Debuting on NBC on Sept. 12, 1966, The Monkees television show brought the concept of the teenage garage band into living rooms across America. Inspired by the Beatles in general, and A Hard Days Night in particular, the TV show turned its four musician stars into into a real live breathing entity also known as the Monkees, who became even more famous outside the show, touring the world, making actual big hit records that have stood the test of time. Let's go back where it all began by running down our Top 10 The Monkees TV Episodes ...
'The Devil and Peter Tork'
The old tale of "selling your soul at the crossroads" given the Monkee treatment as a result of Peter's desire to play the harp. The "devil" (played by Monte Landis) signs him up, but ultimately Peter proves his ability to play harp was all his own and the devil is rebuked, with help from a poignant speech by Mike. Hard to imagine in 2012, but there was a controversy over the guys being able to say the word "hell." Every time it comes up, the boys sarcastically mouth the word.
'The Monkees Watch Their Feet'
Another weird one from season two involving the attempted abduction of Micky by beings from outer space ... the planet Zlotnik to be exact. A Micky clone is made and, well you know... general wackiness ensues. The other hook here is a guest appearance by Pat Paulsen. Anyone under the age of say 45 or so probably won't recognize the name, but he was a comedian who famously, and not so seriously, ran for president in 1968.
An odder-than-odd one in the catalog. The boys act out an insane fairy tale on a one-set stage, all playing a variety of roles. The show ends with another oddity, where the band are interviewed about the episode. There are no cutaways to musical numbers, although a very cool B&W "Daily Nightly" is seen at show's end. Oh, and please remember to save the Texas prairie chicken!
The boys become involved in an art crime when Peter is asked to duplicate a priceless painting which some scoundrels (played by Vic Tayback and Monte Landis) attempt to sneak the forgery into the museum to steal the original. Nothing ultra special about the wacky hi-jinx that ensue, except for the fact that Liberace shows up and his version of "performance art" has him destroying a grand piano with a sledgehammer. Why? Well ... why not?
'Monkees Get Out the Dirt'
A gem from season one which, if for no other reason, is great due to a guest appearance by Julie Newmar. Catwoman meets the Monkees -- how can you not love it! The episode also features the first airing of "The Girl I Knew Somewhere," which was the first Monkees record to feature the band playing its own instruments. Comedian, Hollywood Square and Marlon Brando pal Wally Cox makes a guest shot here as well.
The last episode of season one, it shows a day in the life of the Monkees as they prepare for a concert appearance. A visit to a radio station where astute, (pronounced obsessive), fans will notice the guys play DJ and spin a copy of "Mr. Farmer" by the Seeds. You also get some concert footage and general on the road mayhem.
'The Monkees Christmas Show'
A seasonal favorite featuring Butch Patrick (on loan from The Munsters) as a boy with no Christmas Spirit. It's the usual tale of the spirit finally taking over with some help from the lads, and the episode wraps up with a beautiful a capella version of "Riu Chiu" which is a traditional Spanish Christmas song. Until the CD age, the song was never available to fans.
Another from season two, this begins like any typical episode only to have the Monkees give up, telling producer Jim Frawley "you've seen one Monkee episode you've seen them all" at which point they decide to take a vacation to Paris. The episode has no other dialogue from the band and is just a sight-seeing romp through the streets of Paris, with, of course, the music playing along the journey. It's a one-of-a-kind Monkees episode.
'Monkees Blow Their Minds'
For the show's second to last episode, Frank Zappa and Mike pretend to be one another, which makes for some highly amusing moments. The fact that it was primarily kids watching the show made it all the stranger. What were we to think of Zappa and Nesmith destroying a car while the Mother's of Invention's "Mother People" plays in the background? Not your average bowl of soup.
This was the final episode of the series and was directed by Micky Dolenz. The opening scene features The Beatles' "Good Morning" from Sgt. Pepper, waking the boys up. The episode, not so subtly, addresses the idea of TV as mind control. With people hypnotized, the evil Wizard Glick is prepared to take over the world, but alas, our heroes save the day. How do they do this? By helping the giant Frodis plant to recharge! Once this happens, the plant emits this hazy smoke and then, suddenly everyone is, you know, mellowed out. What a way to end the series.