Monkees Vs. Macheen

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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.

SEASON I 

“Royal Flush” | September 12, 1966  ★ ★ ☆
The Monkees television show debuted 49 years ago, and as the 50th anniversary approaches, I wanted to write a little bit about each episode of this amazing show that makes me laugh as much now as it did when I first saw it in syndication as a tot…

“Monkee See, Monkee Die”| September 19, 1966   ★ ★ ★ ☆
…It’s a well-written, solid all-around spoof of Agatha Christie type mystery stories. The personalities and dynamics of the Monkees are clearer here than in the first episode with Mike emerging as the leader, Micky the one with the crazy ideas, Davy the young romantic, and Peter the oddball…

“Monkee vs. Machine” (What?) |  September 26, 1966  ★ ★ ★ ☆
 This is one of my favorites because of its unusual storyline. It’s cited on the Chaos and Control: The Critique of Computation in American Commercial Media (1950-1980) website in the “Humanistic Critique” section along with “2001: A Space Odyssey”, Star Trek, “Dr. Strangelove”, and other movies and television shows from 1957-1977…

“Your Friendly Neighborhood Kidnappers” October 3, 1966|   ★ ★ ★ ☆
This is the first episode where the plot revolves around the Monkees pursuing success and fame as a band. 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…

“The Spy Who Came in from the Cool”  | October 10, 1966 ★ ★ ★ ☆
…The way the Cold War plays here, the teenagers are detached from it all. They’re into their music, fun, their self-expression. Tension with Russia and China is a grown-up problem. Not their fault or their concern but they are expected to fight…

 “Success Story” | October 17, 1966  ★ ★ ☆
The 6th episode, “Success Story” had an emotional story-line compared to other episodes and was also the first to feature a Monkees family member. There was an unusually stereotypical situation-comedy feel with a character getting in trouble for deceiving a loved one…

“Monkees In A Ghost Town” | October 24, 1966 ★ ★ ★ ☆
If I were introducing this show to someone, I would start with this episode. Here, the show’s usual comedy style is hit hard and hit well; the screen titles, breaking the fourth wall, the great guest cast, slapstick humor, stock footage. The writers/producers took on American Literature, Westerns, Gangster Films, and Television in general…

“Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth” |  October 31, 1966 ★ ★ ☆
I discovered The Monkees when I was five on WKBD 50 Detroit. (“In Detroit, the kid’s choice is TV 50”) Last summer, I was feeling a bit down and was looking for something to cheer me up when I noticed IFC was running The Monkees. 

“The Chaperone” |  November 7, 1966 ★ ★ ★
This farcical, romantic comedy mix-up aired November 7, 1966, written by the Dee Caruso and Gerald Gardner team, and was the first of four directed by Bruce Kessler. There’s lots of witty dialogue and hilarious sight gags. Most of the action takes place in the Monkees pad, giving it a stage play feel because it’s mostly on the one set.

“Here Come The Monkees” | November 14, 1966  ★ ★
This is the episode I’m most grateful for because without it there would be no series. I’ve read in various books and articles that the pilot didn’t test well with Audience Studies Incorporated or ASI, a research subsidiary of Screen Gems, until Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider edited in screen tests of Mike and Davy. The screen tests accomplished something the pilot did not: letting the audience get to know the characters a little….

“Monkees à la Carte” | November 21, 1966  ★ ★ ☆
…I always forget about this episode. It blends together with some of the other gangster-related stories. They do run into gun-toting crooks quite a bit: “Monkees in a Ghost Town,” “Your Friendly Neighborhood Kidnappers,” “Alias, Micky Dolenz,” “Monkees on the Wheel,” and “The Picture Frame” all have those types of antagonists…

“I’ve Got A Little Song Here” | November 28, 1966   ★ ★ ★ ★
Here’s one of my favorite episodes, largely because it focuses on Mike, my favorite character. When I was five and watching this show, I always identified with and had an attachment to him. If you were that kid in kindergarten, playing quietly while the other kids were running around like idiots, you understand where I’m coming from. Mike is the calm one, the smart one, the stable one. Sure he gets into whacky situations and has crazy ideas, but relatively speaking, he’s the one with the common sense. In “I’ve Got a Little Song Here,” his wish to be successful overrules his usual intelligence…

“One Man Shy” aka “Peter and the Debutante” | December 5, 1966 ★ ★ ★ ★
Ah, Peter. The dumb one. The naïve one. The shy one. The emotional one. The quiet Harpo Marx analog who gets relegated to sight gags. You could almost miss him in some of the episodes. He’s the main character of “One Man Shy” and like the storyline from the previous episode, the Monkees band together to help an underdog who is one of their own… 

“Dance, Monkee, Dance” | December 12, 1966 ★ ★ ★
There are a few elements to this episode that play differently now then they did when I watched them in reruns in the ’80s, and I imagine they played differently in the ’60s as well…

“Too Many Girls” aka “Davy and Fern” | December 19, 1966  ★ ★
I wasn’t super excited to write about this one, I admit. The storyline for “Too Many Girls” revolves around an often used plot device: Davy is in “love.” On the plus side, writers were obviously aware of it and making fun of it themselves; using a well-established trait of Davy’s to drive the story. Similar to “Success Story,” the conflict is about the possible loss of Davy as a band member.

“Son Of A Gypsy” | December 26, 1966 ★ ★ ★
“Son of a Gypsy” was written by the team of Gerald Gardner & Dee Caruso and Treva Silverman. I really do enjoy the ones that Silverman wrote. The story is about a gig gone wrong, but it is also a wildly improbable, high adventure territory as their opponents in this episode are a group of larger than life gypsies who really like to murder and steal. The story isn’t about any of the Monkees in particular and they work together in funny and entertaining ways to get out of trouble.

“The Case of the Missing Monkee” | January 9, 1967 ★ ★ ★ ☆
The Monkees really parodied a lot of genres didn’t it? It has more in common with cartoons than sitcoms in that way, as they don’t stick to the “situation.” There were Monkees episodes inspired by westerns, gangster films, science fiction, horror, mystery, and spy stories to name a few. If you were seeing these for the first time, you certainly wouldn’t be able to guess what they might try next. They just incorporate the notion that they’re a band right into the storyline, whatever it is. “The Case of the Missing Monkee” is a cross between mystery, sci-fi, and a spy story…

“I Was a Teenage Monster” January 16, 1967 ★ ★ ★ 
Hurray for Halloween episodes! Of course, “I Was a Teenage Monster” didn’t debut on Halloween. It originally aired January 9, 1967. Since they shot it from November 1-3 in 1966 there was no way it would be ready for Halloween…

 “The Audition” aka “Find the Monkees” | January 23, 1967 ★ ★ ★ ★
This is one of those episodes that hits all the high points for me. It’s incredibly funny, it deals with The Monkees trying to make it as a band, and the characters are all working together to achieve a goal. And then there’s the guest cast. The two actors supporting the story steal the show…

“Monkees in the Ring” ★ ★ 
“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 feellike 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.)

“The Prince and The Paupers” ★ ☆
“The Prince and The Paupers” first aired on February 6, 1967. The teleplay was written by Gerald Gardner and Dee Caruso, from a story by Peter Meyerson. It’s a spoof on the Mark Twain novel, The Prince and the Pauper, but just barely. “The Prince and The Paupers” has more in common with The Monkees earlier episode, “Royal Flush.”

“Monkees at the Circus” ★ ★ ☆
“Monkees at the Circus” is one I do remember watching in syndication in the late ’70s. It features a circus (obviously) , so of course it would make an impression on my five-year-old mind. There are a lot of nice ideas in this episode. It’s an “old meets new and both learn from each other” type of story. The Monkees are actually the “evil” since they represent a phenomenon that’s taking away from the tradition of the circus, at least according to the story.

“Captain Crocodile” ★ ★ ★ ★
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.

“Monkees à la Mode” ★ ★ ★ ★
“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.

“Alias Micky Dolenz ★ ★ ☆
David Jones was absent for “Alias Micky Dolenz” and the balance of the episode falls squarely on Micky, who really put his skills to the test in this episode, playing Micky, Baby Face, and Micky as Baby Face. He spends more time pretending to be “Baby Face” than he

“Monkees Chow Mein”  ★ ★ ★
Similar to “The Spy Who Came in From the Cool”, “Monkees Chow Mein” compels the Monkees to help out the CIS (a quasi-CIA) against our nation’s cold war enemies. The title indicates that this time the villains are from China rather than Russia. James Frawley directed and Gerald Gardner and Dee Caruso wrote this episode, which aired March 13, 1967. Gardner and Caruso borrowed heavily from one of their other writing gigs, Get Smart, for this one.

“Monkee Mother” ★ ★ ☆
“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.

 “Monkees on the Line” ★ ★ ★ ☆
This is another episode that’s very close to my heart (no, it’s not my lungs). I admit it’s partly because it’s a Mike episode, but I also appreciate the episode structure and that each Monkee gets a piece of the action. The writers and director constructed the story carefully with the three separate plots that tie together via the answering service…

“Monkees Get Out More Dirt” ★ ★ ★ ☆
“Monkees Get Out More Dirt” is one of the episodes I’d put into a “most memorable” category. It’s the one with Julie Newmar, and the one where they all compete with each other instead of working together.

“Monkees in Manhattan” ★ ★ ☆
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).

“Monkees at the Movies” ★ ★ ★ ☆
This is the last narrative episode of season one for me to recap. I’m glad it’s a decent one. “Monkees at the Movies” aired April 17, 1967. It has many points in common with the previous episode, “Monkees in Manhattan.”

“Monkees on Tour” ★ ☆
“Monkees on Tour” has no storyline; it’s a documentary of the Monkees during their 1966-1967 North American tour. Most of the episode was filmed on January 21 and 22 in Phoenix Arizona and San Francisco. Writer and director credits go to Robert Rafelson and the episode aired April 24, 1967.

SEASON II

“It’s a Nice Place to Visit” | September 18, 1967 ★ ★ ★ ★
I’m glad season two started with such a bang. “It’s a Nice Place to Visit” spoofs the western film and television genre. Westerns were at their peak in popularity from the 1930s-1960s and shows like Bonanza and Gunsmoke as well as the less traditional science-fiction fusion, Wild, Wild West were on the air at this time.

“The Picture Frame” | September 11, 1967 ★ ★ ★ ☆
The Monkees are in great form in this story, working together with crack comic timing to create mischief in the justice system. With the dynamite, the literal sight gags, and the absurd plot points, “The Picture Frame” would certainly get my vote for Most Cartoony. It’s a tightly put-together farce, with it’s own insane sense of logic that builds up to a wacky finish.

“Everywhere a Sheik, Sheik” | September 25, 1967  ★ ☆
This episode is unfortunately, a recycled plot of a recycled plot. As with “The Prince and the Paupers” the Monkees are helping a young royal who is duty-bound to get married, and as with both that and “Royal Flush,” the Monkees are up against ambitious, evil adults in a fictional kingdom.

“Monkee Mayor” | October 2, 1967 ★ ★ ★ ☆
“Monkee Mayor” aired October 2, 1967, and though that was a mighty long time ago (about 50 years), the story doesn’t feel dated to me. The ideas are still relevant today. It’s also one of those stories where the Monkees are working to help the underdog, instead of working for their own purposes.

“Art for Monkees’ Sake” | October 9, 1967 ★ ★ ★
The episode title is a play on the French slogan, “Art for Art’s Sake” (l’art pour l’art) which means art for reasons of self-expression and not for any instructional, moral, or other useful purpose. The Monkees are most often comedy for comedy’s sake, and I love it.

“I Was A 99-lb. Weakling” (a.k.a. “Physical Culture”) | October 16, 1967 ★ ★ ★
The title and the plot are both allusions to Charles Atlas and his famous bodybuilding program and advertising campaign, marketed to the “97-pound weakling.” The ad featured a cartoon of a skinny young man who gets sand kicked in his face, goes off and builds up his body, and then comes back to take revenge on the bully.

“Hillbilly Honeymoon” (a.k.a. “Double Barrel Shotgun Wedding”) | October 23, 1967 ★ ★ ★ ★
Despite all the hillbilly clichés, I love this episode. It’s so funny, even just thinking about it makes me laugh and it’s easily one of the best of season two. One thing that these recaps have taught me is a true appreciation for director James Frawley.

“Monkees Marooned” | October 30, 1967 ★ ★
“Monkees Marooned” debuted October 30, 1967 and begins as many episodes do, with Peter getting into trouble.

“The Card-Carrying Red Shoes” | November 6, 1967  ★ ☆
“The Card Carrying Red Shoes” debuted November 6, 1967 and it’s another Cold War, spy-themed episode; along the same lines as “The Spy Who Came in from the Cool” and “Monkees Chow Mein.” Of the three, this is my least favorite.

“Wild Monkees” | November 13, 1967 ★ ★ ★
I always figured this episode for a parody of The Wild One, the 1954 iconic film with Marlon Brando as Johnny Stabler, leader of the motorcycle gang, the Black Rebels. You know, the one with the famous line “What are you rebelling against, Johnny?” “Whaddaya got?”

“A Coffin Too Frequent” | November 20, 1967 ★ ★ ☆
“A Coffin Too Frequent” was directed by David Winters, who has wide range of credits. He started out as an actor and was in both the stage and film versions of West Side Story. He quickly became successful as a choreographer, working on the film Viva Las Vegas and Shindig!, a variety show that featured Monkees guest-caster, Bobby Sherman.

“Hitting the High Seas” | November 27, 1967 ★ ★ ☆
This was never a favorite of mine but, paying closer attention for this recap, I discovered some things to appreciate. There are some laugh-out-loud bits, and there’s a storyline that works on that “good clean fun” level.


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