Last year, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Monkees as a band by counting down our top 50 Monkees songs. Now, we’re celebrating The Monkees TV show by profiling each and every episode — exactly 50 years after it first premiered.
Tonight’s episode: “Some Like It Lukewarm” (Season 2, Episode 24)
Air date: March 5, 1968
Here we are in the home stretch of our big Monkees 50 Years Later project, Rebeaters, and this episode “Some Like It Lukewarm” is arguably the final conventional episode of the series. After this, we have two very off-beat installments that are an intentional break from format (in which Peter is mind-controlled in both, weirdly enough) and then the Monkees’ swan-song, the psychedelic masterpiece motion-picture Head, which we will write more about in detail to celebrate its 50th anniversary down the road.
So where does “Some Like It Lukewarm” fall within all this madness? Overall, this is a fairly strong episode, featuring a particularly striking acting turn from Davy Jones. However, what “Some Like It Lukewarm” suffers from is the fact that it falls on some very worn out tropes of the entire series at this point, something that scriptwriters Joel Kane and Stanley Z. Cherry and perennial Monkees director James Frawley acknowledge through a lot of meta in-jokes referencing the rest of the series. Also worth noting is the fact that the entire episode lifts a bunch from the classic 1959 screwball comedy, Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot, which you probably watched in film school. If you didn’t, you went to the wrong film school, baby!
It’s very rare that the plots of these episodes are anything but tried and true genre formulas for the Monkees to romp around in, and this is no exception. We’ve got a radio contest (hosted by actual Sixties DJ Jerry Blavat) in which the groups must be of mixed gender. Why? So that Jerry (a dude who wouldn’t last long in our current “Time’s Up” climate) can hit on the female members of the groups. What are the Monkees to do? After quick cuts to all of the boys throughout the series dressed in drag, they decide to disguise Davy as a girl to enter the contest. Complications arise when an all-female group, The West-Minstrel Abbies, have their beautiful lead singer, Daphne, cross-dress to enter the competition as well.
There are some real missed opportunities in this episode. Daphne, played by the beautiful and charming Deana Martin (Dean Martin’s daughter) and Davy end up falling for each other in a restaurant. They have a lot in common, they’re both hip youngsters, both in bands, and amazingly, get these weird animated twinkly eyes when they fall in love.
Of all of Davy’s love interests in the series, this is one romance plot-line I would have loved to have seen continued in a third season. There’s palpable chemistry between Martin and Jones. Daphne is a compelling character in her own right. In fact, I want more of The West-Minstrel Abbies in general. They’re all cute and very cool: who doesn’t love a modded-out fictional Sixties girl group? It’s almost surprising that “Some Like It Lukewarm” wasn’t a backdoor pilot for a whole West-Minstrel Abbies TV series of their own. I’m sure it would have been a hit. Instead, after all is revealed through a series of typical Monkee misadventures, the Abbies are reduced to basically performing as the Monkees’ backup dancers for the final number: the much-contested song “She Hangs Out.” Ho-hum.
I don’t want to come off as a major drag here because this episode really is a lot of fun, sexist conventions aside. The charm all the Monkees are giving off is pure and shines through. You can tell that they are greatly enjoying working with their director, James Frawley at this point in the progression of the series.
I found myself enjoying seeing The Monkees together and in their prime. I know that’s a bit of a silly thing to write after all of these recaps we’ve been doing, but it’s the truth. There’s not a lot of classic Monkees material to cover after these next three episodes (other than the 10-part exhaustive series I’m planning on 33 Revolutions Per Monkee that’s upcoming on the Rebeat slate. Just kidding, pals. It’s 11 parts!). Through examining these episodes 50 years later, it’s apparent that there was a genuine uniqueness to The Monkees that was tough to replicate with other prefab musical projects that followed them. They had a vibe onscreen, in the studio and onstage that was always a little dangerous and unpredictable, yet also invariably full of charm and youthful sex appeal. There were multiple parts of this episode that made me smile at the sheer joy that exudes from these guys when they’re together and their madness is being corralled in a fairly tight episode like this one. It’s so true that nothing good lasts forever, and the finite nature of The Monkees TV series only makes each episode worth treasuring, even the bombs. And there were far worse installments than “Some Like It Lukewarm.”
This episode’s coda features a segment with Davy Jones interviewing songwriter Charlie Smalls, who would later achieve larger recognition by writing the ’70s Broadway classic The Wiz. The two sit at the piano and chat about what it means to play on the “one and three” versus the “two and four.” This segment is so informative and entertaining. Davy Jones could have added “engaging interviewer” to his list of other talents if he had wanted and the interview serves as an excellent ending to an episode that is all Davy’s: he was a performer who always was very into sharing his interests with his audience. Jones picked a winner by choosing to jam with Smalls, who is as charming and gregarious in this segment as Jones is. Another reason why one wishes this show would have lasted another season is for more interviews conducted by The Monkees of other artists they were enjoying or working with.
But that was not to be, and instead, maybe the whole Monkees thing being so finite in its initial incarnation is what has made its mystique so evergreen for the last five decades.