Monkees vs. Macheen: “Monkees Mind Their Manor”

“The Episode I Don’t Really Remember…”

The episode begins, to my delight, with the Monkees rehearsing at their pad. Peter and Davy play a tune called “Iranian Tango” for Micky and Mike. Yes, they’re really playing that. That little bit of music was included on the Monkees bootleg LP, Monkeeshines, along with other vocal bits from the show, such as “Different Drum” and “Greensleeves” from this very episode. It also included “All the Kings Horses” and the fast version of “I Wanna Be Free.” I’m just happy that the episode starts off with a nod to the premise of them as musicians. Thank you, Mr. Thorkelson.

Oh yeah, this episode of The Monkees was directed by one of their own, Peter Tork, credited as Peter H. Thorkelson (his birth name). IMDB trivia tells me this was part of a “deal” worked out by Raybert with Peter and Micky, who both got to direct episodes because they weren’t allowed to direct themselves in Head. I can’t find any other source to back that up however, so make of it what you will. It’s interesting to note that this is the only thing Peter Tork ever directed. He has one other credit as a “second unit or assistant director” on a television short called “Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes at the Asbury Park Convention Center.” Micky, who also directed an episode in the second season, went on to do quite a bit more directing. I’m just guessing that, in contrast to Micky Dolenz, directing didn’t appeal to Mr. Thorkelson.

The episode plot launches with a knock on the door. Davy goes bouncing across the pad to answer it, stopping to acknowledge the camera. The visitor is a very British gentleman, Mr. Friar (Laurie Main), who’s been looking for Davy “up and down the beach.” Mr. Friar needs Davy to return to England. Davy refuses, so Mr. Friar faints. As you do. They carry him over to the sofa and Friar infuriates Micky by saying “Thank you, miss.” More jokes about their long hair making them look like girls to the older set. Those jokes seem so quaint now, but I guess you can project them onto anything that the kids do today that adults don’t get.

Apparently some dusty Lord Kibee has croaked and left Davy his estate. Davy needs to be present for the reading of the will. Davy keeps refusing to go with him and Friar keeps fainting. Between collapses, he manages to explain that if the estate goes to Kibee’s nephew, Lance the Sot, he’ll sell it to a developer, and all the villagers will lose their houses. Davy’s surprised that Kibee would leave the estate to him because he was just a “stable boy.” Cut-away of Davy dressed as a kid with short pants and a lollipop. Though Tork didn’t exactly distinguish himself as a director, I do like that he utilized the elements of the show that worked, such as breaking the fourth wall with Davy’s look to the camera and the fantasy cutaway with Davy as little boy.

As the Monkees pack Davy for his trip, Davy comes up with an idea of how the other three can come with him without buying airline tickets that they can’t afford. They arrive at the London airport where the Customs Man asks if he has any fruits or exotic animals etc. No, but he does have three large mummies. Customs Man asks him to open the cases. The three Monkees are inside the sarcophagi, with half-assed mummy bandages around only their head and necks. Customs man says they aren’t the best looking mummies he’s ever seen. Come on Customs Man, I think they’re pretty cute. Davy outs the Customs Man as Jack Williams, the Property Man. “Look sweetie, I might be Jack Williams the property man to you, but to 20 million teenagers, I’m the Customs Man.”

That settled, Friar and Davy head back to Kibee manor. They approach the entrance where the incredibly near-sighted butler (Reginald Gardiner) shakes hands with the tree as he greets Davy and invites him in. Referring to Friar, he tells Davy he’ll have to leave his dog outside. Finally, he recognizes Friar but still calls him “Fido.” Funny, but lowbrow humor.

Inside the manor parlor, there’s the first shot of Lance the Sot, standing by the fireplace with a drink in his hand and looking surly. As Davy, Friar, and the Butler enter, they see an impatient Bernard Fox. Friar introduces him as the executor of the will, Sir Twiggly Toppin Middle Bottom. They seem to be attempting a similar effect to the name “Robroy Fingerhead” from “Monkees a la Mode.” Whatever you want to call him, he’ll always be Dr. Bombay from Bewitched to me. “Calling Dr. Bombay, calling Dr. Bombay. Emergency, come right away.”

Twiggly is very officious as he reads the will. “I, Sir Malcolm Kibee, being of sound body and mind.” Lance snickers at this, causing Friar and Davy to get the giggles. Twiggly keeps trying to get through the phrase as the others guffaw, and a laugh track joins in. This ends up being a funny bit because of Bernard Fox’s irritated reactions, which have to be seen. Kibee has left the manor to Davy Jones, providing he stays in residence for five years. If he doesn’t want to stay, the villagers can buy the land for 50,000 pounds. Lance pours drinks out of his sleeve, very similar to the drunken housekeeper in “The Chaperone,” who had the purse full of booze etc. She was British too, not coincidentally I’m sure. The Monkees never met a cliché they couldn’t turn into a sight gag.

Just then, Ric Klein, David Price, and David Pearl bring in the “mummies.” David Pearl delights me by pulling off a British accent, “To where do you want the lamps, governor?” The drop off their load and tip their hats in unison, as they leave. Kudos to Mr. Thorkelson for that cute bit.

Twiggly carries on with the reading. If the villagers can’t raise the money, and Davy doesn’t want to stay, then the manor goes to Lance Kibee, “The Sot.” Really, it says that in the will. Lance looks offended. He collapses and Twiggly leads him out by holding a flask of booze in front of him. The plot is a re-written version of “Monkee See, Monkee Die” in which the Monkees go to the will reading for some old nut, and Davy’s love interest will only inherit the mansion if she spends the night in the creepy place where greedy folks are trying to kill her. That was a funnier episode. Oh, and this is also similar to “Success Story” in which Davy might have to abandon the others for some familial or childhood obligation. Coslough Johnson wrote “Monkees Mind Their Manor” clearly without worrying about originality. Peter Tork mentioned in the DVD commentary that this was one of the older scripts rejected from the first season. It shows. I guess when he was choosing what to direct there were slim pickins’.

Outside, Twiggly and Lance get into a white car. According to the Imdb, this is an MGB Coupe Roadster, owned by production assistant Marilyn Schlossberg. They flopped the frame in editing to put the driver’s side on the left, proper for England. Lance is confused all the same “Somebody’s stolen the steering wheel.” Thankfully, there was no way in hell Twiggly would have let him drive. They discuss their deal: Lance sells the property, and Twiggly gets a large commission.

Back inside, Davy frees Mike, Micky, and Peter from the sarcophagi. Friar introduces his daughter Mary to Davy, the “new lord of the manor.” He introduces the others by their sign, Pisces (Micky), Aquarius (Peter), and Capricorn (Mike). Cute reference to the album. It would have been nice if Thorkelson had lined them up in that order, but they do raise their hands when their “sign” is called. Mary, who has shorter hair than they do, says “Oh, a sister act.” They look deeply insulted. The Monkees mock Lance as a “stiff.” Mary says they shouldn’t make fun of a drunkard. She explains that everyone was getting bombed during the war; he just never stopped. I guess I should have gotten the hint right here about how this story would end, but I didn’t.

The nearsighted butler arrives to show the Monkees to their room. He grabs the suit of armor instead of Davy. Don’t make fun of a drunkard kids, but making fun of a visual handicap is A-okay! The Butler tells them to follow him. Peter helpfully defines this as, “you mean go where you go.” The Butler bumps into the couch and crashes into both sides of the doorframe, and all the other actors in the scene do the same in a line behind him, accompanied by the tune “Three Blind Mice.” This is probably a very funny sight gag if you’re about five years old or so. Even I smile a little.

The Monkees sit in their room and complain of boredom. Mary enters and sits down on the bed. Davy asks her what the young people do for excitement. Answer? They move to the big city. She mentions that last year the biggest excitement was a mole in the lawn. Cut in of that scene of Reptilicus yet again; giant lizard and my vote for 6th Monkee. (After James Frawley, of course.) Twiggly marches right in to give Davy the contract to inherit the estate. True to character, Mike grabs it from him. Twiggly tells them if they’re bored, they can always leave the village for the villagers. Mary restates the plot point that the villagers don’t have that kind of money, and if Davy leaves, they’ll lose their homes. Friar enters just in time to pass out. As with “Don’t Look A Gift Horse” with the fainting old lady, I have to assume fainting was considered hilarious in the 1960s.

Mary and the Monkees fret about their dilemma. Davy states the two options: They’ve got to talk Lance out of selling the estate (this gets a big smile from Mary) or they’ve got to raise the money for the villagers. Mike comes up with an idea:

Cut to the miraculously tossed together fair. Micky and Peter collect admissions fees, but it seems they are nowhere close to the amount needed. Small wonder as it looks like there’s all of 50 people at this fair. Friar approaches and says they’ll make the money betting on the “Grand Championship” The winner of three contests, jousting, dueling, and mace and chain. Friar tells Davy that as the lord of the manor, he has to compete. Davy faints; I curse at my computer. Friar makes a wager with Twiggly on the Grand Championship, agreeing on “monumental” as the final bet. Twiggly tells Friar he’s a jousting champion and then cracks me up as he tangos off-screen with a young lady. Don’t know if I should credit that to Thorkelson or Fox, but it was funny.

Mike gets Davy ready for jousting in one of the suits of armor from “Fairy Tale.” Twiggly picks up two lances and orders Davy, “choose your Lance.” Davy grabs Lance Kibee, “I’ll choose this one here.” Twiggly starts poking at Lance until Lance commands him to stop. Twiggly concedes the contest to Davy, “you won by a pun.” [That’s cute. – Editor’s Note]

For the duel, Mike and Peter prepare Davy in his boxing outfit from “Monkees in the Ring,” despite the fact that it’s a fencing duel. You can see the faded “Dynamite Davy Jones” label on Davy’s robe. They forget Davy has some dueling experience from “Prince and the Pauper” and “Royal Flush.” So this ain’t his first rodeo. (“The Monkees at the Rodeo.” That should have been an episode.) Davy takes the saber in his boxing glove. Twiggly and Davy’s duel turns into a waltz; there’s a cut in of an old movie clip with people waltzing in 19th century costume. Twiggly disarms Davy and wins the contest. The crowd, which includes Valerie Kairys, boos Twiggly. Lance mishears this as “booze!” I don’t enjoy this drunken humor any more than I did with the hotel guest in “Monkees in Manhattan.” I don’t know if it’s just too dated or they didn’t do it right. Maybe pot humor is the new drunk humor.

Twiggly declares the next contest is mace and chain. The blind Butler approaches with his deaf father (William Benedict), who corrects Twiggly that the fair attendees get to choose the contest, according to the traditional rules. (And he is apparently old enough to know.) The Butler suggests to the crowd that they choose a singing contest, and they cheer. I guess they don’t want to see Davy maced and chained. Well, we’ve already seen him chained in “Too Many Girls,” and that didn’t turn out so well for him.

In an aside with Lance, Twiggly complains that he can’t sing. Lance lays it out for him that if he doesn’t, there will be no wager, no money, and no commission. Bernard Fox turns to the camera and sings (pretty well too!) “In the bloom of the night….” He gets another big laugh from me.

Cut to Micky announcing the Troubadour-ing contest, in his best radio/TV announcer voice. Twiggly sings “Greensleeves” off-key and flat, and he messes up the words. Micky cuts him off. An onscreen caption appears for those who wish to vote for him, “In the sticks call Hayseed 7-4000.” Wow, The Monkees even parodied future television shows like American Idol. How prescient. Davy goes next and nails it, though with the help of a pre-recorded track, complete with over-dubbing echo effect and a string arrangement. Micky declares Davy the winner. This episode is pretty much all Davy, all the time. The rest are merely supporting players.

Friar and the Butler count the money; they’ve only made 10,000 pounds even with the wager. They are 40,000 pounds short. Kind of makes the contest anti-climatic. They relieve Davy of his obligation to stay however. Out of nowhere, timid Mary turns to Lance and dresses him down: he’s a jellyfish, mean, rotten, and evil etc. Being insulted apparently turns him on, because he suddenly takes off her glasses and declares his love. She feels the same and they start making out. Lance announces that he’s canceling the sale and will stay with his wife-to-be. I have to admit, when I first saw this episode, I didn’t see that one coming. Yet, this is one of the many episodes that ended with a couple united, others being “Monkees Marooned,” “Hillbilly Honeymoon,” and “Wild Monkees.”

Mike does some sort of closing wrap-up, interrupted by Peter who wants to give a Christmas message about “love and peace.” This irritates Mike, who points out that the episode airs in February. (Although it was shot in early December.) This is followed by the performance clip of “Star Collector” (Goffin/King) previously used at the end of “Hitting the High Seas.”

When I thought back over the episodes, this is not one that I remembered clearly. There are no memorable lines, no witty dialogue. It mixes in with too many others as I mentioned above. It’s sort of like, if I were talking about “Monkees Mind Their Manor” to other Monkees fans, I would say “Do you remember the episode where there was a reading of a will and the Monkees had to stay in a mansion (“Monkee See, Monkee Die”) and there was a lot of fainting (“Don’t Look a Gift Horse”) and lawn contest of some kind (“One Man Shy”) and Davy almost had to leave the Monkees behind (“Success Story”).” It runs together with other better episodes without standing out in any way. It’s only notable because it was directed by Peter H. Thorkelson. Also, Bernard Fox, may he rest in peace, was one funny man.

*Note that the Imdb has incorrectly credited the wrong Jack Good as the actor in this episode.

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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