Monday, April 3, 2017

Monkees--"Monkee vs. Machine"

      How is this for contemporary relevance? “Monkee vs. Machine” aired nearly fifty years ago, but the episode deals with the issue of automation replacing human workers. It is a story that goes back as far as John Henry and probably even further. There was a caveman upset the wheel was about to replace good, old fashioned manpower once upon a time, I guarantee.
      The Monkees are behind on their rent yet again, so one of them must get a job. Peter is selected to apply for a job in a toy factory, but he flubs the interview process with the computer interviewer. Mike net takes a crack at it and demonstrates his Captain Kirk skill at talking a computer to death. He is hired on the spot as the personal assistant to Daggrt. Daggert is the one who really runs the toy company under the hapless company president, JB Gruggins. Daggrt is automatizing the entire development process while edging out all employees but an old toymaker named Pop Harper. Harper is only still there because the company's founder promised him a job for life.
     Mike sympathizes with Harper the old man devoted hi life to making toys for children's enjoyment. Now Daggert takes the heart out of it by using computers to create toys from stat to finish. To help Harper, Mike comes up with a man for the other Monkees to pose as children to sabotage a demonstration in which kids play with the latest toys. The sequence is easily the most hilarious part of the episode. The boy are exposed and given the boot. They appear to have made the situation far worse until they realize Harper has invented a boomerang. (Just go with it.) Gruggins loves the boomerang and moves them into production while firing Daggert for good measure.
      Daggert is played by Stan Freberg. Freberg is best known for writing and performing novelty songs.
    “Monkee vs. Machine” is one of the most amusing episodes of the series. The moralizing can be heavy-handed, however. The message is people will always win out over machine because people have feels and are capable of independent though. It is a sweet sentiment, but not necessarily accurate. I will confess I am not sure what message the show was trying to send by Harper “inventing” the boomerang, but it is not a disappointing resolution.
     Rating: *** (out of 5)

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