Monday, May 22, 2017

Monkees--"Monkees at the Movies"

      It is a bit jarring to see episodes filmed early in the season held back to be aired towards the end. There is a big difference in the cinematography a while as smaller points like the length of the hairstyles and the age of the songs featured. I can only guess the reason for the episode order, but I imagine it has to do with balance. Recent episodes have been weaker than those in the early season, but “Monkees at the Movies” is pretty strong. It is the last scripted episode of the first season, so the powers that be probably wanted to go out on a high note.
      There is another possibility. “Monkees at the Movies” is a sharp send up of the entertainment industry's efforts to appeal to teenagers. The episode pokes fun at middle aged producers trying to connect with the youth, manufactured stars, the tabloid press, and the banality of popular music. You do not have to look too hard to see how the Monkees are satirizing themselves. They are not called the Pre-Fab Four for nothing. Everything about the creation of the Monkees was manufactured for mass consumption of the youth, and the guys hated it. It would have probably been a bad idea to air “Monkees at the Movies” too early. Fans would have had time to connect the dots if so.
      A b-movie director pots the Monkees at the beach. He considers them typical teenagers and offers them a chance as extras in his latest film I Married a Girl from Outta Town. They initially refuse, which is odd considering the exposure they would get even in a cheap drive in movie, but change their minds when offered thirty dollars a day.
    Bobby Sherman plays the star Frankie Catalina, an obvious parody of Frankie Avalon. Frankie cannot sing, is afraid of water, and breaks out in a rush around girls, but he has been made into the ultimate beach movie icon. It has all gone to his head. When the Monkees are more energetic during a volleyball scene, Frankie verbally unloads on them.
     Of course you know, this mean war! The Monkees set out to sabotage Frankie's reputation. Davy messes with his make up job to turn him into a werewolf. Micky leak an allegation to the press Frankie propositioned his sister. Micky also edits cue cards to make Frankie flub his lines. Mike plays with the record speed to fore Frankie to lip synch at alternatively impossibly fast and slow speed. Angered at how the dailies made him look, Frankie quits. 
  The Monkees con the director into casting Davy as Frankie's replacement. Stardom goes to his head as he parrots Frankie's motions up to the volleyball scene but instead of allowing Davy to berate them for upstaging him, they bury him halfway in the sand and tie him up with the volleyball net. He quits the role.
    I like “Monkees at the Movies.” Maybe the parallels to reality appeal to my cynical nature. Casting aside any deeper meaning, it is a fun episode.
     Rating: *** (out of 5)

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