From 1966-1968 NBC aired The Monkees on Mondays at 7:30pm, opposite Gilligan’s Island on CBS and Iron Horse on ABC. During that time Raybert Productions, headed by Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson, produced 58 half-hours of what Time Magazine contributor James Poniewozik recently described as “far better TV than it had to be.
During an era of formulaic domestic sitcoms and wacky comedies, it was a stylistically ambitious show, with a distinctive visual style, absurdist sense of humor, and unusual story structure that was commercial, wholesome, and yet impressively weird.”
Originally, the producers conceived The Monkees as a response to the youth and music movement of the early 60s, a time when every young person seemed to be slinging a guitar on their back and hoping to change the world. In the shadow of Hard Day’s Night the producers cast four relative unknowns who could act, sing and play instruments – Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith – and hired Jim Frawley to teach them improvisation and become their in-house director. Beyond mere fame, The Monkees deserves ranking as a TV Cultural and Comedy Classic because, according to Micky Dolenz, “It brought long hair into the living room and changed the way teenagers were portrayed on television. It made it okay to have long hair in the same way Henry Winkler as the Fonz late made it okay to wear a black leather jacket and Will Smith in Fresh Prince of Bel Air made it okay to be to be young, black and like rap.”
From an artistic standpoint the show introduced a new generation of viewers to the kind of fourth-wall-breaking, slapstick comedy created by Laurel and Hardy and the Marx Brothers as well as to the idea of friends in their late teens living on their own without adult advice or supervision, a powerful idea at the height of the Vietnam war.
While there is continued controversy over the fact that the musical group has yet to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, time has shown that the television show deserves the accolades it earned. Now it deserves a deeper reading and that is exactly what Why The Monkees Matter will provide.
Go beyond the fandom and delve deeply into what The Monkees meant to “the young generation” and to our current world.
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