Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Monkees, Season 1, Episode 1: Royal Flush!

Hey, hey, it's time for another feature! Alternating in position with the MST3K review/indexes (which I promise will be shorther in future installments), I'm going to be watching an episode of "The Monkees" and writing about it as I watch it!

Note: I started writing this series before the untimely death of Davy Jones. This installment is, naturally, dedicated to him.

Davy is hanging out at the beach when a beautiful blonde girl in a swimsuit goes to the water with an inflatable raft. Davy watches with interest, and so does a pair of sinister-looking men, who watch through a telescope. As the girl gets into the surf, her raft pops, and she starts to drown! Davy goes in the water and rescues her, to the anger of the two men watching.

Davy rescues Princess Bettina
As Davy and the girl get to the shore, the girl says the raft was a present from her Uncle Otto (one of the men watching, a bald man with a monocole - can't trust those guys, can you?). Wearing Davy's jacket for warmth, she tells her Uncle that Davy saved her, and that she is Princess Bettina, of the Duchess of Harmonica. Otto, Fatima and the other man, an imposing bodyguard, Seymour. Otto warns Davy off with a thiny-veiled warning, then they walk away.

The Monkees play their theme during the opening credits
The opening credits are next. If you've only seen "The Monkees" in reruns on TV, these opening credits are not what you're familiar with! Instead of opening with Davy dressed as a cowboy, pulling a gun and having his gunbelt fall to his ankles, this opens with Davy going up an old-fashioned "Test Your Strength" game so that his head hits the bell. All other scenes in the credits are from first season episodes, too. The scenes showcase first Davy, then Micky, then the entire group, then Peter, and finally Mike (they get less time). Then we see the band playing the theme song, with their names appearing next to them so we know who they are. It appears that the Monkees weren't quite familiar with how the vocals went on the theme song, as they're all singing along with Micky as if harmonizing, instead of singing the actual background "Aaaaaahhh" sounds. This is probably because this footage was originally shot using the original recording of the theme as performed by the writers, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart (who had hoped to be cast as two of the Monkees themselves).

Davy tries to track down where the Princess is.
After the credits, the episode opens with an exterior shot of the beach house the Monkees live in (most episodes open with the orange background with the Monkees' heads on them) with the credits for the episode superimposed (written by Peter Meyerson and Robert Schlitt). Mike is talking about how the boys need to get a gig, while Davy is on the phone trying to track down the Princess. Micky's actually reading about the princess in the newspaper, and shows it to Davy, who learns the Princess, Otto and Sigmund (the bodyguard - whose name was never mentioned to Davy, but he somehow knows it anyway) are staying at the Rich-Swank Hotel. Davy's ready to get over there because he's worried about Bettina. Mike is hesitant to agree with Davy's plan to head over there until Davy mentions she's got his jacket.

The Monkees plan their invasion of the hotel.
Suddenly, the Monkees are making plans, dressed as Green Berets (except Mike has his wool hat on instead of a beret). Next, the boys arrive at the hotel, barging into a suite as the maid is finishing up. Mike is portraying "W.H. Woolhat," an eccentric millionaire. Peter is his assistant, Micky's busy monogramming everything with a rubber stamp, and Davy is a tailor. When the maid acts confused, Mike baffles her with BS, and tells her "Work hard, play hard, get plenty of roughage in your diet, and someday you'll own this hotel." He also tells her to buy International Steel at 28 1/2.

Sigmund and Otto plot Bettina's death!
When she leaves, the boys go into overdrive, pulling out stethescopes in order to listen through the wall into the adjoining room, where Princess Bettina is staying. They overhear Otto plotting the death of Bettina after the upcoming reception tonight, using poison. The guys are recording this on a tape recorder as evidence. Micky comes up with a plan, and calls the Royal Suite, and when Otto answers, Micky poses as a throne salesman. The other boys get to work making up a throne as soon as Micky says their room is right next door! In seconds, they've got a throne ready!

Bettina doesn't believe Davy.
Davy hides out of sight while Otto enters the room, sneaking out behind him so he can warn Bettina. Otto sits in the throne and Micky tells him how regal he looks. Next door, Davy enters the room with the tape recorder and tries to play the recording back to her, but has troubles with the tape player. Next door, Otto says he must go, but Micky talks him into trying out "The Special," the 309, which Peter and Mike get. In the Royal Suite, Davy's still having troubles, and Bettina doubts.

Back in the Monkees' room, the 309, aka "The Usurper", is unveiled, and when Otto sits in it, Pete and Mike raise trumpets with "King Otto" hanging from them and blow a fanfare. The boys continue to stall Otto by taking his picture in the throne with a camera that takes a long time to get a picture. Finally, Davy gets the tape recorder working so Bettina will believe him. They can't call the cops, because Otto has diplomatic immunity. Since Otto is regent, he controls everything until Bettina's 18th birthday -- which is, of course, tomorrow (that being how things work on TV shows).

Peter steals towels from the hotel.
Davy plans on hiding Bettina until midnight, when she becomes queen. They narrowly avoid running into Otto and Seymour as they sneak out! Peter can't resist stealing a towel as the Monkees plus the princess leave. In the Royal Suite, Otto and Sigmund notice Bettina is gone, and realize that the throne merchants must be responsible for Bettina's absence, and he sends Seymour after them! Otto will wait until Sigmund calls. Sigmund rushes out so fast he breaks through the doors, leaving a Sigmund-shaped hole.

Peter's nearly finished his hole for Sigmund!
Later, at the beach, Davy and Bettina are talking about Bettina's responsibilities as queen. Bettina invites Davy to come to Harmonica, but he turns her down because he's committed to his friends and their music. Then we get into the first "romp," with the song "This Just Doesn't Seem to Be My Day" playing. This song appeared on the first Monkees album, lead by Davy. As Davy and Bettina have fun on the beach, Sigmund chases after Micky, and Peter sets up a protective gateway and starts digging a hole. During the "Middle 8" of the song, it's mostly Davy and Bettina gazing into each other's eyes and doing other things young people in love did on TV in those days. We keep cutting back to Peter's progress, with a series of signs warning about his progress. There's assorted other silliness going on, as well. Oddly, Mike is entirely absent from this romp! At the end of the romp, Sigmund of course falls into the hole.

"Here she is, Miss America..."
That evening, Sigmund hides outside of the Monkees' pad and calls Otto to let him know he's tracked down Bettina -- after a false call to some other secret agent type first! When Otto answers, Sigmund starts babbling about the hole he fell into. Inside, the Monkees hang a safe with a rope above an "X" on the floor right in front of their door. Micky's certain that Sigmund won't find them, and that there's as much chance of that as Micky becoming Miss America. There's a knock at the door that shakes the whole house, and Mike sings, "Here she is, Miss America..."

Starting to hop in place to get the rope to break!
Mike checks, and it's Otto and Sigmund. Peter tells Micky to open it as he cuts the rope with a knife, but the rope won't cut! He hides the rope as Otto and Sigmund enter. Davy tries to get Otto delayed by saying a note's been sent to the embassy warning of the plot (while he simultaneously gets Otto on the "X"). Otto isn't too worried, but decides to get Bettina to the reception, leaving Sigmund to guard the Monkees, and if Bettina blabs about the plot, Sigmund will be "unpleasant." The Monkees notice the rope holding the safe is starting to break as Otto and Bettina leave. They start to hop in place, trying to hurry up the rope breaking.

"He's fast!"
Sigmund, being a simple soul, starts hopping with them! The rope continues to break, strand by strand... but doesn't completely break! Later, Davy reads "Snow White" to Sigmund, who's sitting in a chair, when the other three Monkees quickly tie him up. Sigmund easily breaks the ropes, however. The Monkees try to leave, but Sigmund appears at the door (Micky noting, "He's fast!"). As Sigmund starts to approach them, the rope finally breaks, and Sigmund is knocked out!

Otto realizes the Monkees are here!
Later, at the reception, Otto is keeping a close eye on Bettina, but then he spots the Monkees looking at him from vantage points around the room! Otto grabs Bettina and tries to flee the scene with her, but Davy blocks him! Otto pulls a sword from his cane, and Micky throws Davy a sword! instantly, Davy and Otto are in period dress for their sword fight, as "Take a Giant Step" plays for their battle (also on the Monkees' first album, this one features lead vocals by Micky).

Davy and Otto swordfight!
The crowd at the reception watches the fight, except for one couple who start feeding each other canapes and other appetizers. Others buy popcorn and peanuts from a vendor, while Micky and Peter with Bettina on a stage cheer Davy on. There are other sight gags as well. Mike only appears briefly in the romp, standing next to Micky (who's no longer on the stage). Sigmund wanders in at one point, but Mike and Micky keep him distracted. At another point in the fight, Davy tries to swing away on a rope, but he ends up swinging right back again. Micky and Mike manage to trick Sigmund into knocking himself out again. One shot of Davy swordfighting is used in the opening credits.

"Hey everybody, listen to this!"
As the music ends, Peter gets everyone's attention, holding up a phone where the operator announces it's midnight! Bettina is now queen, and orders Otto's arrest! Everyone boos Otto as he is escorted out.

"I bought International Steel at 28 1/2!"
Later, at the hotel, the Monkees are getting their stuff out of the suite they'd used when the maid comes in -- except that she's no longer the maid, she bought the hotel! She followed Mike's advice, bought International Steel at 28 1/2.

When the show runs short, filler is needed!
Then, we get a shot of the Monkees sitting in chairs backstage, being told the show is a minute short, and they goof their way through the minute. Peter insists he could've done the fencing scene better than Davy did. Finally, Mike asks the off-screen voice (presumably the producer) to ask them something sensible, like, "What time is it?" The producer takes the bait, and Mike answers, "It's time to go!" and the Monkees prepare to leave.

This shot with the Monkees' heads would never change.
The closing credits tell us that the show was produced by Robert Rafelson and Bert Schneider (one of whom was the offscreen voice). Sigmund was played by Vincent Beck, Bettina by Katherine Walsh, the maid by Ceil Cabot, and Theo Marcuse played Otto. Rather than getting the two songs individually credited in this episode, the credits simply say "Musical numbers produced by Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart," and "Songs by Gerry Goffin & Carole King, Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart."

Overall, this was an average episode -- not that I'm saying that's a bad thing. The plot is certainly a hackneyed one (this was one of the things the Monkees would complain about, although there would be more hackneyed ones to come!), but it was still fun to watch again. They hadn't quite worked out all the characterizations yet, and there weren't much in the way of Monkees cliches yet (the only one is when they suddenly changed clothes for the planning of the hotel "invasion" -- Davy never says, "You must be joking," which would be a standard Davy line, no sparkles in his and Bettina's eyes when they meet). But it's an enjoyable romp!

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