Wednesday, April 02, 2014

The Monkees, Episode 14: "Dance, Monkee, Dance"!

We're up to episode 14 of The Monkees, and this is one of two episodes I'll be looking at this month! This episode was written by Bernie Orenstein (the last of three episode he wrote), and features the songs "I'll Be Back On My Feet Again," written by Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell (a different version than the one the Monkees redid for their album The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees, the original version wasn't released until Missing Links Volume 2, in 1986) and "I'm a Believer," written by Neil Diamond, which was on More of the Monkees.

The guest cast for this episode are Karen James as Miss Buntwell (her only screen credit), Stephen Coit as the Timid Man (his geek credits include playing Lt. Conway in an episode of Space Patrol, and playing the Coroner in the TV movie Death Ray 2000 in 1981), Elisabeth Camp as Woman (she would later appear in the episode "Son of a Gypsy" as Mme. Rantha), Derrick Lewis as Smoothie (he previously appeared in a 1963 Twilight Zone and played Lt. O'Brien in six episodes of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea), and Hal March as Renaldo (his previous geek credit was playing Agent Ray in the 1954 movie The Atomic Kid). Also appearing in this episode, uncredited, was Bette Nesmith Graham (Michael's mother, the inventor of Liquid Paper).

Pete answers the phone... who was the eighth president of the US?
The episode opens as Peter is getting an apple from the fridge at the Monkees' beach pad when the phone rings. Peter answers it, and it's Miss Buntwell, from Renaldo's Dance Au Go Go, offering him the chance of a lifetime... if he answers one question correctly, he'll win a free dance lesson. He's asked who the eighth president of the United States, but Peter doesn't know the answer, so Miss Buntwell offers him a hint... "His name is President Van..." and Peter jumps in, answering "President Van Johnson!" But that's not right. His next guess isn't right either, nor his third or fourth! So Miss Buntwell gives Peter the first name, Martin, but Peter then guesses Dean Martin before finally coming up with Martin Van Buren. She then asks Peter for his name, but Peter forgets even that for a moment! He rushes right down to the studio for his free lesson, first being startled by the stuffed monkey, which is sitting on one of the kitchen chairs.

Pete's first lesson with Miss Buntwell.
After the credits, Peter's getting his lesson from Miss Buntwell when Renaldo arrives to check on Peter's progress. Miss Buntwell says another few lessons and he'll be a real tiger, which convinces Peter to sign a contract for more lessons... a lifetime contract, which Peter doesn't realize. Back at the pad, Peter's practicing his dance steps when Mike asks him if he signed anything. Peter hands over the contract, which is very long, and Mike reads it, discovering it's a lifetime contract, to the Monkees' dismay. Peter figures he can just tear up the contract, that no court would convict him... and so it's time for a brief fantasy sequence!

The courtroom sequence.
The Monkees are in a court room, with Michael as the Judge, Micky as the prosecutor, and Davy as the defense, with Pete on the stand. Mike tells Micky to examine the witness, which he does as though he's a doctor. Then he grills Pete about the contract (as Mike chews on his judge's wig). Davy objects, but Mike bops him with his mallet. Micky shows Pete a photo of Renaldo and asks if he recognizes it, and Davy objects again (when Mike bops him this time, he advises, "Don't object so much, you'll live longer!"). It's Davy's turn to question Pete, and Mike gives him a preliminary bop on the head before he can start. Pete's asked to describe the unhappiness the contract's caused him, and Mike bops both Davy and Peter, then Davy again! The bopping continues until Mike finds Peter guilty, guilty, guilty!

Miss Buntwell is very persuasive!
The fantasy sequence ends, and Mike says they can't let Peter go in the poorhouse. Micky figures he'll be able to get Pete out of it, and he shows up at Renaldo's studio posing as Pete's solicitor. He doesn't get anywhere with Renaldo (there are no loopholes in the contract, and it's binding), and Micky is so flustered that he accidentally signs a contract himself! Back at the pad, Pete and Micky practice together, and Mike says, "Well, I see you can't send a boy to do a man's boj... a man's job." Mike tries next, but Miss Buntwell charms Mike into signing a contract himself by offering a kiss after every four steps!

Mike's mom makes a guest appearance!
Back at the pad, Davy figures they've got to get something on Renaldo, so he heads to the studio to apply for an instructor's job! Renaldo puts him through his paces, pressing buttons on his desk to change the music being played and Davy has to change his dance accordingly. Renaldo doesn't seem impressed, but he hires Davy anyway. Outside Renaldo's office, a woman is signing up for lessons (as mentioned above, played by Mike's mother), asking if all the instructors are experienced, and Miss Buntwell assures her that they all have at least two years' experience. In the office, Renaldo tells Davy he doesn't care if Davy can't teach someone how to walk, the most important words to know are "Please sign here." The woman signs the contract, even though it's a lot of money (Miss Buntwell assures her money isn't everything, a sentiment that Renaldo rebuffs to Davy). Davy starts in the ballroom in half an hour, and he leaves. After Davy leaves, Martin Van Buren shows up for his free lesson (the credited role is "shy man")!

Mike doesn't like to do the hula dance.
Pete, Micky and Mike show up for their lesson, conducted by Davy, who's introduced as having been there for years. Renaldo leaves, and Davy starts his lesson, and his bandmates start practicing the step, and we go into a musical number, "I'll Be Back On My Feet Again," which features lots of clips of the Monkees in various outfits dancing, including the shot of them in top hats and tails that was used in the second season opening credits. Also inserted are a number of stock footage shots of other dancing. The funniest bit in the song is when the Monkees are playing instruments dressed in hula mufti, and Mike grumpily dances (the second funniest bit has them dressed as Native Americans trying to do a rain dance, but they get snow instead).

The writer's room.
The lesson ends, and Micky's ready for more, but Davy points out how much it costs for all the sets and costumes for the romp! Back at the pad, Mike says this dance lesson thing is turning into a stone drag. Micky suddenly says, "A brilliant idea! That's what we need, a brilliant idea!" Pete asks where they're going to get that, and Micky walks off the set to talk to the writers, saying they need an idea that's really fast and groovy, and we see the writers are four older Chinese or Japanese men, supervised by another man holding a cat o' nine tails. They get to work writing, and hand Micky their ideas. Micky reads through them, thanks them, and returns to the set, saying, "This is really terrible, those guys are overpaid." Davy gets his own idea when he sees Renaldo's ads in the paper, and figures tomorrow that Renaldo's studio will be packed with suckers. Pete chimes in, "All day!  All day suckers," and holds one up.

Davy makes his pitch to the new students.
The next day, at the studio, Miss Buntwell tells Davy that the students are assembled in the ballroom (Mike's also there), and when she starts to return to the ballroom, Davy says that Mike has something very important to tell her. Davy says he'll look after the students, and Mike starts telling her that dancing has changed his life, and his heart and soul want her (she asks, "What do you hear from your liver?"). At the ballroom, Davy greets the students, and welcomes them. In the office, Mike is chasing after Miss Buntwell. Davy tells the students they're patient with their mistakes, and in rushes Pete in drag, apologizing to Micky, posing as an instructor, who tells Pete if he doesn't learn that step by tomorrow, he'll regret it! Several old ladies leave after this. Mike continues to pursue Miss Buntwell, saying that he can't eat, sleep, or drink (because he's got no money). Davy promises the students they'll learn all the latest steps, and in rush Micky and Peter in Tarzan clothes to do a primitive caveman dance, which gets a few more ladies to leave.

The Dancing Smoothies stand by!
Davy then says it'll be a pleasure to dance with the instructors, as they're all perfect gentlemen... and in comes Pete and Micky again, this time Micky's the one in drag, with Pete as the instructor, and their antics cause a few more to leave. Renaldo comes in and finds Mike pursuing Miss Buntwell, and realizes that the students are unattended, and they go to the ballroom as more ladies are leaving. Renaldo tells Miss Buntwell to get the Smoothies ready, it's an emergency. He starts sweet talking the remaining ladies there, and then asks Davy what's going on. Davy says he's been giving them a pep talk, and Renaldo says he'll take over. Renaldo introduces himself as Miss Buntwell gets the Smoothies, and tells them to wait for her signal. The Monkees confer, and come up with a plan. They go to the Smoothies, and stick them up (I don't know where they get the guns they use).

Micky dances with a pooch!
At the ballroom, Renaldo introduces the Dancing Smoothies, and the Monkees come in, dressed as the Smoothies, as "I'm a Believer" starts. The Monkees dance with the ladies as Renaldo starts panicking. The real Smoothies show up in long underwear, having untied themselves. The ladies seem unaware anything's wrong, even when they're used as the net for an impromptu game of volleyball! Renaldo orders the Smoothies to get the Monkees, and they call the ladies to gather around them as they tell them what's going on. The ladies start dancing in circles around Renaldo and the Smoothies, and the Monkees wrap them up in a banner, and the ladies leave.

Tearing up the lifetime contracts.
In Renaldo's office, the Monkees show up for their next lesson, causing Renaldo to panic, and he tears up all the contracts, but the Monkees refuse to let him out of it, unless he tears up all the other lifetime contracts, which he agrees to, and they pull them out of the file cabinet and rip them up. The Monkees leave, except for Pete, who wants to be shown the Box Step again, and Mike re-enters and pulls him out.

This was a very fun episode, and I like that all the Monkees got their place in the spotlight, rather than the focus mostly being on one of them. I have to admit that I was surprised that the actress playing Miss Buntwell had only the one part in her resume, as I could've sworn I recalled seeing her elsewhere.

Next time: It's another episode with two names, "Too Many Girls," aka "Davy and Fern"!

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