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

“I’m as puzzled as the Oyster.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Bronwyn Knox

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

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Monkees Vs. Macheen: “Monkees à la Mode”

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“We don’t follow fashion. That’d be a joke.”

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“Monkees à la Mode” is one of my favorites, if not my very favorite from the first season. The storyline plays as a culture war between the Monkees and a high fashion magazine staff. The Monkees are at their best working together, defying authority. There’s no high adventure here. No one’s life is in danger. What is on the line is the Monkees identity and individuality. It’s an important concept for young people—then and now. This was the first episode directed by Alex Singer, who directed five more after this. Episode writers were the usual suspects, Gerald Gardner and Dee Caruso.

The action starts, not with the Monkees, but in the offices of Chic magazine; an allusion to Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar. Anna Wintour stand-in Madame Quagmeyer asks her staff for new ideas for their “Young American” issue. The photographer gives Madame Q names of various socialites, all of which she rejects as “stale.” One of his suggestions has the amusing name, “Vernon Equinox.” Toby, a young writer, played by Monkees frequent extra Valerie Kairys, suggests the Monkees. The photographer calls them “long-haired weirdos,” marking the second episode in a row the term was used. Since Chic is a magazine of “style”, of course their hair would cause comment and the magazine’s main audience probably isn’t teenagers anyway. But Madame Q loves the idea and says she’ll make them over in the magazine’s image. She wants fresh and new but plans to turn it into the same old thing.

 Let’s have breakfast with the Monkees, shall we? I love these scenes of them hanging out, doing everyday things. Someone has delivered a copy of Chic to their doorstep; a magazine they do not subscribe to. They make fun of the magazine for a bit and then find the letter from Madame Q, saying they’ve been chosen as the “typical young Americans of the year.” Great fourth-wall-breaking gag with the edit-in of the closing title images of all the Monkees making goofy faces.

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There’s a knock on the door and Davy dramatically poses and declares, “Hark, I hear a knock upon yon door!” There’s a motif of the Monkees mock “posing” during this episode that compliments the fashion theme. The title image I’ve chosen at the top of the post is a classic example. The visitors are Toby and the photographer from Chic who introduces himself as Rob Roy Fingerhead. Toby explains that Chic wants to do a story about them.

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Rob Roy, acting a lot like Ronnie from “One Man Shy,” proceeds to insult the Monkees appearance and taste. He describes their furnishings as “cheap, ugly clap-trap.” The Monkees defensively show Rob Roy a couple of historical items they own, leading to quick George Washington and Paul Revere fantasy sketches. An unimpressed Rob Roy leaves, declaring he’ll do Madame Q’s bidding. Toby, who is obviously a friend of theirs and more their speed, tries to appeal to them to do the story, despite Rob Roy. The Monkees protest that they’re not right for the magazine, because as Mike puts it, “young people aren’t typical anything.” That’s really one of the key points. Toby says the publicity will be good for their career, so Davy agrees they’ll participate. He has to talk the other three into it a bit more after she leaves.

At the magazine, the arriving Peter tries to explain who they are: “Madame Q…You may not remember about us.” Madame Q’s sarcasm-laced response: “Your intuition is faultless.”  So many good lines, it’s tempting to transcribe everything. Peter explains they’re the “typical young people of the year” and the editors cue up their faces from the titles again.

She introduces the Monkees to her snooty editorial assistants: Miss Collins, Vassar ’64, Miss Osborne, Bryn Mar ’63. Miss Delessips, Bennington ’62. Mike mocks them by introducing himself as “Mike Nesmith, Eagle Scouts ’61.” (Similar to Peter introducing himself for the gangsters in “Monkees à la Cart.”) Madame Q assigns the sister-school beauties to gather background on the boys. Micky and Davy flirt with the young women of course, while Peter talks to the lamp. Of all the Monkees, Mike is clearly the most irked by Madame Q and her staff. He’s as disdainful of Miss Vassar’s narrow-mindedness as she is of his perceived lack of sophistication. 

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Rob Roy struggles to prepare the Monkees for the fashion shoot. According to him, Peter has bad posture, and Davy doesn’t know how to pose. The best segment of this is Rob Roy with Micky. Rob Roy instructs Micky on “good taste” in matching clothing by color. At first, Micky ignores him with incessant drumming (sounds like the beat from “Randy Scouse Git”). Rob Roy stops this by unexpectedly threatening him with a gun! Micky looks startled but quickly shifts to mischievous. He responds to Rob Roy’s lessons by manically throwing clothes all over the place while reciting his own take on the “rules.” Rob Roy follows him around, flustered and yelling at him. There’s something so satisfying about watching Micky’s childish rebellion against Rob Roy’s fashion edicts.

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Now it’s time for the romp, set to “Laugh” (Medress/Margo/Margo/Siegal), which is a great song choice for this episode. The lyrics are perfect for these characters who take themselves oh-so-seriously. Throughout, The Monkees wreak havoc in the Chic offices as Rob Roy tries to complete his photo spread.

Sometime later, Toby turns over her story on the Monkees to Madame Q, saying it captures them “just the way they are.” Madame Q doesn’t want that so she asks Rob Roy to step in. Rob Roy anticipated this and hands over a story that’s full of lies. The fashionable Rob Roy, by the way, is wearing one of the Monkees plaid suit jackets that show up squiggly on my monitor. Divoon!

Back at the pad, we’re treated to more of the Monkees chilling while they wait for the Chic article to come out. A couple of entertaining moments: Mike prunes the ball on his hat and Davy punches a toy giraffe that refused his offer of cheese. There’s a knock on the door and a classic sight gag when Davy goes to the peephole: He’s too short to see out of it, so he just opens and shuts it for no real reason. It’s an angry girl, coming to give Davy back his friendship ring. Next up is Linda, who comes by just to slap Micky and leave. Mike gets a phone call from a guy who’s clearly not happy with him. Then, someone tosses a rock through the window with a note full of insults for The Monkees, signed, “A friend.” In other words, all their friends hate them now.

(Side note to mention that Mike is excellent with the physical comedy in this scene, from answering the phone awkwardly through the staircase, to unwrapping the note around the rock, he does it all in a way that’s funny.)

Another knock and Davy repeats the sight gag with the peephole. Toby arrives with the article, and Mike guesses that all their friends have already seen it. She reads it to them. According to Rob Roy and Chic, the boys are gourmets who enjoy pheasant under glass, their favorite sports are polo and croquet, and their taste in music runs from chamber music to organ recitals. Obviously these are silly and trivial but they are still lies. It’s also a meta-comment since real life publicity and magazines will exaggerate and make up little fibs to make their famous subjects fit a certain image.

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Toby tells them she quit her job in protest. Madame Q sends them a telegram reminding them to be at the banquet that night, to receive their “Young Americans of the Year” award. (Goofy face titles again.) Micky and Davy respond with a telegram of their own, “Monkee telegram 26A: You can take your trophy and…”

We’ll just have to imagine what they want her to do with the trophy, as they cut to the banquet scene. Madame Q is on stage at the podium and her speech lets us know these stuffy middle-aged adults dressed up and sitting at the tables are Chic’s advertisers. Even if you were watching this for the first time, you had to know that the Monkees aren’t going to behave. What’s fun is to see how they’re going to wreck her day.

As much as I love the drama here of the Monkees versus fashion elite, there’s also an interesting bit of serendipity. This episode aired on the same date that Don Kirshner was fired from Colgem records, and as the Monkees music supervisor, supposedly for choosing the next single (“A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You”/”She Hangs Out”) without the Monkees (or Raybert’s) knowledge or agreement. In “Monkees a la Mode” the boys are rebelling against being told what they are, and what they should be by Madame Q and Chic. The conflict echoes the real life frustration of the Monkees, who were tired of the music for their albums and the show being produced without any input from them.

Madame Q announces that Chic is awarding the “Fine Young American” trophy to four young people who are the “epitome for everything the magazine stands for.” The Monkees, who are seated on the stage off to the side, stand up and greet the room with an off-key Three Stooges “Hello” harmony. The Monkees have all the power here since they have nothing to lose.

Each one makes a fool of Madame Q by clownishly contradicting her introduction. She calls Peter the “picture of grace” and he proceeds to stumble all over the podium. She declares that Davy embodies the “chic coiffure.” He removes an obvious wig and reveals a smooth, sham bald head, making him look like a toddler with a cocky swagger. Madame Q describes Micky as the “paragon of quiet gentility.” He jumps to the mic, performing a similar hack-comedian shtick like he did in “Too Many Girls,” “I’m kinda new in town, can you direct me to your apartment?”

When she gets to Mike, Madame Q is twitching from humiliation and has clearly had enough of the Monkees. She gives him the trophy and tries to get rid of him fast. Stylish hats-off to Patrice Wymore, who played Madame Q. She was delightfully unlikeable and haughty throughout. Madame Quagmeyer is also a great Dickensian name, resembling the “quagmire” she got herself into.

Mike pushes her aside and insists on speaking. He announces that the trophy should really go to Rob Roy Fingerhead since he’s the one who “made them what they are today.” Rob Roy tries to sneak away. Peter, maintaining his characteristic sweet expression, stands up and physically stops him from exiting the stage. This is as innocent as anyone has ever looked while menacing another human being. 

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Rob Roy accidentally sits on and breaks his camera. He’s so upset, I almost feel sorry for him.  Micky says, “It was a mercy killing.” I want to know what it was made of that you can break it that easily. I could understand it bending slightly with the weight, but the whole thing falls to pieces.

Madame Q yells at Rob Roy to get rid of Monkees before she loses her job, but it’s too late. Thanks to the Monkees, Madame Q and Rob Roy are ruined. They caused their own problems by creating a false version of the boys that their advertisers would find acceptable. Advertisers, then and now, are a powerful force in any kind of media. The Monkees head out into the crowd to create more chaos, stacking dishes and taking flowers off the table etc. Hysterical Madame Q has to be physically restrained by the wait staff.

Tag sequence where the Monkees go back to the Chic office to see if they can get a retraction. To their surprise, Toby is now in charge of the magazine. She firmly refuses their request and her new attitude and style is exactly like the old Madame Quagmeyer. Davy points out that it’s a big responsibility, but Toby reveals her new assistants are none other than Madame Q and Rob Roy. It’s a cynical touch since these two haven’t learned anything. They’re stuck in the bottom of their own machinery, and Toby is now one of them. Next, the performance of “You Just May Be the One” (Nesmith), previously seen in “The Chaperone” and “One Man Shy.”

One of the reasons for my everlasting-love for this show is because the Monkees are nearly always creating chaos and fighting against various representations of establishment and authority. “Monkees à la Mode” is the quintessential example of this kind of story from The Monkees. This episode also stands out as the Monkees display more anger than usual toward the villains, and I like that. But should they be angry? They could have backed out of the Chic article once they saw what Madame Q and Rob Roy were like. Instead, they were hostile participants. The episode resonates in a similar way for me as “One Man Shy,” which is another story about class war. The antagonists aren’t really evil, just threatened by anything that challenges the status quo.

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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: “Your Friendly Neighborhood Kidnappers”

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“Monkees, Swine, and Crabs”

Your Friendly Neighborhood Kidnappers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mikes-face

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

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

Answering-Service

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

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

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

dance

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

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

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

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

Peter

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

Clothes-ripping

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

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

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

Micky-Mania

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Songs

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

by Bronwyn Knox

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