In memory of the anniversary of the loss of Davy Jones in 2012 I wanted to post this newscast by Diane Sawyer where she spoke of the news as “startling bulletin” which came across her desk in the newsroom that day (February 29, 2012). Sawyer then proclaimed “He is still that forever young and sunny singer from The Monkees who made more than one generation want to sing along.”
The question I ask in the book is why would a serious journalist (not merely an entertainment reporter) consider news of the death of a former teen idol ‘startling’ unless she, too, had once been among his fans? To me it speaks volumes about how he – and The Monkees – effected all our lives.
Sarah asked all the best questions which allowed me to discuss all the things I love studying about the show – its take on feminism, its handling of ethnic characters, what I like to call its cultural collateral – and of course why it deserves a place in critical studies in television courses because of its innovation – you do know it won an Emmy for Best Comedy in its debut year, don’t you? That ranks it right up there with classic quality comedies.
The whole show is fun to listen to as they discuss Micky’s solo show and some news about future concerts, (but if you want to start with my interview first that starts at 29:15 and ends at 1:23:00)
You might want to download the file (or subscribe to the podcast) rather than listening online as sometimes I’ve found their server gets overloaded and the audio falls out. I download the mp3 and then play it from my iTunes program.
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 The Metatexual Menagerie That Was The Monkees will provide.
Go beyond the fandom and delve deeply into what The Monkees meant to “the young generation” and to our current world.
Chapters will include:
Introduction: I’m (Still) a Believer
Sweet Young Thing: Contextualizing The Monkees with a Short History of Teenagers on Television
Authorship on The Monkees: Who Wrote The Monkees and what was that Something They Had to Say?
Look Out, Here Comes Tomorrow: Counter-Culture Comes to Television and Middle America via The Monkees
The Kind of Girl I Could Love: Feminism, Gender and Sexuality in The Monkees
Shades of Grey: An Ethnic Studies look at Minority Representation on The Monkees
We Were Made for Each Other: The Monkees Menagerie of Metatextuality
We Were Made for Each Other: The Sequel: Nascent Television Aesthetic Techniques on The Monkees
A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You Identity Construction and Confusion on The Monkees
9 Theme(s) from The Monkees: Narrative Structure, Literary References and Themes on The Monkees
Salesman / What am I Doing Hangin’ Round? The Cultural Collateral of The Monkees
Music Innovation and the seeds of MTV
I’ll Be True To You: Fandom and The Monkees
Dr. Rosanne Welch teaches screenwriting in the RTVF Department at California State University, Fullerton and for the Stephens College MFA in Screenwriting. As a television writer/producer her credits include Beverly Hills 90210, Picket Fences and Touched by an Angel. She has been published a chapter in Torchwood Declassified: Investigating Mainstream Cult Television (I.B.Tauris); and an essay in Doctor Who and Race: An Anthology and co-edited The Encyclopedia of Women in American History (ABC-CLIO). Her fondness for The Monkees began while sitting in front of a small, black-and-white kitchen television at the age of five.
Why Monkees Matter: The Writing Staff of The Monkees Brought the 1960s Counter Culture to Pre-Teens
Presented at the Cal Poly Pomona President’s Symposium
Dr. Welch is available for interviewa on Why The Monkees Mattered and The Monkees in general. She is a long-time fan of The Monkees and extremely knowledgeable on both The Monkees television show and their music. She has given several presentations on The Monkees in college classrooms across Southern California at the Cal Poly Pomona President’s Symposium.
Update (June 30, 2016): I have received reports that people who pre-ordered directly from the publishers have started to receive their books. Yea! The book is also currently available as an Amazon Kindle Editon for your immediate purchase and download. Amazon still shows the Print Edition as Pre-Order but I expect that to change any minute.
Update (April 8, 2016): Our first level of pre-orders are open today! You can pre-order “Why The Monkees Matter” directly from the publishers, MacFarland, on their web site. — Pre-Order “Why The Monkees Matter” today!
Update (March 7,2016): The “final” title has been approved and, unfortunately, the publication date has been moved back to Fall 2016. That said, this still allows you to make it a great Holiday gift for all your Monkee Fan friends and family — Rosanne
Early 1960s television characters came in a one-size-fits-all, squeaky-clean-cut style, from Dr. Kildare in his white lab coat, to Hoss Cartwright in his white Stetson, to Sr. Bertrille in her white habit. That lasted until 7:30 p.m. Monday, September 12, 1966 when four long-haired teenagers began dancing a Monkeewalk while singing, “Hey, Hey, We’re the Monkees.”
Though it looked simple enough, the comedy was about more than four struggling musicians living in a beach house they couldn’t afford, without adult supervision, and hoping for success while engaging in Marx(Bros)ian humor. According to star Micky Dolenz, the only actor with previous television series experience: “It brought long hair into the living room and changed the way teenagers were portrayed on television.”
Dolenz’s opinion is backed up by psychologist and author Timothy Leary in The Politics of Ecstasy: “While it lasted, it was a classic Sufi[ism] put-on. An early-Christian electronic satire. A mystic magic show. A jolly Buddha laugh at hypocrisy. And woven into the fast-moving psychedelic stream of action were the prophetic, holy, challenging words. Micky was rapping quickly, dropping literary names, making scholarly references.”