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 Wild Monkees” (Season 2, Episode 10)
Air date: November 13, 1967
Anytime you combine biker gangs, beautiful babes, and our favorite pre-fab four, you’re going to get a wild and raucous episode of The Monkees. Revisiting this one was a real treat. Not only is it a deft parody of the 1954 Marlon Brando motorcycle movie The Wild One, it’s also an oh-so-very Sixties statement on the nature of gender and masculinity.
The swingin’ scene opens with the boys arriving at the Henry Cabot Lodge and Cemetary (misspelling intentional; the name is a play on the old-timey Republican politician of the same name, a reference that was already old 50 years ago!) to play a gig for the octogenarian denizens.
Things are not as they seem, however, and the establishment’s owner forces our boys to get jobs as gardeners (Peter), bellhops (Micky), waiters (Davy), and wandering lute-playing singers (Mike, in his first appearance in the show without his hat! Character development!). Just when you think this is going to be a typical Monkees-do-jobs-they’re-clearly-not-qualified-to-do episode, our expectations are subverted when a gang of leather-clad biker babes (at first disguised as biker-brutes) enter the hotel and demand to be taken care of.
The Monkees are understandably smitten. This is one of the rare episodes where each of them gets an individual love interest, and what love interests they are! The hysterical Carol Worthington! Playboy Playmate Christine Williams! Jennifer Gan, who was blond! Another Playboy Playmate Corinne Cole! These girls are all bold, brassy, and badass. When the Monkees try to woo these girls, they accuse our favorite boys of being sissies: They’re just too soft.
Although I’m not a huge fan of the word “sissy,” and its ugly connotations, I do like the issues that this plot point brings up in “The Wild Monkees.” The Monkees’ characters as a whole are artistic and gently counterculture. I always felt like the show was intentionally trying to bring a positive and constructive dialogue about the anti-war hippie movement to its target tween audience. This episode is interesting in the way that the Monkees have to adhere to more societally acceptable forms of masculinity to impress these girls, and the results do not sit well on their lanky frames.
All of the boys end up dressing in head-to-toe Tom of Finland-style biker leather, and the results (though rather durned sexay from my perspective) don’t sit well on them. They’re just too Haight-Ashbury in their hearts to be convincingly Harley Davidson.
This is especially put in contrast when the girls’ actual biker boyfriends show up, who are real nightmare Road Warrior-types. This, of course, leads to the age-old theme of a race (hello, last week’s Riverdale — it’s literally 50 years ago calling!) and romps ensue. Of note: Micky, Davy, and Mike all did their own motorcycle stunts. Guess their off-camera personas were a little more butch than what we saw onscreen.
All-in-all, the comedic beats and airy premise of this episode play well, even how many years later. The boys look great in their bellhop and waiter outfits, and they have a running gag doing chicken noises that I particularly dig. Their chemistry with their female costars is palpable, as is their fear with their ghoulish biker-gang costars.
Also of note is the music. For starters, this is the first usage of the Goffin-King written “Star Collector,” which would end up being used in a whopping five other Monkees episodes. In some ways, this song is a gentle chiding of the massive fandom surrounding the band at the time but done with a great deal of affection. It’s a super-fun score for this motorcycle-fueled romp.
The episode cold-opens with a wonderful psychedelic rendition of Micky’s jazz-fueled live concert favorite, “Goin’ Down.” Featuring a cavalcade of multicolored, optically printed Micky Dolenzes all in tandem with each other dancing in wild abandon, this is one of the great and iconic Monkee Sixties moments. It’s also the only time in the show’s history in which a musical number opens an episode.
“The Wild Monkees” is definitely another episode of the series to celebrate. Although not one of its very best, it’s a season two offering that sits very nicely into The Monkees‘ distinctly comedic and musical vibe. And, like many of the best episodes, it delves into some sociological elements that you wouldn’t expect on a series primarily meant for the teeny-bopper set.
Getting to see all four Monkees dressed head to toe in leather did give me a bit of a giggly personal thrill. After you watch (or rewatch) “The Wild Monkees,” I hope that the next time you see someone cruising by on a motorcycle that you give them another take. Underneath the black leather jacket could be a bodacious babe… or even a Monkee.