Monday, June 18, 2012

The Monkees, Season 1, Episode 3: "Monkee Vs. Machine"

This episode, "Monkee Vs. Machine," was written by David Panich, and guest-starrs Severn Darden as Guggins, Walter Janowitz as Pop Harper, Dorothy Konrad as Miss Zuckerman, Elaine Fielding as the Secretary, but most importantly, Stan Freberg as Daggart!

At the end of the article, I'll go over some other geek-themed appearances by some of the guest-starring cast, some of which I'm sure will surprise you!

"Toy factory needs someone with no training or experience."
As the episode opens, Mike is playing the harmonica, and Peter is staring at a chessboard when the phone rings. Mike gets up, walks to Peter, and opens the top of the chessboard to get the phone (none of the pieces fall off). It's their landlord, who once again wants the rent. Davy's riding around on his unicycle, while Micky cleans his drum set. Davy's checking out the classified ads, and after dismissing a few ads, they find one ad from a toy factory wanting someone with no training or experience. Peter is the only one qualified, and so he's chosen to apply for the job! Mike and Micky help him get dressed, and Mike tells Pete, "Remember three words: Don't argue." When Pete points out that's two words, Mike says, "He's starting already!" Pete shows up for his interview, and is directed into a room where a computer is to interview him!

010302This time around, the Opening Credits Shot of the episode is Peter, coming out of the water in a wetsuit, and unzipping it to reveal his suit underneath, a la James Bond! I'll have to remember to call this out when it comes up in a regular episode (not that I recall it being part of any episode).

"Name is not Not What, name is Nit Wit!"
After the opening credits, we return to Pete, being interviewed by a computer, which is designed to avoid human errors. However, when it asks Peter his name, Peter says "What?" The computer responds, "Last name What." When it asks for his first name, Peter's already getting confused, and says his name is not what, so of course, computer thinks his name is "Not What." When it asks his occupation, he says, "No, I'm Pete, you dig?" because he's still trying to get the name fixed, but the computer goes on, assuming that he's a "peat digger." As things go from bad to worse, Pete's flustered responses make the computer think he's a woman who, in his spare time, is a man, and then changes his name from "Not What" to "Nit Wit." The computer ends the interview and rejects Peter.

"Nesmith. What's yours?"
Pete returns to the pad dejected, and tells the guys about what happened. Mike tries to get Pete's spirits up by saying, "You've got something that machine doesn't have, friends," to which Micky says, "Hey, you've got friends, Pete? Bring them over sometime!" Mike tells Pete to tell him exactly what happened, and then Mike goes to apply for the job! Of course, now that he knows what to expect, Mike turns the tables around on the computer! When the computer asks Mike his name, Mike says, "Nesmith, what's yours?" and when the computer says, "What?" Mike responds, "Last name What," and so forth! Thanks to turning things around with a stream of illogic that Captain Kirk would be proud of, the computer starts smoking. Then, Mike starts pressing buttons, causing it to short-circuit entirely. Next, a man in a suit (Daggart) enters the room, and when he tries to speak to the computer, it spits out one final card, indicating that Mike is a genius!

Daggart and Guggins.
Mike is hired at the spot, and brought to the president of the company, J.B. Guggins, son of the founder of the company. It's immediately apparent that Daggart is really running things at the toy company, and that Guggins lets Daggart run roughshod all over him. Mike is to be Daggart's personal assistant. Mike is brought to a room full of machines, which Mike is introduced to. These machines are used to design the toys! They're interrupted by Harper, who used to design all the toys and has a new one to show Daggart. Daggart, of course, isn't interested at all, no matter what Harper shows him. Daggart would fire Harper, but Guggins promised him his job for life. Daggart leaves the room, and Harper tells Mike, "You give your whole life to a company, and they just toss you aside!" Mike responds, "I'm sorry."
Pops Harper shows his toy.

Later, at the pad, Mike's feeling depressed (he's not even wearing his wool hat), and Davy tries to cheer him up. Micky asks what's more fun than working with a toy factory, and Peter adds, "Yeah, playing with the kids and all!"

010308010307This leads us to a romp of sorts -- one that is only peripherally tied to the plot, and only by Peter's comment! The song is "Saturday's Child," written by David Gates, and of course included on the Monkees first album. The romp is just of the Monkees playing on the beach with a bunch of kids (probably not something that they could get away with in a current TV show, I'd imagine). It does appear that the Monkees genuinely enjoyed playing with the kids, especially Davy. After a bit, we get some footage of the guys riding their unicycles with the training wheels and generally goofing off, and then this is followed by scenes of the guys riding around in the Monkeemobile (yes, same footage as last time), and then scenes of the guys riding their motorcycles on the beach.

010309Back at the pad, Mike wants to come up with a plan to help Harper keep his job, and Davy provides the germ of the idea when he says, "It should be child's play!" Mike recalls that Daggart is having a panel of kids coming to the factory tomorrow to test the toys, and so Mike plans on sending his bandmates in there, in disguise! The next day, Mike and Daggart are waiting in the testing room when Guggins comes in, and he's browbeaten by Daggart to go to a special observation area. By the way, one of the unicycles the Monkees were riding is in the background of this scene, along with some toys that are somewhat recognizable! Anyway, the first group of kids come in, which includes Davy disguised as a child, with Peter disguised as his mother! Daggart questions Davy's age, and Davy kicks Daggart in the knee! The kids are supposed to play with the toys now, to see how long their attention span is held by them, but Davy pulls out a yo-yo and plays with it, distracting the kids away from all of the other toys! When Daggart takes the yo-yo away from Davy, all the other kids attack him.

010310The next group comes in to demonstrate the durability of the toys, and this time, the group includes Micky as the child, with Davy as his mother! When Daggart indicates this is an improvement, Micky kicks him in the knee! They start to play with a "Four and Twenty Blackbirds Baked in a Pie" toy, but Micky pulls out a detonator, connects wires to one of them, and blows it up! Micky then says, "My mommy won't let me play with toys that burn or bash or explode or go boom!"

010311The next testing group includes Peter as the child, and Micky as his mom! Of course, Peter kicks Daggart the first chance he gets. This test is supposed to test how long they can put together the toy. Peter starts trying to tell the other kids how to do it, but then Daggart takes the toy from Peter, and a fight starts, with the kids throwing the toys at Daggart.

010312Later, in Guggins' office, Daggart claims the machines plan for the obsolesence of the toys, so that when the toy gets broken, the parents will buy them a new one. Mike doesn't like this idea, saying that Guggins' has forgotten about the element of happiness in toys. He brings in Harper to show the toy that Harper's invented, but Daggart suddenly gets suspicious. He goes to the testing room, where Peter and Micky (both still disguised) are. Thanks to Peter's speaking up when he should be quiet, Daggart realizes that there's a plot afoot, and takes off Micky's wig. Another of the mothers comes in to get her child, and Daggart decides she's in disguise, too, and rips off her dress!

010313At Guggins' office again, Daggart tells Guggins he wants Mike fired, and of course, Guggins goes along with it. Back at the pad, Harper and the boys are feeling depressed, and Harper gives Mike his invention and tells him to throw it away. Mike protests, saying it's a great toy as he bends it in the middle, but since Harper insists, he hands it to Davy, who throws it out of the window of the beach house. Since it's now boomerang-shaped, it of course comes back, to land near Micky, who's once again cleaning his drums (which, by the way, don't have a Monkees logo on them yet). Micky picks it up, and tosses it out of the window himself, and it comes back in and lands near Davy!

Out one window...
...and in the other!
Mike asks Davy for the newspaper so he can look at the want ads again, and Davy finds the toy on it. Davy asks how many Harper made, and he tells Davy there's only the one. Davy says he'd just thrown it out, and Micky says the same thing. They realize it's a toy that comes back by itself, and bring it to Guggins. Daggart, of course, says it's useless! Mike challenges Daggart to get rid of it, so he throws it out the window, only to have it come back in another window, where Mike catches it! Guggins likes it, even though Daggart doesn't. Guggins fires Daggart, and Daggart walks out. Harper is appointed general manager of the company, and they have to come up with a name for the toy. Peter decides he's chilly, and closes a window just before Mike dubs it a "Monkee-rang," and throws it out of the window. Of course, it comes back and smashes through the window Peter just closed!

010316Back at the pad, we find that one of the computers has been given to the Monkees to help straighten out their careers! Mike puts information in it, but when Peter says they're musicians, what's there to straighten out, Mike says it's a good idea if they need extra money to pay the rent to have a plan. The machine then tells them what they should get employment as, to the tune of "Last Train to Clarksville." Jobs the computer picks for them seem to be focused on construction, and during the song we see them doing various jobs on a site. We also get to see a few shots of the guys performing the song on the same stage we see them performing the theme song in the opening credits. The computer also suggests they work on a farm, and we see the guys tossing hay (some of this footage shot here would be used in a later episode with the song "Papa Gene's Blues"), working as firemen.

Playing "Last Train to Clarksville" in the second romp.
The idea that the Monkees would need to seek work to help pay the rent between gigs is one that would be revisted in episode 28, "Monkees on the Line," and probably in other episodes, too. The same thing goes with the Monkees dressing in drag -- episode 9 has Micky in drag again, episode 48 has Mike in drag, and episode 56 has Davy in drag -- and there may be others I'm not thinking of right now. I find it interesting that the show starts out looking like it's a Peter episode, but then it turns out to be a Mike episode. Mike didn't get the focus in episodes too often; more often it would be Davy (like in the first episode, and he'll be in the lead spot again in episodes 5, 6, 8, 9, 10 and many others). Mike does get the lead role in episode 12, but then it's Peter's turn for two episodes in a row, then Davy again... but Micky gets his time to shine, don't worry about that!

By the way, Severn Darden, who played Guggins (and would return in the episode "The Monkees' Paw"), may be one of the guest stars with the most geek credits! He guest-starred in episodes of I Dream of Jeannie, It Takes a Thief, Alias Smith & Jones, Rod Serling's Night Gallery, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, The Ghost Busters, the New Adventures of Wonder Woman, The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman (playing Apploy in four Bigfoot episodes), Salvage 1, Foley in Beyond Westworld, and Beauty and the Beast. His movie appearances include Werewolves on Wheels, he was Governor Kolp in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and Battle for the Planet of the Apes, Schwinn in The Day of the Dolphin, Van Helsing in Saturday the 14th, and Dr. Meredith in Real Genius.

Walter Janovitz, who played Pop Harper, was also in an episode of Mister Ed, My Favorite Martian, Billy the Kid Vs. Dracula, The Girl From UNCLE, I Spy, Hogan's Heroes (mostly as Oscar Schnitzer), The INcredible Hulk, and Jekyll and Hyde... Together Again.

Does Stan Freberg need any kind of expanding upon? He did voices for a bunch of cartoons for Warner Brothers (especially Junyer Bear in the Three Bears shorts), appeared in It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World, The Girl From Uncle, and many, many more voice and on-screen roles, but he may be better known to many for his comedy records!

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