Monkees Vs. Macheen: “Monkees in Manhattan”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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by Bronwyn Knox

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

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