Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Monkees--"The Prince and the Paupers"

      Let us start with the most obvious point..."The Prince and the Paupers” is loosely based on the Mark Twain novel The Prince and the Pauper. By loosely based, I mean mostly the title. The novel is about a prince and a poor guy who are identical. Through a case of mistaken identity, they switch roles and learn how the other half lives. In this episode Davy discovers Ludlow, the Prince of Beruvia, is identical to him, except he must get married within a month or lose his crown, but he is too shy to talk to girls. You can see where this is going.
      You can see where this is going because the plot plays out the same as the first episode, "Royal Flush," right down to Davy sword fighting the villain during the climactic musical romp. In both cases, young royalty have a deadline to meet in order to stay in power that a power hungry aide is plotting to prevent them from making. The Monkees—mostly Davy—intervene to save the day. The Monkees reshaped the European map more than the Treaty of Versailles. Maybe they should have abandoned rock and roll for diplomacy.
      The bad part about “The Prince and the Paupers” is not the plot similarities with 'Royal flush,' but the mean-spirited con being pulled. Davy takes Ludlow's place in order to woo Wendy, the potential bride to be. Meanwhile, Micky and Peter take Ludlow to the Monkees' pad to teach him how to talk to girls. Davy convinces Wendy to marry him, but Ludlow never develops any skill with women. Yet Ludlow will be the one to marry Wendy even though she is in love with Davy. Wendy does so and seems happy with her decision, but it is still evil to trick her in such a manner. She grew up on Park Avenue, so maybe the money and power are enough to convince her Ludlow is her true love. The sad part is I cannot decide if I am being cynical or realistic.
      It is never wise to take this show too seriously. The stories rarely even maintain the warped sense of internal logic established in each episode. But this plot is uncharacteristically harsh. Usually, the villains get their in the end, but not at the expense of the pretty girl. Micky even throw punches here. Come on, now. The Monkees are all about clever trickery, not violence to solve their problems. Not violence.
      On a final note that might be considered unfair piling on, the split screen technique used when both Davy and Ludlow on screen might have been great at the time, but it was definitely not intended for HD DVD. Either it was not that good at he time, either, or cost prohibitive, but there was a stand in shown from behind in all but two scenes when Davy and Ludlow shared screen time. It looks better that way.
      It should be clear I did not particularly like 'The Prince and the Paupers.” It doe not have a lot going for it. The plot was done before nineteen episodes back. The plan to save the day misleads an innocent character to potentially wreck her life. The Monkees themselves act out of character enough to take almost all the fun out of the episode. There are a few laughs, and Davy's portrayal of ludlow as a stammering beta male is amusing, but neither is a saving grace.
      Rating: ** (out of 5)

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