It’s too easy to make fun of made-for-TV bands. It’s hard to look at the careers of the Jonas Brothers or Hannah Montana and take them as serious artists. Most of us do not like believing that something as natural and beautiful and music could be manufactured by the suits at Disney or Time Warner. In this small genre, there is one group that is a shiny diamond ring in a pile of cheap plastic toys. I am talking about the Monkees, whose show premiered on January 19, 1967.
The whole idea for a TV band was mostly inspired by the success of the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night film. The Monkees show portrays the singer-songwriter band and all their zany hijinks. The humor is cheesy but still endearing. For example, there is one scene where a band member upsets a man and his wife, and a chase ensues throughout a whole apartment floor. Somewhere in all the chaos, a gorilla, an Olympian torch-bearer, and a recently showered woman all become a part of the chase. They also have a stylish car named the Monkeemobile. Combined with an older visual style and pacing, the show is interesting enough to merit anybody today enjoying a couple of episodes.
On top of the silliness that makes this show entertaining enough, at the climax of every episode there is a musical number. The band usually ends up in some fight or chase, and there is groovy Brit-pop music to make it all still feel very silly. The songs were written by greats like Carole King and Neil Diamond, and the Monkees were a tight band that expertly delivered each song. Sure they’re manufactured hits, but some still hold up. “I’m a Believer” in particular is still as catchy today as it was in the ’60s.
One last fun fact: beloved ’90s cartoon Spongebob Squarepants often mentioned Davy Jones’ locker, an old sailor’s term for the bottom of the sea that has no relation to this fourth member of the Monkees. But in a recent episode a character gets sent to Davy Jones’ locker and the show somehow got the Monkees’ Davy Jones to make an appearance, British accent and all.