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: “The Monkees Mind Their Manor” (Season 2, Episode 23)
Air date: February 26, 1968
As our favorite show is coming to a close (but, as of this episode’s airing, its millions of fans did not know that yet), we’ve experienced mostly hits and just a few misses throughout the sophomore season of one of the most innovative television shows to date.
“The Monkees Mind Their Manor” begins in their California pad when a knock at the door introduces Mr. Friar (Laurie Main), an anxious man from England looking for Davy Jones to tell him he has inherited Lord Malcolm Kibee’s estate, the pastoral English place where Davy worked as a stable boy.
He has come to fetch Davy back to England for the reading of the Kibee’s will. Davy wonders why he was chosen for the inheritance and keeps refusing, and each time he does, Mr. Friar faints until Davy and the boys wake him up.
Davy decides to go to England after hearing from Friar that the village adjacent to the estate might cease to exist if David does not appear at the reading. The catch is that Davy has to live on the estate for five years to take ownership.
If he doesn’t, the village can buy it for £50,000. If they cannot do that, it goes to the sop Lance Kibee (Jack Good), the nephew of the deceased Lord Malcolm Kibee, who plans to sell it to a land developer which could then spell the end of the village. Got it?
Jack Good himself was, already at this time, a fixture on ’60s TV. The multi-talented Good was born in London and produced some of the earliest British rock ‘n’ roll television shows such as Oh Boy! and Wham! as well as managing some of the emerging Brit rock ‘n’ rollers around that time. He later went to America and was the leading force behind Shindig! which first aired on ABC September 16, 1964.
A huge hit at the time, it aired in black and white for 30 minutes, later going to twice a week and later still changing to an hour-long format. Conflicts with ABC suits led to his dismissal and the show was later cancelled in January 1966, many say due to the missing energy and creativity Good brought to bear.
The canceling made room on the schedule for the Batman series. Shindig! inspired such shows as Hullabaloo and other imitators. Since it was first, Shindig! remains iconic in American rock ‘n’ roll history. Good died just last year.
Back to our show. Davy and Mr. Friar fly to England while the guys are shipped in mummy cases as carriage. At the customs counter the inspector opens each case to reveal each guy swathed haphazardly in bandages.
The man playing the inspector is recognized by the guys as Jack Williams, The Monkees TV show’s property man, upon which he says, “Look, sweetie, I may be Jack Williams the Property Man to you, but to 20 million teenagers, I’m the customs man.” He then launches into Dean Martin’s “Everybody Wants Somebody Sometime.”
Arriving at the manor, they are greeted by the spacey and vision-impaired butler who is played by Reginald Gardiner, a great character actor from the ’30s onward. Inside they meet the drunkard Lance and the pompous attorney for the estate, Sir Twiggly Toppin Middle Bottom, played by television regular Bernard Fox (Bewitched’s Dr. Bombay).
Bottom explains the will’s details and Davy is shocked by the stipulation he has to reside there, which Bottom and Lance were expecting. Lance and Bottom leave and Bottom prompts Lance to sell the estate to him as they drive away, Lance nipping at booze hidden in various contrivances within his clothes as he listens to bottom’s proposal.
The boys then arrive and are introduced to Mr. Friar’s daughter, Mary (Myra DeGroot), who explains the will’s details to them and they try to get Davy to forget it and leave the estate to the villagers. Mary explains they don’t have the money to purchase it.
The boys then decide, since they are in England, to hold a Ye Olde Fair and have Davy challenge Bottom to three contests and the winner gets the estate. When Davy is told of their kooky medieval plan, he collapses dead away.
At the Fair, Mr. Friar bets Lance on the contest’s outcome and he agrees. As the joust is about to start, Bottom, who is the opponent grabs two lances and gives Davy, who is dressed in a knight’s outfit, a choice of weapons for the jousting match and Davy chooses Lance Kibee! As Bottom starts poking Lance with the lances, Lance angrily tells him to stop or lose his commission if he’s killed. Davy wins this one.
Fencing is next, and in this skit, Davy wears shorts with a robe and gloves and loses the match, thereby prompting intense booing from a angry crowd. The last challenge is with a mace and chain and before it begins a very elderly guy, who is the butler’s father, intervenes and says the choice of the last contest should be decided by the villagers. The crowd intelligently chooses a singing contest.
The song classic English folk song “Greensleeves” was chosen and Bottom, of course, is bad and Davy’s version is beautiful. He wins! The crowd roars! But they only raised £10,000 and are short £40,000. It looks like Bottom will win after all. Mr. Friar and the butler counsel Davy to return to America as it looks doomed.
But, out of left field comes Mary Friar who starts berating Lance Kibee and rather than back down, Lance professes his desire for Mary and proposes marriage. They kiss and Lance announces he is canceling the sale and the villagers cheer. Bottom faints as all his plans have collapsed.
The guys return home and Mike Nesmith begins to speak to the viewers when Peter Tork appears and wishes them a belated Christmas (this episode was filmed before Christmas 1967 but broadcast in February 1968) and then they transition to a decent video performance of “Star Collector” with Davy singing lead the tune written by the legendary team of Carole King and Gerry Goffin.
Directed by Tork, it is vividly apparent this first episode directed by a Monkee, was not one of the show’s best. The script was weak and the main plot point including the conditions of the will was complicated enough it had to be repeated several times so the viewers could keep it straight.
It is also singularly a Davy Jones episode and the rest of the group contributed little. I saw a distinct lack of enthusiasm from them and the guest stars as if they were just walking it through. Except for Jack Good who played a good, albeit, hammy Lance.
I dislike writing negative reviews of this show, especially since I admire their guts in handling the Monkeemania phenomena as well as they did. But this episode has to rank as a miss of large proportions. Tork reportedly said that this script was one of the best that wasn’t from the first season, and I find that incomprehensible if true.
There were no romps or romances in this one. No empathy for anyone. The funniest piece was the customs guy in England admitting he was the property man for the show and doing his best Dean Martin imitation.
Still, this episode garnered a large share of the nation’s viewing audience at the time of its airing, evidence of the huge popularity the Monkees commanded and the reason we are still celebrating them to this day.