Top row: Michael Nesmith. Middle row: Micky Dolenz (left), Peter Tork (right). Bottom row: Davy Jones.
This article is about The Monkees' TV show; the article about the music is here.The Monkees was about four incredibly clean cut aspiring young musicians with regrettable taste in clothes and haircuts who people on the show treated like they were pierced and tattooed Alternative Rockers. But hey, it was the Sixties!The series ran two seasons on NBC from 1966 to 1968. The show ended its initial run when the group and the network could not agree on a format for the third season. The band wanted to update the format and make it more like a variety show, while the network wanted to maintain the status quo. NBC decided to pull the plug, but did make an agreement with the band for three television specials to be produced. When the first, the extremely weird 33 1/3 Revolutions per Monkee, bombed in the ratings, plans for the other two specials were cancelled. However, Saturday morning reruns on CBS and ABC were successful. Then in 1986, a marathon showing of the series on MTV produced that network's best ratings to date, propelling the group back into the limelight. Over the next few years, the series would return to syndication on Nick At Nite and a variety of local channels. It's largely been absent from the airwaves since the mid-1990s (though it does periodically resurface), but is available in its entirety on VHS and DVD. As of 2011 the series has been a weekend fixture on Digital Station Antenna TV, which also occasionally airs Head.
The Monkees television series contains examples of:
Every minor character seems to be completely incapable of pronouncing Mike Nesmith's last name. Among the variants: Nishwash, Nashmirth, Nipmop... Subverted in "The Monkees in Texas", when the villians refer to Mike and his aunt as "Nesters"...he starts to correct them before his aunt explains that the word means "farmer" and that they were correct in their word choice.
In the opening sequence, Peter gets increasingly upset when each of the others is mis-identified as him, then smiles once the credits get his name right.
All Girls Want Bad Boys: Played with in "The Wild Monkees". The four boys try to adopt "tough" personas in order to impress some female bikers. They immediately become cowards again once the girls' actually tough biker boyfriends enter the picture.
And You Thought It Was a Game: In "The Picture Frame", the Monkees are hired to play bank robbers in a movie holdup scene, not knowing they will actually be robbing a bank.
In "Your Friendly Neighborhood Kidnappers", a shady publicity agent (actually the manager of a rival band) convinces the Monkees to submit to a phony kidnapping as a publicity stunt. Only, he doesn't tell the band that it will be a real kidnapping.
Anticlimactic Parent: Davy's grandfather flies in from England for a visit, under the impression that Davy is a big star. Panicked, Davy convinces the rest of the band to pose as his chauffer, houseboy, and personal chef to keep up appearances. Of course, given what show we're talking about, it fails, but the grandfather allows him to stay (rather than taking him back to England) because he has "such loyal friends".
Beach Bury: In "Here Come the Monkees", the boys (except Davy) are buried side by side up to their necks at the beach. Each has a bucket over his head, and Davy lifts the bucket off so each can sing a tune (to help the Girl of the Week study for her history test).
Beach Episode: The Monkees lived in a shabby Southern California beach house, with scenes in many episodes taking place at the beach. The episode "Monkees at the Movies" takes place almost entirely on the beach.
Be Careful What You Wish For: Micky's wishes give he and the guys bad luck in the episode "The Monkee's Paw" in their version of the classic story.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: The episode "Dance, Monkee, Dance" has a scene where Micky leaves the set and talks directly to the writers (who are portrayed as elderly Asian men).
In "The Devil and Peter Tork", Micky insists that the prosecution call another witness, on the grounds that the television show isn't over and they need to fill more time.
An episode set in the Wild West (despite still being in the 1960s) had Micky approached by a saloon girl. He hissed at her, "Not now; this is a family show!"
...and other examples too numerous to document. Most episodes contained at least one, if only an aside to the audience.
Calvinball: In "The Frodis Caper", the boys make up a card game called "creebage" to escape from imprisonment.
The Cameo: Liberace in one episode, smashing a piano to pieces with a sledgehammer as a performance piece, and Burgess Meredith in "Monkees Blow Their Minds" as The Penguin.
Another episode featured Rose Marie as a mafia don.
The Cast Showoff: Davy was once a jockey in Real Life, a skill he gets to use on camera in "Don't Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth".
Celebrity Endorsement: The band appeared in advertisements for Kellogg's cereals and Yardley aftershave. When the show was placed in Saturday morning reruns in 1969-1970, Dolenz, Jones and Nesmith appeared in a series of Kool-Aid advertisements.
Channel Hop: The show originally ran on NBC. The Saturday morning reruns were broadcast on both CBS (1969-72) and ABC (1972-73). Then came syndication, the 1986 MTV run, Nickelodeon/Nick At Nite in the late 80's and 90's, more syndication, and as of 2010 Antenna T.V. ...
Chase Scene: The kids chasing the band in "Captain Crocodile," among many others in Monkee "romps" that the series was well-known for.
Chick Magnet: Davy Jones. One episode has them playing Spin The Bottle, with the bottle's mouth homing in on him every time. When he goes into another room, the bottle flies off the table and sticks to the door...
Creator Cameo: James Frawley, who directed many episodes of the series (and had previously been an actor), also made cameo appearances in a handful of shows, including a Yugoslav diplomat in "Son of a Gypsy" and Oraculo's assistant Rudy in "Monkees Blow Their Minds".
Monkees co-creator Bob Rafelson also appeared in a few episodes: Notably as "The World's Oldest Flower Child" in "The Monkees Race Again."
Credits Gag: The second season credit sequence mistakenly names everyone Peter, cut to Peter with sad face, cut back to Monkee with his correct name... and, finally, Peter smiling when the credits get his name right.
Criminal Doppelgänger: In "Alias Micky Dolenz", Micky gets in a bit of trouble because he looks absolutely identical to a dangerous gangster wanted by the police.
Crossdresser: All four Monkees appeared in drag on the show. In fact, with the exception of Peter, each of them had a drag role as the main focus of an episode. The topper might be Mike Nesmith playing the princess in "Fairy Tale".
Crystal Ball: The fortune teller in "Monkee See, Monkee Die" has one at the seance (& another one that's just a snowglobe).
Dad the Veteran: In "The Chaperone", Davy tries to date the daughter of a military man, but has a difficult time finding time alone with her because he runs his household like a barracks.
The Danza: Each character was essentially a Flanderized version of the actor, with the exception of Peter, who played The Ditz on the show. However, they did all use their own names.
When the show went into syndication, MTV and Nick At Nite kept the episodes intact, for the most part, but local stations tended to cut out stuff. The interview tags were always the first thing to go, and sometimes even a song would be cut if it was featured separately rather than integrated into the body of the episode.
More recent syndication packages have avoided the deletion of songs and interviews by Ramping; that is, randomly speeding up the film and songs to save time...except this gets extremely ANNOYING.
End of Episode Silliness: The interviews of the guys by an off-camera Bob Rafelson whenever episodes ran short. While usually silly, sometimes they'd have a thoughtful discussion about youth culture concerns (like the Sunset Strip riots or the co-option of hippie rhetoric by mainstream culture). Occasionally they'd end episodes with the group saying goodbye or with Hilarious Outtakes.
Fake Food: In the episode "Success Story", while pretending to be rich and successful, Davy is served rubber food while his grandfather gets the real stuff. Also, the fruit in the center of the table is plastic.
Film Felons: In "The Picture Frame", Mike, Davy, and Micky are tricked into robbing a bank, thinking they're acting in a movie.
Finger Poke of Doom: Played with in "Monkee See, Monkee Die" when Peter seemingly knocks out the bad guys by "shooting" at them with his finger. They really just happened to pass out at the exact moment Peter did that (from a drugged drink).
Hilarious Outtakes: In The Tag of "Monkees On the Wheel", Mike tries over and over to finish the line "Save the Texas Prairie Chicken", but ends up corpsing over and over. He finally gets the line down (to fake thunderous applause).
His Name Is...: Micky attempts to invoke this in "Hitting the High Seas". When the captain is about to make the boys walk the plank, Micky tries to stall them by saying that if they're killed, the captain and his crew will never know about "the secret". It works, at first, until Peter blows it by revealing that he isn't aware of any secret.
Hypno Trinket: the infamous magic necklace in "Monstrous Monkee Mash"
Identical Stranger: "Alias Micky Dolenz"- Micky looks exactly like a notorious criminal. The police recruit Micky to impersonate the crook in order to capture his gang and retrieve the merchandise they stole. Things go awry when said crook busts out of jail and catches Micky in the act.
I Can't Hear You: "The Wild Monkees", when Micky runs his motorcycle indoors and no one can hear anything.
Imagine Spot: Lampshaded and combined with Breaking the Fourth Wall in "Monstrous Monkee Mash" when the episode's villain intrudes on a fantasy scene that Micky and Davy are having. "Hey, what are you doing? This is our fantasy scene!"
Improbably Cool Car: The Monkeemobile probably should have been an early '50s panel truck, since they were broke all the time...
Incredibly Obvious Bug: In the episode "The Spy Who Came In From the Cool", the bug is in a lamp at the center of the table which the guys blatantly move back and forth between them and the spies.
I Need to Go Iron My Dog: In "Monkees Get Out More Dirt", the four boys have all fallen in love with April Conquest and want to get away from the apartment to go see her. Micky suddenly declares that his aunt is ill and leaves. Mike announces he is going to the store to get dog food. When informed that they don't have a dog, he says that he'll pick up a dog too while he's out. Davy announces a desire to become a boxer and leaves immediately to start doing road work. Peter, who has believed every excuse, isn't sure what to do now that he's all alone, and decides without a hint of irony that he'll go visit April.
Karma Houdini: The villains in "The Picture Frame". The Monkees get off the hook for the robbery, but the real crooks aren't shown getting in trouble for it.
Keep Circulating the Tapes: Reruns of Monkees episodes often replaced the songs from those episodes with more current ones in order to promote the band's most recent releases. Some songs were replaced multiple times. The syndication versions sometimes have the original songs and sometimes have the replaced songs, with no real pattern to it. Thus while all Monkees episodes are currently available on DVD with original songs intact, there are some fans who insist on trying to obtain copies of every variation of each episode they can, leading to a thriving tape trading market.
Mind Control: "The Frodis Caper", "Monkees Blow Their Minds"
Mind Screw: The movie Head, as well as the TV special 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee.
Missing Episode: The 2-part Japanese special "The Monkees In Japan." A concert performance from their Far East tour only aired once in October 1968, and hasn't been seen since. However, the audio from both parts can be heard in the bootleg Made In Japan.
Mock Millionaire: Done twice; once so that Peter could romance a debutante, and another time to convince Davy's grandfather he is a success so he won't force Davy to return to England.
This was referenced in the episode "Hitting the High Seas". The ship's captain learns that one of the boys is named Davy Jones and assumes he is the descendant of the famous character from folklore - Micky quickly plays into it: "...and when he's 25, he inherits the Locker!".
This was also referenced in the Spongebob Squarepants episode "Spongebob Vs. The Big One", in which Davy guest stars.
Also referenced in an episode of the '90s remake of the Pink Panther cartoon (in which the title character was voiced by Matt Frewer). The episode had a pirate theme, so upon being threatened with being sent to Davy Jones' locker, the Panther deadpanned, "wasn't he the lead singer of The Monkees?"
New Job Episode: Besides episodes where the band gets a new gig to play, there's "Monkee vs. Machine" where Mike gets a job at a toy company, "Monkees on the Line" where all help work an answering service, and "Monkees at the Movies" where they are extras in a movie (among other episodes).
New Technology Is Evil: The episode "Monkees vs. Machine" is all about a Jerk Ass toy company executive who is in favor of firing all unnecessary humans and letting computers design and run most everything. Mike is seen as having a genuis level IQ for confusing the computer that interviews potential employees.
No Hoper Repeat: 33 and 1/3 Revolutions per Monkee was broadcast opposite the Academy Awards. As a further indicator of how seriously NBC regarded the special, its segments were aired out of order.
No Party Given: In "Monkee Mayor", Mike threatens to take his complaint with the current mayor and "dump it in the opposing party's lap". It's never stated which party the mayor belongs to or which party would be the opposing party.
One Steve Limit: Slightly averted by Robert Michael "Mike" Nesmith and George Michael "Micky" Dolenz.
Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: In "Success Story", Davy (who is a born & raised Brit) states that he was raised by his grandfather, who is flying in from England to see his grandson. However, when we first hear the grandfather speak, his British accent is very mild-to-nonexistent, to the point of almost sounding American, and later, when the charade is falling apart, the grandfather starts sounding...Irish?
Pass the Popcorn: "The Picture Frame" has three of them robbing a bank after being tricked into thinking they're making a movie. When the police present them with the film from the surveillance cameras as evidence, they treat it as an actual movie, complete with being critical about their performance and popcorn.
Pirate Parrot: The captain in "Hitting the High Seas" has one. His voice is provided by Micky Dolenz; this is lampshaded when Micky is called upon to impersonate the parrot because he is the only one of the boys with the skill to do so.
Revival: The 1987 series/band The New Monkees, which was intended to make the franchise relevant to the MTV era, was a revival In Name Only. It featured none of the original band members, and it had only one tenuous connection to the 60s project: the executive producer was Steve Blauner, studio manager of Rafelson and Schneider's Raybert Productions, the company that made the original series and Head. Love It or Hate It, The New Monkees failed as quickly as the "old" Monkees had succeeded.
One odd Shout-Out - we see them watching the tv - when they see Micky singing "Last Train to Clarksville" they all shout "Dad!"
Running Gag: Many of them. Some were contained within a single episode, while others spanned several shows. A common example of the second type involves someone telling Davy that he needs to stand up, whereupon Davy (the shortest of the four) or another Monkee comments that he is standing up.
Ruritania: In "Royal Flush", the country of Harmonica, where the princess and soon-to-be queen is from.
Scooby-Doo Hoax: "Monkee See, Monkee Die", though the fortune teller doesn't always try to hide her involvement in the scheme.
Screwed by the Network: No one was happy with the band's post-series TV special 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee, least of all NBC, which buried it opposite the 1969 Oscars. On top of the hopeless scheduling, the network also managed to broadcast the show's segments out of order. No one noticed or cared, save for the boys themselves (especially Mike Nesmith, who was livid about the screw-up).
Senseless Violins: Subverted in "Monkees A La Carte": "Boss! There's a guitar in this guitar case!"
Shirtless Scene: Parodied in "Your Friendly Neighborhood Kidnappers". When the band contest in which the Monkees are entered is won by a man who had his clothes torn off earlier in the episode, the group realizes that the key to success is having your clothes ripped off and proceed to do it to each other in a desperate grab for attention.
Played straight with Davy in "Monkees in the Ring" during his boxing training.
Shout-Out: The show contained frequent references to other popular artists of the period. At the end of the concert episode, Mike thanks the Lovin' Spoonful, the Mamas and Papas, and The Beatles for being such great groups.
Superhero Episode: A few episodes feature the guys dressed as Monkee Men and fighting crime (& sometimes flying to the rescue). In "Monkee Chow Mein", Davy & Mike's "powers" were limited to Volleying Insults at their opponents.
In Find The Monkees, the band auditions over a pay phone as a Clark Kent Expy impatiently waits to use the booth.
The Television Talks Back: In "The Monkees Get Out More Dirt", the boys are watching an advice presenter on tv who reads a letter relating to them. Davy says, "So we did, what of it?" and the Presenter says, "I'll tell you what of it!".
Theme Tune Cameo: Used for comedic effect in multiple episodes. One example is in "Monkees A La Mode", when after the group is proclaimed "typical young persons" by a chic magazine, the show cuts to a photo montage of the boys making goofy faces while the show's theme song plays in the background.
This Is My Side: Happens in "Monkees Get Out More Dirt" when the four boys fight over a guest character played by Julie Newmar. The show plays with it, noting that each would have access to only one particular vital part of the apartment. Davy's side has the front door, implying he is the only one with the ability to come and go; however, he states that he would gladly trade Mike for the bathroom right away. Moments later, the whole arrangement is quickly forgotten when a show comes on TV that they want to see and everyone rushes to Peter's side (which contains the television set).
Throw It In: Ad libs and outtakes were frequently left in the finished product. This was designed to be a part of the show from the very beginning; when they were casting the series, the producers made certain to hire actors with strong improvisational skills.
Throw the Book at Them: In "The Picture Frame", a police detective says "Throw the book at them!" while interrogating the boys; Mike catches the book and begins to read it.
Davy and most girls, actually (he's quite short). In "Monkees at the Movies", he is paired up with a girl much taller than himself, and the height difference is played for laughs.
Title Sequence Replacement: Each season had a similar Title Sequence, with the second one adding some new clips. The second season opening replaced the first one in reruns, but was restored for the DVDs.
What Happened to the Mouse?: At the beginning of "Monkee See, Monkee Die", before the plot gets underway, the boys' landlord tells them that he is kicking them out. Once the actual story begins, this plot thread is completely forgotten about and never addressed further.