Monkees vs. Macheen: “The Monkees Blow Their Minds”

The Monkees Blow Their Ending

“The Monkees Blow Their Minds” was directed by David Winters, written by Peter Meyerson, and aired March 11, 1968, second to the last Monkees episode in the original run. To my delight, this episode features James Frawley, director of 29 of the 58 Monkees episodes, as Rudy, dimwitted henchmen to Oraculo. When I saw this episode in the 1980s, I had no idea this actor was one of the directors, possibly the best director of the series. Knowing this makes it so much more fun. Thanks to MeTV, I’ve recently enjoyed Frawley’s performances in The Outer Limits episodes, “The Inheritors” Pt. 1 and 2 and various episodes of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

“The Monkees Blow Their Minds” kicks off with a musical guest segment, like the one from “Some Like it Lukewarm” with Davy and Charlie Smalls. Frank Zappa (1940-1993), musician and founder of the band The Mothers of Invention, was Michael Nesmith’s pick. Zappa, who also appeared in Head, makes this episode memorable for me. (It certainly wasn’t the storyline.)

For this chat, Mike and Frank impersonate each other. Aren’t they tricky? Zappa wears a Monkees 8-button shirt and has his hair tucked up in one of Mike’s green wool hats. Mike wears a long, bushy wig and a rubber nose. “Mike” introduces “Frank” and pretends to interview him about the psychedelic music scene. Frank, as “Mike,” comments on the tricky editing style of The Monkees and overall, the conversation is full of the ironic self-parody that frequently characterized the second season. I wonder how much of the Monkees audience at the time were into Zappa, The Monkees being a popular show for kids and The Mothers of Invention being an experimental, underground phenomena. That’s more or less what Nesmith and Zappa were joking about in their conversation.

The best part is when Mike conducts Zappa as he musically destroys a car. This is set to the song, “Mother People” by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention from the 1968 album We’re Only in it for the Money. I wish this part had gone on longer. By the way, you can also see Zappa playing a bicycle on this clip from The Steve Allen Show in 1963.

My first memory of Frank Zappa was the 1982 song “Valley Girl,” featuring his daughter Moon. (So shoot me, I’m a child of the ’80s.) He was in the news a lot in the mid-eighties for testifying before the United State Senate against the PMRC, a story that I followed closely. I would imagine that by the time this episode aired on MTV in the 1980s, a lot of people were as tickled as I was to see him on The Monkees. I even became a casual fan; intrigued enough to listen up for his songs on classic rock radio, sit through his surreal film 200 Motels, and buy a copy of the album Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch. That album has some hilarious cover art. Speaking of cover art, the cover for We’re Only in it for the Money is a parody of the Beatles album cover for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Relevant because of the various Monkees references to that album, and because Mike was present at the recording of “A Day in the Life.” You can see Mike about 2/12 minutes into the promo clip.

Back to the recap. Peter arrives at a spooky shop, looking for the “World’s Leading Mentalist,” a.k.a. Oraculo– a scruffy looking magician played by Monte Landis. Oraculo’s dim-witted assistant Rudy (Frawley) greets him. I love the set decoration: weirdness and skulls everywhere, including Oraculo’s staff. Peter explains that he’s got writer’s block and hopes Oraculo can help him. He needs to write a song for the Monkees audition at the club Cassandra. Oraculo perks up at the mention of an “audition.” He tells Peter to look deeply in his eyes and tries to mesmerize him.

That failing, Oraculo pours him a cup of tea. Rudy distracts Peter with a full size skeleton while they sneak a potion into Peter’s beverage. This little bit of physical comedy was funny and I hope Frawley had a good time performing with the Monkees when he wasn’t directing them. The drug completely zones out Peter, which I interpret as a possible subversive statement about drug use.

Next scene: Mike, Micky, and Davy set up for their audition at the club. There are indications that this was filmed much earlier in the second season (April 1967, nearly a full year before it aired), such as the black velvet matching 8-button shirts and Mike wearing the wool hat as well as Micky’s merely wavy rather than full on curly hair. The black shirts were previously seen in “The Card-Carrying Red Shoes.” Peter walks in late, still zombified. Latham, the club manager, was played by Milton Frome, who appeared in The Monkees first season episode, “Monkees on the Line.” Peter can’t remember how to play his bass. He crows like a rooster, destroys Micky’s drum, and over-all wrecks their chance to impress Latham in the audition.

Oraculo summons Peter backstage. Peter’s now wearing an outfit that looks similar to Rudy’s fake Middle East-style costume (they resemble organ grinder’s monkey outfits). On stage, Oraculo auditions for Latham. His act is to levitate Peter four feet off the ground. We see that it’s a trick aided by Rudy who is off stage using ropes to pull him up and down. Latham hires Oraculo instead of the Monkees. Micky, Mike, and Peter suspect that Oraculo has “stolen” Peter’s mind.

The Monkees go back to their pad and plan one of their cons to distract Oraculo and free Peter. (There’s a rare voice-over from Davy setting this up, making me think scenes were dropped or missing.) Mike calls the mentalist, pretending be an amnesiac who has forgotten where he put his suitcase containing 50,000 dollars. Naturally, Oraculo is interested. Cut to Oraculo already at Monkee’s house. He tries to hypnotize Mike, but Mike sees the same, “Cowardice, and, um, dishonesty, and a general lack of scruples” that Peter saw.

Alone with Peter at Oraculo’s shop, Rudy looks at himself in the mirror in one of Oraculo’s capes and top hats, wishing to become his Master. Micky and Davy sneak in behind him. Micky impersonates Oraculo and gives Rudy commands, “Come to me Rudy.” Rudy realizes pretty quickly that it’s not Oraculo, (wrong accent, Micky) but Micky promises a great treasure to share with Rudy, and this lie is enough to get Rudy to go join Oraculo.

As Micky and Davy try to get Peter’s mind back, they launch a romp to “Valleri” (Boyce/Hart). The first moment with the skeleton driving the go-cart out the door is epic. In these romp shots you can see that the Oraculo set is the same as the Monkee’s pad. At one point, Davy and Micky even carry Mr. Schneider around. The shop scenes are cut in with scenes of Mike at the pad with Oraculo, who tricks him into drinking his hypno-potion. Mike has the same hilarious gagging, full-body reaction as he did in “Wild Monkees” when he drank gasoline. The romp has a few cute moments and some cool weirdness, but is generally pointless and doesn’t enhance the plot. Afterwards, Peter’s still in a trance so Davy just hits him on the head with a mallet.

Rudy shows up at the Monkees pad, seemingly through the wall the way it was edited. This tips off Oraculo that something is wrong, so he orders brain-dead Mike to spill the whole scheme. I’m going to stop and say how much I’m enjoying Monte Landis’ performance. This whole episode is a lesser version of “The Devil and Peter Tork,” with Peter losing something vital to a scheming villain. But Landis’ line delivery makes me laugh out loud. I’ve enjoyed every one of Monte Landis’ seven performances and they were varied enough that I honestly didn’t notice he was the same actor when I watched these episodes as a kid.

Later, Micky and Davy bring Peter back to the house, but he’s still spellbound. On top of that, Mike is missing. There’s a classic Monkees scramble to their usual fast-paced incidental music as Micky and Davy look for their friend in places where he wouldn’t fit: under tables, in jars, in the cupboards, etc. They chain Peter to the wall for safekeeping while they go look for Mike. Weird over-dub of Micky saying, “This overlapping chain link is perfect for both sport and formal attire.”

Micky and Davy burst into Oraculo’s shop to rescue Mike. Rudy knocks them out with the mallet, and Oraculo orders Rudy to give Micky and Davy the potion. He boasts about what a sensation he will be with his four psychic slaves. Clip from the show “Here Come the Monkees” (pilot) showing the four Monkees in the prison-break cutaway. Good times. He summons Peter, who breaks the chains out of the wall to obey his command.

At the club Cassandra, Latham introduces The Great Oraculo. Backstage, all four Monkees are now dressed like Peter. Burgess Meredith is in the audience as The Penguin who he played on Batman. His costume is slightly different however, black top hat instead of purple, so that Screen Gems wouldn’t get into legal trouble with 20th Century Fox, perhaps. It’s a random, pop-culture sight gag, memorable and well executed.

Oraculo works the crowd. Choosing a woman from the audience, he asks her to hold up one to thirteen fingers behind his back. (Thirteen fingers? Heh.) She holds up three. Rudy blatantly signals him the answer. Oraculo “guesses” right and the audience is dazzled. Next, Oraculo picks Davy, disguised in a suit and fake facial hair. He claims he’s a lawyer, and Oraculo offers to predict his future. “At the age of 29, you will be the youngest judge ever to sit on the Supreme Court.” Davy makes a fool of him. “But I’m already 35.” The audience boos. Next, he finds Micky in disguise and asks him to help demonstrate that he’s impervious to pain. Micky touches his palm with a lit cigar, instead of whatever prop Oraculo had planted, and Oraculo howls in agony. Once again the audience expresses disdain.

Backstage Oraculo checks on the “psychic slaves.” Foolishly, he smacks Micky instead of giving him another dose of potion. Micky is revived and quickly smacks the other three awake. HOLD IT, hold it. They should have shown this before the scene of the Monkees as audience plants. That would have made sense because then we would have understood that the Monkees were alert and executing a plan to make a fool of the bad guy. It’s completely plausible in the reality of the show that the Monkees could pop in and out of disguises that quickly. They did it all the time. With the scenes in this order, I have no idea what happened.

Rudy tries to save the day by calling the “psychic slaves” out on stage. They circle Oraculo, who commands them to go rigid. The Monkees defy him, falling limply to the stage floor. The audience boos. The Monkees turn this into a human dog act, barking and jumping through hoops and so on. They cut in the “I’m Gonna Buy Me a Dog” romp with Monkees playing with the dogs from “I’ve Got a Little Song Here.” Lame. I don’t mind when they recycle footage for a fun effect, triggering the audience’s memory like they did earlier with the prison break scene, but this is just lazy filler. On stage the dog antics continue and Rudy ends up with the bone from “Some Like it Lukewarm” in his mouth.

That line was a nice nod to The Monkees recurring theme that everyone wants to be in show business. Then, alas, the episode abruptly ends and goes to the black and white performance clip of “Daily Nightly” (Nesmith). There are two things to note in the end credits. First, James Frawley does not get an acting credit as Rudy. I’m guessing Frawley was acting for fun and he didn’t need a credit. The second looks like an error, they misspell “Valleri” as “Valerie.”

“Monkees Blow Their Minds,” was not amazingly original, but was at least amusing before the sloppily-put-together scenes in the last act, and the production team’s general failure to wrap things up. I did enjoy Zappa, Frawley, and Monte Landis so it wasn’t all bad. It’s just one of those things like “Monkees in Texas” where I wonder if they lost a reel or just couldn’t come up with enough footage to make a more satisfying story. Well, that’s showbiz!

In two weeks, it’s the final episode: the delightfully weird “Frodis Caper.” See you then!

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: “Monkee Mother”

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“The Taming of The Monkees”

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“Monkee Mother” is an episode that’s a little more domestic than usual. That seems obvious from the title, but compared to the previous episode’s pulp fiction-y spy action story, this one is very cozy, all taking place on the Monkees’ house set. “Monkee Mother” was written by Peter Meyerson and Robert Schlitt who also wrote “Royal Flush,” “The Monkees in a Ghost Town,” and the story for “Captain Crocodile.” This was their last collaboration for The Monkees. Peter Meyerson, without Schlitt, has writing credits for “Monkees Blow Their Minds,” “Fairy Tale,” “Hillbilly Honeymoon,” and “The Prince and the Paupers.” Schlitt went on to write for Mod Squad, Hawaii Five-O, Adam 12, Kung Fu, Matlock, and The Father Dowling Mysteries to name a few. James Frawley directed this episode, which first aired on March 20, 1967.

This episode starts off mid-argument with Mike defending the Monkees to Mr. Babbitt. Mike refutes the claim that they planted poison ivy and that Mr. Schneider is inflammable material. Mr. Babbitt kicks them out and tells them the new tenant will arrive in one hour. He gets a little villainous organ music from the score, and the Monkees go into a shared fantasy where Babbitt is a vaudeville villain in a top hat and cloak, and they’re peasants in torn clothing getting pelted by snow, inside their house, in Southern California. Babbitt leaves them to pack.

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The new tenant arrives in a lot less than an hour. It’s Rose Marie from “Monkees in a Ghost Town.” This time she’s not the Big Man. She’s Millie, who passively-aggressively tells the boys her bags can just walk themselves in. After the theme, she walks around complaining about the dust and the dirt and the half-eaten sandwich. In other words, she instantly starts “mothering” them. She mentions her departed husband, “dear Herman.” 

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As Millie continues to settle in, the Monkees go out on the patio to talk about getting rid of her [Wouldn’t they need to go housing court to fight their eviction? – Editor]. Naturally Mike is chosen to tell her that she’s got to go. When they go inside to confront her, Mike’s too polite and backs right down. Micky’s up next and she tells him it’s fine for the Monkees to stay as her boarders. This is not what they had in mind.

The truck driver arrives with Millie’s furniture and Millie asks the Monkees to help bring things in. They refuse at first but then there’s a fast motion bit where she’s a traffic cop with a whistle directing everyone. After, Larry the mover takes a rest and Millie thanks him with a piece of homemade cheesecake . “Gee officer Krupke, Krup you!” (10 points to anyone who gets that reference. Hint in the cast graphic at the bottom.)

The exhausted Monkees are out on the patio lying on the ground and on each other. The patio is the place they go for a reprieve from Millie it seems.

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Now we get the series of scenes where Millie has one on one time with each Monkee, a chance to divide and conquer. Mike is in the main room doing the dusting. Millie speculates that Mike’s used to responsibility, coming from a large family with little money, where he was expected to help out a lot. (This is the fictional Mike’s family. Michael Nesmith was an only child.) Millie wants to make something for him. Mike wants her to make him a success [Some heartfelt, earnest acting from Nesmith – Editor], a couple of hit records or a shot on a TV show, reflecting his wishes in “I’ve Got a Little Song Here.” Millie offers that success is no good if you catch a cold, and she’ll make him a sweater. I don’t think it’s so much that she didn’t understand him, but a practical problem is one she can solve. He lets himself be measured for the sweater.

Next she finds Micky under the car doing repairs. She asks him to fix the leaky faucet and cleans the dirt off of his face, as though he were a little boy. He says he doesn’t mind fixing it and smiles sweetly. Millie is effectively domesticating and taming the Monkees. But she’s also emasculating them with her presence, changing the way they live.

Especially since Mike, the most adult of them, was wearing a feminine apron in her scene with him. One of the things I enjoy so much about the premise of the Monkees is that they’re on their own without parental guidance, without any female influence since they don’t have serious relationships. Mike is the closest thing to anyone being “in charge” of the Monkees. He’s the one the others rely on for help, for ideas, to be responsible, and even to physically hide behind. But he’s still one of them, getting involved in wacky shenanigans and crazy ideas. Millie’s presence, being an authority figure who wants the house her way, is the biggest threat to him.

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 After dinner Peter, Mike, and Micky excuse themselves leaving Millie with Davy. She asks if he knows Rex Harrison, since surely everyone who’s English must know each other. She tells a sad story about saying “hi” to all the neighbors but “nobody called back.” Davy says he would have called back. This is a touching Davy moment; a very sweet scene.

Peter doesn’t get a scene with Millie for some reason. They play “Sometime in the Morning” (Gerry Goffin, Carole King) for her while she knits. Performance footage is the same used in “Monkees at the Circus.” Millie imagines herself young, in turn-of the-century dress. It’s a romantic romp that’s her fantasy, not theirs. She imagines the Monkees also in the period costumes and they each take turns dancing with her. I interpret that she’s lonely and wants to have fun with them on their level, to be youthful and have their attention. I’m not sure how the costumes fit in, as she would have been young in the ’30s-’40s but they do add to the dreamy atmosphere.

Next, there’s a weird bit where the Monkees play dominoes. Micky asks “What is this called?” and Peter answers “Southeast Asia” and they knock down the dominoes in what’s probably a Vietnam War reference. Apparently, the song “Last Train to Clarksville” (Boyce/Hart) was a Vietnam War protest song. Boyce/Hart had to be subtle about it in the lyrics.

Millie opens the front door, announcing that they’ve got company. Lest you think Mike’s been won over by Millie from the earlier scenes, he sarcastically mutters, “Oh boy, company.” Millie has come from the supermarket with a blonde girl seated on the shopping cart. The girl, Clarisse [“Have the lambs stopped screaming?” – Editor], is English and Millie wants to fix her up with Davy. Clarisse and Davy engage in a little “drawing room comedy” on the steps, Davy wearing his smoking jacket.

Clarisse: “Do you really know Rex Harrison?”
Davy: “No.”
Clarisse: “Actually, I don’t care.”
Davy: “I’m no good for you, you know.”
Clarisse: “I don’t care.”
Davy: “Terrible temper”
Clarisse: “I don’t care!”
Davy: “I wander.”
Clarisse: “I don’t care.”
Davy: “Cruel, too.”
Clarisse: “I don’t care!”
Davy: “I love you, Clarisse!”
Clarisse: “I don’t care.”

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Millie’s sister Judy, her husband Arthur, and pack of kids in military helmets/uniforms are at the door. Millie lets them in and the four kids race all over and terrorize the Monkees. There’s smoke, dirt, and running on furniture. As with the Crocodile Corps, this show doesn’t treat kids like precious little things. These kids are about 10-12, I’d guess; two boys, and two girls.

Self-involved Judy doesn’t seem to know that Millie’s husband has been dead for 10 years. I’m thinking about the notion that for whatever reason, Millie doesn’t have kids. (I know not all women want kids, but I’m interpreting that Millie did.) Or maybe the kids grew up and are too far away. Otherwise she wouldn’t be in this situation with the Monkees.

By the way, Millie’s stuffed bird (Lewis) and sheep (Martin) are an allusion to the 1940s-1950s comedy duo, Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin.

In the midst of the chaos, Larry comes over, wanting more cheesecake. Millie and Larry seem to like each other. One of the little girls has Mike tied up and gagged. She refuses her father’s request to loosen his gag, declaring Mike her prisoner. Indulgent Dad is fine with this. I enjoy the sight of the Monkees getting a taste of their own chaotic medicine from these kids.

Mr. Babbitt enters, wondering what’s going on. True, Millie has not been any less noisy a tenant than the Monkees. Babbitt yells at Millie and Judy. A snack vendor comes in sells peanuts and popcorn like the whole thing’s spectator sport. Clarisse continues her chorus of “I don’t care, I don’t care.”  Vendor: “I don’t care either, baby.” This is reminiscent of “Success Story” when all the victims came back to the pad for their stolen goods. Popcorn, kids, and Monkees scatter all over the apartment until Millie ushers everyone onto the beach. The Monkees are tied up and gagged and can’t move.

Later, the Monkees are on their patio again, and Micky is spoon-feeding Peter, treating him like a baby. Mike and Davy observe disdainfully that Micky and Peter don’t even want her to leave anymore. Mike declares they’ve been conned, (interesting word choice since that’s their usual modus operandi). On the other hand, Mike doesn’t see any way out of it, “We might as well be married to her.” Davy is less hostile and feels bad for Millie. Micky picks up on Mike’s words and suggests what Millie wants is a husband. Where will they get a husband?

From the deus ex moving truck, Larry knocks on the door. He’s returning a lamp that got left behind. The Monkees think he’d make a good husband for Millie since they’re the same age, right? Same logic as all English people knowing each other.

Millie and Larry get ready for their dinner date at the Monkee pad. Mike and Davy prepare Larry while Micky and Peter prepare Millie. The Monkees lie to their charges that each drives the other to distraction.

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At dinner, Mike and Peter play a lovely and brief instrumental, acoustic version of “Don’t Call on Me” (Michael Nesmith, John London). Millie and Larry are left alone to talk. Millie seems preoccupied with various friend’s ailments.

Micky, Davy, and Mike do the dishes. Micky teases Mike, handing him a dish he already washed. Mike tells him, “Don’t do that,” but re-washes it anyway. Micky’s mischievous face as he screws with Mike is great. Peter spies on their conversation with binoculars and some kind of audio gear.

Millie talks so long that the Monkees fall asleep, except Peter, diligently spying. Larry interrupts to ask about Herman. Millie describes Herman as an angel and a nice man. Larry says he’s no angel. Millie says he’s a nice man and they touch hands and look at each other. Sweet performance from the actors, making this work with a little help from the dialogue. Peter goes rushing from his spot to tell the Monkees ‘We did it! We made it! It’s love!” Make love, not war, kids. 

Cut to the wedding. Everyone from the episode is there, Arthur and Judy, the kids, Clarisse and the vendor who seem to be an item. Even Mr. Babbitt is a guest. Mike tells Babbitt he’s got the rent from playing the wedding. For some reason Mike’s shouting like they’re standing in a wind tunnel, even though they’re staged close together and Henry Corden is not shouting. Babbitt seems grateful to Mike, maybe for getting rid of Millie? Mike asks Babbitt to babysit the kids and he agrees. The kids tie Babbitt up, but during the song he wiggles gamely in his ropes, doing his version of “The Kidnap.” 

The kids all dance while the Monkees play “Look out, (Here Comes Tomorrow)” (Neil Diamond). The tune was one of four songs that Neil Diamond wrote for the Monkees. The others are “I’m a Believer,” “A Little Bit Me, a Little Bit You” and “Love to Love.” Micky performed “I’m a Believer,” while Davy is the lead for the other three. “I’m a Believer” and “A Little Bit Me, a Little Bit You” were both #1 songs in the US. “Love to Love” was originally recorded in 1967 for the third Monkees Album, but wasn’t included as it was part of the Don Kirshner sessions. Its was added to the recent Monkees album Good Times with new backing vocals by Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork.

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Millie says her “goodbyes” in the moving truck. Mike’s wearing the sweater Millie made him, and they do seem sad to see her go. She says she’s living two doors down, so she’ll drop over with soup to talk over old times. Tonight for instance. They look stunned, as you would expect. Larry carries some of her furniture and throws the cupcake line back at them. Is he having regrets?

That was a cute story, aided by the presence of Rose Marie. It is more traditionally sit-comy but also like a stage play, with the entire story on the one set and the tight cast of characters. When I first thought about this episode, I recall it seemed that not much happened. That’s not entirely the case. It’s just more subtle. Instead of their lives being on the line, like in “Alias Micky Dolenz” or “Monkees Chow Mein” their everyday way of life is jeopardized. If Millie had stayed around, they would cease being the Monkees, stop getting in trouble, stop doing crazy antics, and maybe all grow up and get married off. We wouldn’t want that.

Hey, it’s been a full year since I started doing these recaps! Thanks to all of you for reading. It’s a lot of fun to relive these episodes of this great show and I really appreciate your comments. 

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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: “Captain Crocodile”

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“The Monkees Should Not Be Allowed on TV”

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In “Captain Crocodile,” a lively and entertaining episode, the Monkees struggle to get into show business again. The Monkees vs. showbiz episodes are always good ones. This time, their antagonist is a jealous TV host, the title character Captain Crocodile. Writing credits go to Gerald Gardner & Dee Caruso and Peter Meyerson & Robert Schlitt, from a story by Peter Meyerson & Robert Schlitt. This is the largest amount of writers that worked on any Monkees episode. If this is what it takes to have such a good show, I’m all for it. James Frawley directed “Captain Crocodile” and it aired February 20, 1967.

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The Monkees arrive on the set of “Captain Crocodile,” expecting to play their music. The host of the show, Captain Crocodile himself acts pleased to meet them, but then mutters vague threats about them playing on “his show.” The show crew dresses the Monkees up in smocks and the hats used by The Jolly Green Giants of “Find the Monkees.” Howard, the producer, holds up signs telling the kids in the studio audience when to cheer. (Note the “Standby/On the Air” sign is the same as the one used in the “Too Many Girls” talent show.) The bipolar Captain Crocodile calls his loyal audience “rotten” kids and then gets giggly and jolly as he greets the camera. He enthusiastically throws pies at each of the Monkee’s faces.

Captain Crocodile is meant to be a fictional version of Captain Kangaroo, Howdy Doody, and hosts of children’s television shows in general. Even his name is a vicious variation on Captain Kangaroo, a show I used to love as a kid. Captain Kangaroo was certainly a lot more mild-mannered than Joey Forman. I suspect that Captain Crocodile might have had an influence on the Krusty the Clown character from The Simpsons. There’s a similar cult-like devotion from the kids, while the host himself has a demeanor not at all appropriate for children. In a funny way of course. But a little sad too.

Back to The Monkees, they’re in the office of a Junior Pinter who has asked to see them. Their matching plaid suits really distort and confuse my monitor. I hope we don’t see those too often. The secretary looks at them like they’re biggest freaks she’s ever seen in her life. Meanwhile, the Monkees think an invitation from a television executive means they’ve made it. [So naive – Editor]

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When they get into Pinter’s office, they’re surprised to find he actually is a little kid, the son of the President of the Network. I wondered if the writers were having a sly joke at producer Bert Schneider’s expense, who was the son of Abraham Schneider, then president of Columbia pictures, and the “prince of the court” in Michael Nesmith’s words. He would have been in his 30s at this point, but they turn “Junior” into an eleven-year-old in short pants. Junior Pinter would like the Monkees to play on Captain Crocodile’s show every week. The Monkees turn to exit, as they don’t want any more pies in their faces. Junior gets his Dad on the phone, who tells him to handle it like a “real executive.” Junior hangs up and promises that they will get to play music, and no more pies will be thrown at them. That was a really delightful scene with sharp acting from Joey Baio as Junior. He swings from cocky, swaggering executive to insecure little kid with ease and enthusiasm. Adding some fun is watching the Monkees navigate the tiny chairs and shot glasses of milk in Junior’s office.

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The Crocodile Corp, which are the Captain’s tiny, obsessed fans, chase the Captain into producer Howard’s office. He tells Howard he got the memo from Junior about the Monkees and he fears he’s being replaced. The Captain is similar to Victor and the circus performers from “Monkees at the Circus,” fearing that he’ll be replaced by this newer, younger form of entertainment. If he wasn’t so wicked, you could almost feel bad for him and his sad but maniacal eyes.

Unlike the Circus folks, Captain Crocodile fights dirty. The next series of scenes involves the Monkees trying to play on his show, and the Captain finding various ways to sabotage them. Tactics include: introducing them and then cutting away before they can play, throwing a net on them when they’re about to play, and rigging an explosion when Micky starts to drum. The Captain pretends to give Micky a shot to introduce himself, but hits him with so many stage instructions that usually quick-witted Micky is completely flustered. Throughout these pranks are cutaways of Captain Crocodile looking pleased at screwing them over.

Finally, Mike loses his temper and screams at the Captain, “Either you let us play or we quit.” Kind of a foreshadowing of his threatening to quit if the Monkees didn’t get more control over their albums? I’m kidding, sort of. It couldn’t have been a thought in the writers’ minds at the time as this was shot October 18-21, 1966, before the famous incident with Don Kirshner, the Monkees music supervisor,  occurred in 1967. But it’s an unintentionally subversive joke, made sweeter by the later mention of Kirshner in the episode.

The performance is “Valleri” (Boyce/Hart) with footage that was shot separately and added into the episode. They almost matched the outfits of the band, but not quite. Davy and Peter’s pants are the wrong color and Mike has a different shirt under his jean jacket. I’ll mention, since I was talking about Mike Nesmith and the Monkees rebellion, that this was a tune created under Don Kirshner’s supervision.  Nesmith supposedly hated this song and called it “the worst record ever.” (It’s not my favorite, but I do like the fuzz guitar.)

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When they finish, Mike excitedly approaches the stage manager and asks how they did. The stage manager, played by Larry Gelman, who also pops up in “I’ve Got a Little Song Here” and “The Christmas Show,” informs them that the show’s been over for five minutes. The Monkees still haven’t been on TV. They sit in the audience and Peter cries about their failure. The other three try to cheer him up by fantasizing that they can be on TV some other way.

Their fantasy is the centerpiece, and my favorite part of the episode. The Monkees parody various TV shows. I was not yet born in the 1960s, so I have no real frame of reference for most of the television shows featured. But this is what makes The Monkees classic: These bits are still funny, whether you’ve seen these other shows or not. They’re not topical or dated because you don’t have to be “in the know” to find the lines and acting hilariously funny.

First up is their version of Huntley-Brinkley Report, a 15-minute news program. Each Monkee gives his name as some variation of Huntley or Brinkley (“Chuck Weekly,” “Dank Barkely”), until Mike blows it with “John Smith.” (Love his sheepish look when Micky calls him on it.) Next, Mike pretends to be weather forecaster Tex Nesmith and gets attacked with wind and rain.  Then, they start a parody of What’s My Line calling it “What’s My Scene” (A better parody of this is Woody Allen’s “What’s My Perversion” from Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex But Were Afraid to Ask) but deciding it’s boring, they go into a fake To Tell The Truth that they call “To Tell a Fib.” (Apparently, they’ve recently revived To Tell the Truth.)

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The best of the best is the comic book/Batman sequence where Mike and Micky are robbers and Davy and Peter are heros “Frogman and Ruben the tadpole” wearing the scuba suits from “Monkee See, Monkee Die” romp with Monkeemen capes. The camera angle is slanted the entire time and the sound effects are given as onscreen graphics, “Foo” “Bing” “Bong” etc. Mike is hilarious with his delayed reactions to Peter’s attacks and it’s amusing that Peter is clearly trying not to break up laughing the entire time.

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After the fun is over, Captain Crocodile continues to have a nervous breakdown over his perceived threat of the Monkees. He tells Howard he has “evil thoughts” and it leads to a scene where Junior Pinter is showing the Monkees their hate mail. This doesn’t make a lot of sense given that they’ve only probably been on TV a few seconds, thanks to the conniving Captain. Who knows them well enough to hate them? But Pinter shows them the 27 letters they received from people calling them “long haired weirdos”, “loathsome teenagers” etc. This is the first of many times on The Monkees they’ll be called “long-haired weirdos.” It’s another element that has a real life resonance because as Micky Dolenz mentioned in the documentary, We Love the Monkees (2012), it was a big deal to have young men with longer hair (we’re talking a little past the collar here) on TV at all at the time. Junior mentions the letters were “written in crayon” so they’re presumably fakes created by Captain Crocodile’s pint-sized disciples.

Pinter tells them the Programming Chief J.J. Pontoon has called a meeting to discuss the problem. The Monkees counter by crashing the meeting, disguised of course in fake identities. Micky pretends to be a TV pollster, spouting some gibberish about network ratings going up thanks to The Monkees. Mike plays a janitor whose kids only watched “Captain Crocodile” to see the Monkees.  Peter and Davy come in dressed as little kids, threatening to hold their breath if the network takes the Monkees off the air. Junior backs them up on this. J.J. Pontoon, who is played by Oliver McGowan previously seen in “Monkee See, Monkee Die,” tells them all to go away so the network executives can make a decision. The Captain (in a sly nod to The Caine Mutiny) plays with little metal stress balls.

The Captain decides to utilize his secret weapon, the Crocodile Corps. He asks them to “get the Monkees” so the children chase after the band in a romp to “Auntie Grizelda” (Diane Hildebrand, Jack Keller). The romp has some footage that appears to have been shot at the same time as the “I’ll Be Back Upon My Feet” romp from “Dance, Monkee, Dance.” The kids terrorize the Monkees with rifles and hatchets, yikes. Eventually, the Crocodile Corps chases the Monkees all the way back to the “Captain Crocodile” set. I like that this show wasn’t terribly precious about children.

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At the birthday house, Micky gets the idea to tell the kids a story. All they have is a dictionary, so they have to improvise, “Once upon a time, in the land of Kirshner.” The kids sit in the audience seats, and each Monkee takes his turn “reading” to the children. They’re making little sense but the kids are loving it (of course they are). See, they just want to be read to, like any kids. Peter gets his turn and, as always, he’s a step behind so he actually reads the dictionary. The children don’t mind and would clearly watch these guys do anything. The Captain loses his temper and reveals his true nature to his fans,“You double-crossing brats, I hate you!” They turn around and attack him instead! That about wraps it up for Captain Crocodile’s career. Bravo to Joey Forman and his gleefully nasty portrayal of Captain Crocodile. [“Amazing.” – Editor (a hundred points to anybody who gets that reference!)]

 Tag sequence where the “Captain Crocodile” show has been changed to “The Monkees Menagerie.” The little sign they put up on the clubhouse looks like it came off the back of one of their cast chairs. Hurray for the Monkees, they’ve finally made it! But no, the host of the show is the former “Captain Crocodile” producer, Howie Needleman. Instead of hitting them with pies, the new trend is spraying them with seltzer. Ah, the cynicism of this show and how the older adults are always untrustworthy and/or crazy. 

This is such a great episode, and a decent companion piece to “Find The Monkees” where they also struggle to “make it” as TV stars. This episode is a little darker though, in a good way. The story and dialogue makes fun of Hollywood and the notion of youth vs. establishment. Captain Crocodile, representing the establishment, is paranoid and brings about his own demise. Having the Monkees’ one champion played by a kid is subtle way of emphasizing “youth vs. experience.” When the Monkees manage to turn over the ruling class, a new identical regime comes in to replace it. That’s a sharp, cynical touch. And on top of that, there’s the pure entertainment value. The TV sequence alone makes this episode worth it. I know the Monkees were working very hard, long hours on this show and were struggling to be considered seriously as musicians at the same time. I do hope they occasionally had as much fun as it looked like they were having.

Happy 50th anniverary to The Monkees TV series, which debuted on September 12, 1966 with the episode “Royal Flush.”

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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.