Monday, July 09, 2012

It Ougtta Be... a "Should've Been" this time around!

So, let's go back in time, after the Monkees second season aired on NBC-TV. They decided not to make any more TV shows (the Monkees reportedly wanted to go to a variety format, but the network didn't like that idea -- which seems appropriate, considering how god-awful the later special "33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee" ended up being), and so they decided to make the theatrical movie "Head" instead (which, frankly, alienated the audience they'd spent two years building up by deconstructing the whole Monkees mystique -- not that it's a bad movie, it's just not what anyone expected of a Monkees movie. If I ever get the time, I plan to go through "Head" and create a few "lost third season episodes" from it).

Anyway, reruns of the show ended up being aired on Saturday mornings, with some of the original songs replaced with new songs (for the romps where they didn't intercut to the Monkees performing said songs, anyway -- said songs being taken from the last two albums released under the Monkees name -- "The Monkees Present" {done without Peter, who'd quit at the time} and "Changes" {which was just Micky and Davy, Mike having quit}), and the opening credits on the first season being replaced with the opening credits for the second season. These aired starting in the fall of 1969 on CBS, and ran continuously until the fall of 1972, when they aired for one season on ABC. CBS aired it at noon, while ABC aired it at 1 pm. These reruns, airing for so long, were probably where a lot of Monkees fans ended up watching the show for the first time!

But... what if, instead of airing repeats on Saturday mornings, CBS decided to go a different route? What if they'd asked for a Monkees animated series, instead, that could have all-new episodes? Who knows how long the show could've lasted then; consider how long the Archies lasted on Saturday mornings!

Certainly, the show could've been done by Filmation, Hanna-Barbera, or even Rankin-Bass (they would do the Osmonds and Jackson Five shows). Even if the Monkees themselves didn't want to actively participate in the show, the voices could've been done by impersonators (not that this would've been my preference). I'd imagine that Micky and Davy would've been fine lending their voices to animated counterparts, given that Davy would do that very thing for an episode of "The New Scooby-Doo Movies," while Micky went on to do some voice work for Hanna-Barbera.

This would've left Peter and Mike to consider. Given that Peter had quit the group because of exhaustion, I'm not sure if he would've wanted to stay with it in this format, although it would've been a lot easier on him (I've heard that for the animated "Star Trek," some of the cast members would simply read their lines into a tape recorder and mail them to Filmation). Mike might've been the only real hold-out, and honestly, I think they could've found someone to imitate his voice.

The show could've been called "Hey, Hey We're the Monkees" to differentiate it from the live-action show, although the original theme song could still be used, obviously. Like the original program, most of the opening credits could've been compiled from clips of the episodes being made.

I envision this show as pretty much sticking to the format of the regular show, with an overall plotline, a romp somewhere along the way to get one song in, and then at the end of the show, there could be a "performance" song, with the Monkees performing on some kind of stage.

I think that the satire and parody sometimes seen on the show could have been amped up a bit more, and some self-awareness could be plugged in. As an example of how this could work, consider the following, which I'd imagined the opening sequence of the first episode (which I'd call "The Monkees Get Animated") could go:


PETER (VO): (Yelling) Mike! Micky! Davy!

CUT TO: INTERIOR OF THE MONKEES' HOUSE. MIKE is eating a bowl of cereal, while MICKY and DAVY are playing checkers or some other game. PETER rushes down the stairs, dressed in his nightshirt and cap.

PETER: (Still Yelling) Mike! Micky! Davy!

MIKE: Peter, calm down! What's the matter?

PETER: Mike, something's terribly wrong! When I woke up, I looked at my hands, and they were all like this! (Holds his hands up -- of course, we don't see anything's unusual, because this is a cartoon, and this is the way they're supposed to look) See? All the little details are gone, like wrinkles and stuff!

(Quick shot of Micky and Davy playing checkers -- Micky moves a piece, Davy moves the same piece back again, neither of them paying attention to what's happening)

MIKE: It's okay, Peter. Don't you remember? We're cartoon characters now, so everything we have to do is drawn by someone!

PETER (looking confused): But it feels so weird, Mike!

MIKE: But there's a lot of advantages to being cartoons, Pete! Dig this!

MIKE reaches one hand up above Peter's head -- he's holding a rolled up window curtain. He pulls the string with his other hand to cover up Peter, and then lets it go, revealing Peter no longer in his nightclothes, but instead in his regular Monkees outfit of pants with the red eight-button shirt.

MIKE: See? We can only do this as cartoons!

PETER: Groovy.

I also imagine that some of the episodes could be based on some of the Monkees songs themselves -- "Your Auntie Grizelda" could practically write itself, and some of the later songs, "Ladies Aid Society" could work well as the basis for an episode, too. Another great aspect of the show could be using some of the songs that were recorded but never used on the show or released on an album until Rhino did their three volumes of "Missing Links." The first volume of that had a song, "Apples, Peaches, Bananas and Pears" that is classic Monkees all the way, and would definitely work in an episode of an animated series!

Here's another episode idea: The Monkees are traveling the country, heading to their next gig, when they stop for gas and a bite to eat in River City (not necessarily named per se, but could be hinted at, i.e., "Our city by the river."), where they discover that there is no music there at all. Oh, once there was a lot of music there long ago, but nobody can play the instruments any more, so all the instruments they had are being loaded into a truck to be gotten rid of. The guys, of course, find this a shame, and Micky climbs into the truck to see what's there. Of course, there's a few trombones ("We used to have 76 of them," one of the townies would helpfully inform him) as well as a bunch of other stuff. Unfortunately, while Micky's in the truck, someone pulls the wrong lever, and the truck dumps out all the instruments plus Micky into the river, sending all downstream. Naturally, the fish in the river find the instruments and start playing them so that Micky can sing "Goin' Down" while Mike, Davy and Peter jump into the Monkeemobile and drive downriver in an attempt to get far enough ahead of him to rescue their bandmate.

There could even be episodes that are basically designed to parody other Saturday morning cartoons -- and of course, there would be more of the Monkeemen!

The look of the Monkees in the show would be kind of a mix of early and later TV series. As you might imagine from earlier, I picture them wearing their blue pants, red eight-button shirts, and boots. Mike would still have on his wool hat, but Micky would have his afro. When there's performance segments, I'd hope that there'd be enough common sense that we could've had Peter playing the appropriate instrument for the song, whether it be guitar, banjo, bass, or keyboards.

Getting back to the band's participation outside of the music, since their look was used in the merchandising, I don't imagine there'd be a problem using their looks for the cartoon, although to help keep things looser, it would probably work best if only their first names were used. I'd play Micky as the goofy mimicker and wacky inventor, Mike as the sardonic smart one, Davy of course as the boy who always finds someone to fall in love with (or vice versa), and Peter would be -- no, not the dumb one! I never thought of Peter's character as being "the dummy" (as he referred to himself in "Head")... rather, I think of him as being innocent. He is willing to believe the best of anyone, and while that doesn't always work out in his favor, it would've been nice to have a few episodes in which this did work out well!

Anyway, I think this would be great fun to watch, and it's a shame it never happened, and is never likely to happen. I've actually been thinking about this for a long time, and was just about ready to mock up some stuff to share as if this had been a real possibility (probably making it a Filmation show, and providing "scans" of memos and the like), but I haven't been able to come up with the animated appearance so I could've included model sheets (although I might've been able to find someone, I suppose). Hey, are any of you readers out there interested in working on some mock-ups here, not to use as some kind of scam (like Marvel did with their superhero that was supposedly a Stan Lee creation in the Silver Age, but never published, I forget his name) but more as a look at what possibly could have been?


  1. You know, I like the way you think! Too bad we couldn't go back in time and get it done!

  2. Up until the early 2000s, there was STILL talk about a new MONKEES cartoon!

    And, we could still see it one day, just like there will still be new BRADY and GILLIGAN shows and movies and...

    There also exist t-shirts with "animated" images of the Monkees, as they'd have appeared in a show in the 70s...

    The problem with your idea, is that, if the show got on the air in the early 70s, folks would think it a blatant rip-off of ARCHIES, JOSIE AND THE PUSSSYCATS, SCOOBY DOO, and all the other cartoon shows copying the Monkees format then!

    Al Bigley

  3. Thanks to both of you... I find myself wishing I knew enough about doing animation on the computer that I could put together a "pilot," if you will, showing what this could've looked like... I keep finding myself listening to Monkees songs and envisioning what they would've looked like in animated form!

  4. Wow! I totally dig this idea. Back in the day I wrote a few scripts for episodes I wished they'd made. They're not awesome or anything, just things I kicked around. Making an animated show like would be so freaking fun. I wish I knew how to do it too but for something like this I might have to


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