get rid of them. Mike says the contracts are binding, and they’ll show up for every lesson unless he tears up all the lifetime contracts. Renaldo heads for the filing cabinet and they all start throwing papers all over the floor and tearing up the contracts. They love tearing up papers!

That was a lot of fun. There are a few elements to this episode that play differently now then they did when I watched them in reruns in the ’80s, and I imagine they played differently in the ’60s as well. I like that all four Monkees work as a team, none of them takes the spotlight or dominates the action. One thing about the storyline, they don’t really mention them as musicians or in a band at all. If this was the first and only one you watched, and you didn’t know the premise, you wouldn’t have a clue after this episode. Like Royal Flush, they seem like four guys just occupying a house. It’s another con-artist plot, but the comedy is satisfying: weird, and frequently over-the-top in both the jokes and the execution.

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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.

New Episode! “A Confederacy Of Douchebags (Part One)”

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“We are, we are, we are but your children
Finding our way around indecision
We are, we are, we are rather helpless
Take us forever, a whisper to a scream.”

“Tiddy Bear”, “We’ve Only Just Begun” (Roger Nichols/Paul Williams) by The Carpenters (from the 1970 album, “Close To You”), “America” (Neil Diamond) by Neil Diamond (from the 1980 album, “The Jazz Singer”), “Hail To The Chief” (James Sanderson/Albert Gamse), “Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)” by The Icicle Works (Ian McNabb).