I will be the first to admit the Monkees do not handle serious themes well. There are a couple episodes down the line I dread reviewing for this reason. It was several episodes, since I counted “Success story” among them, but I was surprised the episode was better than I remembered. Maybe events have given me more perspective. More on that idea later.
Davy gets a telegram from his grandfather. Grandfather Jones—not grandpa Jones, fellow Southerners—is coming to visit. The visit is a problem. Davy has been lying to his grandfather to prevent him from worrying about how his life is in America. Grandfather Jones think Davy is a wealthy entertainer. When he finds out the truth, he will force Davy to return to England.
The solution is to convince Grandfather Jones Davy really is a wealthy entertainer. They do this by stealing outfits to become a chef, butler, and chauffeur. The latter is particularly interesting as Micky poses as a mechanic in order to “borrow” a Rolls Royce. Micky Dolenz worked as a mechanic before being cast in the show. The ruse actually works for a while until all the people the guys stole from come demanding their stuff. Davy fesses up, and his grandfather demands he return to England. Davy complies.
Which brings us to the heart of “Success Story.” Davy takes a final stroll on the beach to the song “I Want to Be Free.” Scenes of Davy walking along are inter cut with happier times of him goofing around with the guys. It is sad, and is made more so now that Davy Jones passed away five years ago. His passing elevates “Success story” fro maudlin to genuinely emotional.
The guys are not letting Davy go so easily. They adopt their usual antics to keep grandfather Jones off the light. Their efforts convince him Davy is all right in America with them, and should stay. Besides, he has found a lady friend as a traveling companion. The old man is ready to swing like a pendulum do.
It dawns on the guys afterward they should have played for Grandfather Jones if Davy really wanted to impress him. Because there is nothing stiff upper lipped old Brits love better than bubblegum rock. It probably would not help any that Davy's contribution is shaking maracas or a tambourine. The guys made the right choice by emphasizing their friendship with Davy was more important than his instrument playing.
Rating: *** (out of 5)