The Monkees half-hour comedy show aired on NBC television from 1966-1968, a mere two seasons that added up to total of 57 episodes. Really? That's it? The impact the show had on pop culture makes it seem like its run lasted years longer.
The show was upbeat and entertaining, if somewhat formulaic, always giving fans the obligatory hits along with a fun, Marx Brothers-type romp. The occasional moral message thrown in for its impressionable teenage viewers to ponder was never preachy or obtrusive.
The Monkees' meteoric rise to fame in 1966 as a ‘manufactured’ pop group eventually became a case of art imitating life as the “band” members, Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith, and Peter Tork, took it upon themselves to become a real group. The release of their Headquarters album in 1967 saw them delving into songwriting (with surprisingly good results), playing their instruments as well as recording material of other songwriters they admired.
The second season of the show was a headier mix than the first with the group demanding more input into the creative side of things. The formula was the same but some strange and wonderful moments crept in now and then. You have to wonder what the fans thought of a scraggly Tim Buckley singing “Song of the Siren” or Frank Zappa and Mike Nesmith switching personas to “interview” each other.
Eagle Rock Media and Rhino have documented these unique moments of television and pop music history with the release of both seasons of The Monkees. Sold separately, each set is a treasure trove of remastered episodes and special features.
Among the extras is the entertaining yet sublimely goofy 33 and 1/3 Revolutions per Monkee, the only TV variety special the group ever did. It featured a unconventional array of guest stars such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Brian Auger, and Julie Driscoll. Also included is The Monkees' appearance on The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, a 1967 black and white clip of the group’s New York City press conference, filmed at the height of their fame, trivia, and vintage Kellog's commercials.
The commentaries, and there are many of them, are what make these sets truly exceptional. Each of the Monkees is represented with Nesmith and Tork putting in more time than the others. Listening to their comments about the episodes and the time in which they were filmed is like experiencing the phenomenon in a completely different way. Nesmith, especially, is supremely eloquent, and I found his musings to be the most interesting and informative. Also participating is songwriter Bobby Hart, who along with late songwriting partner Tommy Boyce wrote many of The Monkees' biggest hits.
If you’d like to introduce your Bieber-obsessed kids to a fun era in pop culture history or would just like to reminisce, these sets are well worth checking out.