The Monkees: Season 1
DVD | Box Set
Available for the first time on DVD! All episodes are in chronological order by airdate.
The Monkees scored four consecutive #1 albums and a half-dozen Top 10 singles. The Monkees Anthem "Daydream Believer" voted #3 teen idol song of all time by VH1 viewers. Original Monkees episodes are still being shown on VH1 and a new Monkees show is being developed for the fall 2003 network schedule. "I'm A Believer" was recently popularized in the feature film, Shrek. The Monkees have a dedicated fan base that continues to collect all things Peter, Davy, Micky and Mike.
5.1 audio. Play song romps feature. Commentary on Episode 1 by director James Frawley and Davy Jones. Separate commentaries on Episode 3 by Peter Tork and Monkees creator and director Robert Rafelson. Separate commentaries on Episode 10 by Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork. Commentary on Episode 12 by Michael Nesmith. Commentary on Episode 14 by director James Frawley. Commentary on Episode 15 by Davy Jones. Monkees Pilot (16 mm version). Monkees Discography. Vintage Monkees Kelloggs commercials. Separate commentaries on Episode 32 by Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork and songwriter Bobby Hart. Interview with songwriter, Bobby Hart. Monkees Memorabilia Gallery.
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I was a little nervous about purchasing this set after reading the reviews. As another poster mentioned, I do believe many of these reviews are not referring to this particular set. It is a wonderful set for any Monkee fan and I would highly recommend it.
I had forgotten how many great guest stars the show featured. Stars like Lon Chaney, Rose Marie, Richard Kiel, Mike Farrell, and fellow singing sensation and future deputy sheriff Bobby Sherman predominate. As if that wasn't enough, there's even an episode with both Foster Brooks as a drunken rabbit breeder and comic Doodles Weaver (Sigourney's uncle) as a Broadway producer ("Monkees in Manhattan.") (As a strange aside, if you want a truly otherworldly listening experience, find a copy of Doodles Weaver singing "Eleanor Rigby." You won't be disappointed.)
The shows all center around the four struggling musicians, and while the show was nominally made to capitalize on the success of the Beatles, realize that the show was originally formulated before the stateside success of Beatles; it took the success of the Fab Four to make studio execs sit up and take note of the potential market. Each episode (except "Monkees on Tour") features musical "romps" (which are viewable by themselves as a special feature.) While I always liked the music, and while these fast-cut segments define the look of the show, they are fairly repetitive and are now my least part of the episodes. What I remembered loving as a kid, and I appreciate even more now, are the peculiar characters and rather stream-of-consciousness approach in the writing, along with numerous excellent one liners and some sly humor that escaped me as a child (e.g. dominoes as a metaphor for the Vietnam War.)
There are too many examples of great gags to cite, but there are some that I particularly like on reflection. Peter is at one point asked "How do you feel about demonstrations?" He replies "They're the only way to sell a vacuum cleaner." It was a great way to make you think the writers were going to go for a political joke, and then rip the carpet out from under the premise. In the "Fern and Davy" episode we are introduced to a variety of terrible performers, among which is Mike as "Billy Roy Hodstetter" singing a hilarious version of "Different Drum," which of course Nesmith wrote, and which became a huge hit for Linda Ronstadt. It also introduced a unique nutritional supplement, "Sdrawkcab" (which is, of course, "Backwards" backwards...other supplements contain iron, but iron can rust, so Sdrawkcab contains aluminum.) These peculiar turns of phrase and in-jokes fly fast and loose throughout the show. Another great example is in "Monkees at the Circus" where Mickey keeps singing the theme song to "Circus Boy" and is continually quizzed about what he's singing. (Dolenz starred as a child actor in "Circus Boy.")
The ability to lampoon various genres is another hallmark of the series, and I especially liked the superhero duo of "Frogman and Reuben the Tadpole" who have a wonderful Batman-style fight. ("Kretch?") Nesmith was very comfortable improvising and slipping into his Texan persona: the children's story about the "Wicked Stepladder" made me laugh out loud, as did his "Farm Report" ad libs. One of the best episodes, "Monkees a la Mode" features the wonderful characters of Madame Quagmire and Rob Roy Fingerhead who work for "Chic" magazine. It's clear from the outset where the conflict will originate from and what the boys will have to do, but their execution of the plan is especially ingenious and well-crafted. The final episode of the season "The Monkees on Tour" is especially good and introspective. The live concert footage (from a Phoenix show) is great, though you almost can't hear the songs over the screaming. It is clear that the four had melded into a true performing band at that point, even if they didn't start out that way. The set features commentary by various people on various episodes, including all the Monkees except for Dolenz, as well as people like director James Frawley and songwriter Bobby Hart. Though the commentary tracks are not groundbreaking (a few are downright boring) I enjoyed them, and especially liked the recollections of Jones and Nesmith.
Not long ago I had the privilege of meeting and talking with Davy Jones. He was exceptionally friendly and genuine. Davy rekindled my interest in seeing these shows again, after which I only had one thought: what took me so long?