In Why The Monkees Matter I discuss the work of several of these folks and how it contributed to the magic of The Monkees.
#14 is of particular interest as property master Jack Williams actually appeared on the program and was referenced in a couple of episodes. And many of these folks were invited in front of the camera in the Tag for the Christmas episode, reminding the audience of their contributions.
The pity is that, since writers work in offices elsewhere on the lot, they often don’t appear in such photos – as has happened here.
Mr. Evans remembered being asked by Davy’s manager, Ward Sylvester, to write something that would highlight Davy’s ability with horses and hence this episode was born. Mr. Evans also remembered being asked by Bob Rafaelson to be on set for rewrites as needed, which gave him the chance to get to know the actors early on – an opportunity not all the other writers shared. After his two-season, nine episode run on the show he moved on to Laugh-in and Love, American Style, but told me no other job ever gave him the pleasure The Monkees did, so he eventually quit writing and went into conflict resolution, where he won awards for his ability to bring deeply distant parties together in compromise.
A 2014 article in the Los Angeles Times tells you all you need to know about him:
After the 1992 Los Angeles Riots Evans, the son of a minister, was a member of an all white Presbyterian church that created a cross town friendship with an all black Presbyterian church. Members of each began to visit the other church to create community. Twenty years later, Evans is the only member of his church still visiting the other church.
So Rory is a reflection of modern day fathers and what women are looking for ina modern man, if they’re going to spend the rest of their life. You want somebody else who’s going to help you clean the toilet. Right? When you get married, it’s not just you cooking dinner every night. It’s a shared job. It didn’t use to be. I had a friend who would go to work, her husband got home an hour before she did. He would sit on the couch and wait for her to get home and start making dinner, ’cause dinner was her job. Yeah, yeah. So things have switched around and the show is reflective of that. I think that’s really beautiful. And, of course, we know who the baby grew up to be. River Song! Who allows us a family of “Ponds”, even though they were stripped of the chance to raise her. We now have a Pond family as part of The Doctor’s story and again Rory overlooking all of that. He had to deal with his feelings of losing his chance to raise his child. That was something that harmed him, more than all the danger. How many times did Rory die. Really now. All those deaths didn’t bother him nearly as much as being denied the chance to raise his own child. So, I think that defines him much more deeply as a family man above all other things.
A clip from this 5th talk on various aspects of Doctor Who presented by Dr. Welch. You can find Dr. Welch’s other Doctor Who talks using the links below.
The episode involves guest star Rose Marie (from the recently ended Dick Van Dyke Show) as Millie, a woman who moves into the Monkees’ beach house when they can’t pay rent. As a way of highlighting each Monkees’ niceness (in a time when all long-haired boys were bad ones) Millie has a moment with each boy where she asks him to do a household chore and then declares each ‘a nice boy’.
The second Monkees episode Antenna TV is airing this weekend is “Monkees in a Ghost Town”, by the writing team of Robert Schlitt and Peter Meyerson. The partnership ended shortly after their work on The Monkees with Schmitt moving into one-hour dramas such as The Father Dowling Mysteries and, eventually, Matlock while Meyerson teamed up with fellow Monkees writer Treva Silverman on an episode of That Girl and a Buck Henry series called Captain Nice before eventually co-creating Welcome Back, Kotter.
I was lucky enough to interview Mr. Meyerson several months before he passed away and he regaled me with several stories about his time on the show and socializing with the actors, particularly at parties at Peter’s house, as Meyerson himself was quite the hippie, so their philosophies were well matched.
A few of the other writers I interviewed kept referring to Mr. Meyerson as their ‘college guy’ and in “Ghost Town” we see his homage to that perennial of literature courses – Of Mice and Men.
Of course, Cheever was also writing to Harriet Weaver but the editors left her name off the title, so it’s also a good look at how the Weaver marriage operated (in the same way The Letters of S.J. Perlemnan became a look at the marriage of Dorothy Parker and Alan Campbell since he wrote so often to them).
What I enjoyed most was the inside look Cheever gave of coming to Hollywood when a studio adapted his story The Swimmer into a film – Weaver had much more experience living in Los Angeles as a writer of local histories so he helped Cheever navigate La-La-Land.
If you don’t know either of these writers, a selection of Cheever’s short stories, The Stories of John Cheever, won the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (not too shabby) and John D. Weaver’s obituary in the Los Angeles Times tells you how important he was: “Weaver wrote two novels and eight nonfiction books, including one that helped change history: “The Brownsville Raid,” a 1970 book that led to the exoneration of 167 black soldiers who had been discharged without honor 64 years earlier.”
Both are well worth reading – as is Glad Tidings. Check them out.
His more full time writing was on the variety show The Hollywood Palace which showcased Hollywood talent such as Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. He later produced Sanford and Son. In our interview I asked Mr. Orenstein if he was part of the youth culture and he said with a laugh, “My wife accuses me of missing the sixties entirely, and I’m afraid she’s right. I avoided the ‘emerging counter-culture scene’ mostly because I didn’t know there was one going on.” He has taught in the MFA program for Writing and Producing Television at Long Island University in Brooklyn.