The Monkees: Seasons 1 & 2
(PG)/(12) 847/721min (Warner Music Vision)
Nothing cripples the nostalgia-glands more than revisiting a beloved TV favourite from a distance of twenty years. Discovering that The Monkees isn’t as good as you remember is a depressing rites-of-passage through which every adult must pass in order to fully understand the treacheries of life.
Released to coincide with the band’s 40th anniversary, The Monkees TV show, unlike their enduring music, only really works today as a late 60’s artefact. Devised by hipster Hollywood brats Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson (the team that would go on to make the psychedelic Monkees movie Head and Five Easy Pieces), the show capitalised on the success of the Beatles movies, with the pre-fab four (Micky, Mike, Peter and Davy) embroiled each week in a self-consciously wacky melange of cinema trickery and spoof. Season one episodes are virtually interchangeable, with the boys menaced each week by a bunch of hammy character actors, while Davy falls in love and everyone runs around a lot. Season two is better, as psychedelia takes over, plots get looser, and the show begins to heavily de-construct itself, culminating in the bizarre Mickey Dolenz-directed episode The Frodis Caper in which our heroes are menaced by a six foot reefer from outer space.
Although hippies sneered at the time, the Monkees were the first to bring longhair and counter-culture values into prime time. Take that and party, America. As season two progressed, the drug and anti-war references grew more obvious, the Monkees disdain for the whole project more apparent, and the show became a lot more enjoyable as a result. Sadly, they came to pieces with the abysmal post-series TV special 33 and a third Revolutions per Monkee, included here as an extra (with an appalled commentary from Dolenz), and worth watching only as an example of bloated psychedelic hubris.
The music is still phenomenal, though, some of the 60’s best, and the proto-video ‘romps’ are the highlight of any episode. Ironically for a band vilified in their time as being fakes, it is for their music The Monkees will be remembered rather than this only occasionally inspired period piece.
Out now on Region 2 only DVD.