Monkees Vs. Macheen: “Monkees in the Ring”

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“’Round and ’Round We Go!”

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

Round I

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

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

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

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

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

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

Round II

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

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

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

Round III

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

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

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Round IV

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

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

Round V

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

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

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

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

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

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Look-Out-For

by Bronwyn Knox

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

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