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 Watch Their Feet (aka Micky and the Outer Space Creatures) ” (Season 2, Episode 17)
“The Monkees Watch Their Feet (aka Micky and the Outer Space Creatures)” is flat-out one of the best of the series. It also represents a distinct break from the typical Monkees format. When the minds behind the show gave our four Monkees more of a challenge, it often resulted in innovative results.
The best thing about “Monkees Watch Their Feet” is that each cast member is utilized to the full extent of their comedic abilities. My only big complaint is that the always solidly funny Mike Nesmith is only in the opening and closing of the episode. However, he’s still pretty hysterical playing off of the main narrator, the Smothers Brothers star Pat Paulsen.
The whole thing is a send-up of flying saucer flicks: a film genre that was getting long in the tooth into 1968. Although I can’t find any evidence of it, I have a strong suspicion that stalwart Monkees teleplay writer Coslough Johnson (also known for era variety and comedy shows such as Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In and The Sonny and Cher Show) had seen 1959’s Plan 9 From Outer Space.
There are several similarities between this Monkees outing and Ed Wood’s eternally awful sci-fi film, including the use of a stodgy narrator (here Pat Paulsen, similar to Plan 9‘s Cristwell) and aliens who are inexplicably wearing medieval-style tunics. (Maybe left over from last week’s “Monkees Fairy Tale”?)
Johnson also throws in some fun in-jokes for hardcore sci-fi aficionados at the time, like weird evil alien Micky murmuring “Klatauu Barada Nikto” and invoking Robbie the Robot’s clicking and clacking noises while he’s having an alien spell.
What differentiates “Monkees Watch Their Feet” from more wooden sci-fi fare is the fact that it’s a pretty astute and thorough parody of its source material and is as gently antiestablishment as anything else that was coming from the Monkees camp at the time.
We open on a cautionary monologue from Pat Paulsen and then cut to the Monkees getting ready for a gig. Micky’s clothing starts mysteriously flickering on and off. Although this is a fairly typical Monkees gag, the more racy undertones are certainly hinted at here and set the tone for the rest of the episode.
When Micky traces his clothing to the beach, he is beamed onto a flying saucer, where he is cloned by blue-skinned Captain and his assistant (the delightfully hammy Stuart Margolin and Nina Talbot). Micky’s evil double is then unleashed upon Monkeedom.
There’s only one flaw to the aliens’ plans: evil Micky’s feet are on backward! I’ve already written about Micky Dolenz’s deft ability to commit to a double role, and he surely does again here, this time with the acting challenge of… er, having his feet on backward.
All of these absurd hijinks are punctuated by freeze frames and interjections from the wonderfully dry Pat Paulsen, who functions as the glue for the episode. This episode hits on a good time for the Monkees themselves in their story.
The day before filming commenced for “The Monkees Mind Their Feet,” the Monkees’ third album, the masterpiece Headquarters had been released. The boys must have been feeling pretty good about themselves while they were shooting this one: They are on-point here. All jokes and gags land well, something that cannot be said for every entry in this uneven series.
The episode wraps itself up with one of the more manic and sloppy romps of the series, with the three Monkees (sans Nez, of course) causing havoc within the small confines of the aliens’ spaceship. All this is scored to the appropriately frenetic Goffin/King-penned “Star Collector.”
Finally, with the aliens defeated through the power of a good Monkees romp, we are left with a final warning about the impending threat of backward feet and aliens from Pat Paulsen. He awkwardly urges us to “stop bayonetting each other and instead bayonet SPACE!” while swatting at a fly and having a hard time putting on his glasses. The military industrial complex has never been so absurdly skewered, folks.
Despite the lack of the indispensable Mike Nesmith, “Monkees Watch Their Feet” is definitely a winner, even 50 years after it aired. As a fan of old sci-fi, it works as a deft parody. As an exercise in pure absurdism, it works quite well, also. Just make sure you’re putting your shoes on the right way after watching this one!