Dr. Rosanne Welch presents Why Monkees Matter: How The Writing Staff of The Monkees Brought the 1960s Counter Culture to Mainstream Pre-Teen Viewers at the 2014 Cal Poly Pomona Provost’s Symposium on Faculty Scholarship (http://www.cpp.edu/~research/)
I just like pictures of script to remember that there is a writer involved. I know the words are too small, but this is a script by Coslough Johnson. All the writers on the show, I have a whole chapter in my book on authorship — all the writers ended up winning Emmys later in life. He got his for writing on Laugh In, which was also a very politically themed show. He wrote an episode called “Monkees Watch Their Feet” and it’s about aliens taking over the teenagers of America. So, The Monkees are going to save the day for them. So, first of all, we have this patriotic business going on here — here is standing Mike Nesmith, with the flag and Pat Paulsen who, if you remember, comically ran for President back in the day. He’s giving a report to America about what’s wrong with teenagers today. It is that the aliens have taken over, but he talks about who we blame. “Many of us blame our leaders. Many of our leaders blame us.” This is ho the teenagers, the hippy culture, is feeling. Then more so, he defines Micky in this episode, as “Someone tormented by a war he must fight in a country thousands of miles away.” How can you get away with dissing the Vietnam War on modern American television in 1967? And they just blip it right through and you don’t even notice it.
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Based on a chapter in my upcoming book The Metatextual Menagerie that was The Monkees, which includes a series of interviews conducted with surviving writers and performers of the 1960s television program, The Monkees I will discuss how the writers and actors used the show as a platform for their own emerging counter culture/anti-war messages.
Worth studying for its craft and place in television history (the show won an Emmy as Best Comedy Of 1967) the program’s true importance may come from its impact on the politics and culture of the era. Considered innocuous by the network, thepress and the parents of the era, the storylines and jokes created by the writers and the actor’s ad-libs brought the emerging counter-culture to the attention of young teens whose parents might not have appreciated the message. Cultural icons such as Timothy Leary recognized the subversive nature of the program, seen through the writing and in choices made about costuming, hair length, musical guests (Frank Zappa, Tim Buckley, Charlie Smalls) and songs performed by the band brought issues of Vietnam, voting and civil rights to the ‘young generation’ for whom the show clearly had ‘somethin’to say.
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About the Symposium:
The 2014 Provost’s Symposium is a forum to learn about each other’s scholarly work, make new friends, renew old acquaintances, and enhance our appreciation of the rich and diverse array of professional endeavors pursued by the faculty at Cal Poly Pomona.