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 Race Again” aka “Leave the Driving to Us” (Season 2, Episode 21)
Air date: February 12, 1968
In this episode, (which is also known as “Leave the Driving to Us,” a shout-out to the Greyhound Bus jingle) the Monkees are working on the Monkeemobile when their phone rings – in the engine, of course, and is answered by Peter who hands it to Davy who learns his grandfather’s friend, T.N. Crumpets, needs their help with an upcoming auto race.
Davy, Mike, and Peter meet T.N. Crumpets (William Glover) at his garage, and he explains that someone is sabotaging his vehicle. “Yes, but are you having trouble with your car?” asks Peter. The racing car is #54, a reference to the early ’60s sitcom Car 54, Where Are You? Micky finally arrives but doesn’t explain why he’s so late.
Meanwhile, we visit the garage of Baron Von Klutz, “Maker of the Klutzmobile.” Von Klutz and his cohort Wolfgang are portraying German stereotypes complete with over-the-top accents. They are played by German actor David Hurst (The Baron) and comic legend Stubby Kaye (Wolfgang). Hurst later made appearance in an episode of Star Trek, and Kaye is probably best known for playing Nicely Nicely Johnson in the 1955 musical Guys And Dolls.
After they unsuccessfully work on their own car (“The car shtinks!” exclaims Wolfgang) the Baron spies through his periscope the boys working on Crumpets’s car. When Von Klutz suggests that Wolfgang takes a look for himself he says that he can’t because he is standing on his foot – a running gag for the first half of the episode. Von Klutz declares that they must think of a plan!
Back at the garage, the Monkees (looking bored) continue to work on the car when Von Klutz and Wolfgang pay them a visit. “So Crumpets,” announces the Baron, “I see you’re having some trouble with your car!” To which Crumpets retorts, “I see you’re having some trouble with your accent!”
After they leave, Micky whacks the car with his hand, getting the engine to run smoothly, and Crumpets decides they celebrate with tea. Meanwhile, Von Klutz suggests they kidnap Crumpets and the Musical Mechanic, Micky. Crumpets’s butler Carruthers (Maurice Dallimore) sprays the area with London Mist, and Von Klutz appears spraying the garage with knockout gas. After Monkees and crew pass out, Crumpets and Micky are kidnapped.
When they come to, Von Klutz explains that if he wins the race, the name “Klutzmobile” will be on the lips of every car buyer in the stadium! Von Klutz threatens to gag Crumpets who says to the camera “There’s enough gags in this show already!” When the Baron threatens physical torture to Micky, he unwillingly agrees to work on the Klutzmobile.
When the Monkees et al come to, they visit the Baron’s garage in search of their friends. Unsuccessful in finding them, they leave, and we learn Micky and Crumpets are being stashed in piles of tires. The Baron decides they will keep the hostages while they are still useful. After the race, they can be disposed of!
Sounds like a time for a commercial break to me!
The Monkees have finished fixing Crumpet’s racing car, and Davy takes it upon himself to be the driver for the big race since he is a British subject.
Klutz blames Micky for ruining his car and then discovers through his periscope Davy and his friends on their way to the race.
Wolfgang comes up with a plan to divert them by making an announcement that they must report to the viewing stand immediately. Mike and Peter fall for the fake announcement and as soon as they leave the garage Klutz and Wolfgang arrive and steal their car, take its engine, and places it into the Klutzmobile! Mike and Peter return to the garage and discover the car is missing!
The racing official informs the Monkees they can’t enter the race if they don’t have a car, so Davy – to the rescue again -volunteers the Monkeemobile! If the official looks familiar, it is because you saw Don Kennedy as a policeman in the episode “Monkees A La Carte.” Watch the Monkeemobile carefully as this is its final appearance in the series.
At the racetrack, Davy arrives alongside Klutz who informs him that the other contestants have all been sabotaged. Mike and Peter go back and look for Micky and Crumpet. They arrive just as Wolfgang is about to shoot them.
The race is on! Originally Davy and the Baron were to make stops during the race for tea, girls, relay races, and contests, but this idea was abandoned.
Instead of a Monkees song, the race includes music composed by Stu Phillip, which appeared again in the 1970 movie The Rebel Rousers.
Despite Klutz’s sabotage attempts, Davy wins the race, and the world is free of the Klutzmobile!
After commercial break, we are treated to “What Am I Doing Hangin’ Round” and a traditional Monkee romp, featuring a rare cameo by producer Robert Rafelson, complete with caption “The World’s Oldest Flower Child.” This wasn’t his first appearance in the show though, Rafelson previously popped up in the episode “The Monkees On Tour.”
The Nesmith-sung song “Hangin’ Round” was written under the pseudonyms Travis Lewis and Boomer Clark, whose real names are Michael Martin Murphey (a friend of Mike Nesmith’s) and Owen Castleman. The song was produced by Chip Douglas who also provided bass and some backing vocals. Douglas, of couse, is the man behind some of the Monkees’ biggest hits such as “Daydream Believer,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” as well as their albums Headquarters and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.
Dave Evan, Elias Davis, and David Pollock co-wrote the script, and Davis and Pollock later reunited between 1978 and 1983 to write several episodes for M*A*S*H.
Production was something of celebration for Jones as it began just 72 hours after his wedding to Linda Haines. It also aired one day prior to Peter Tork’s Birthday.
Jim Frawley directed almost half of all Monkees episodes – 32 in all – but this was his final ever one; he later went on to have a hugely successful career in television working on shows such as Law & Order and Judging Amy and, maybe best of all, directed The Muppet Movie in 1979.
This episode is also notable in another way: it the last full Monkees episode to be produced. Despite this, there’s nothing sad about the episode, in fact days after the original TV airing of “The Monkees Race Again,” principal production of the Monkees’ first ever feature film HEAD began!