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: “Monkees on the Wheel” (Season 2, Episode 14)
Away from their comfy beach house, the Monkees are in Las Vegas to play a gig!
The announcer introduces us to the “Pleasure Capital of the World, where each man seeks the things he loves most” and to a hideaway on the other side of town, where the Boss (David Astor, who provides the voiceover) and “Biggy” (Pepper Davis, who will be seen as “Manny” in the upcoming TV show Vegas) are going over their caper – the Wheel will be automatically fixed to land on 16 Red for 15 minutes starting at eight o’clock.
Meanwhile, Micky is trying to impress a pretty blonde, Zelda at the slot machine, but after he runs out of money, she tells him to buzz off and walks away. When he hits a jackpot at said slot machine, she returns to him, exclaiming he has “magic fingers!” Sound familiar? Think Mike in “Papa Gene’s Blues,” announcing, “Play, Magic Fingers!”
You might remember Zelda – played by Joy Harmon – as the bank teller in “The Picture Frame.”
Written by Coslough Johnson and directed by Jerry Shepard, this episode provides Micky with several opportunities to display his dry wit. When Mike and Micky walk by the roulette wheel, Micky inadvertently places his winnings on – you guessed it – 16 Red! The casino manager running the wheel announces that Micky wins.
The manager is played by Rip Taylor, and we will see him again in the upcoming infamous episode known as “The Frodis Caper” and the children’s program Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. It’s worth watching this episode to see his reactions and cutaways – he is falling apart at Micky’s constant winnings because he might break the bank.
The Boss and Biggy, of course, are not happy. Micky wins again, crediting his “magic fingers!” Peter advises Micky not to quit while he’s ahead, and he wins again! After the manager announces that Micky has, in fact, broken the bank, the band brings the money to their room, and the crooks try to come up with a way to get the money.
Biggy arrives at the boys’ room dressed as a maintenance man complete with vacuum, while “Della” arrives dressed as a sexy maid to distract the boys so Biggy can dispose of the money into his vacuum.
Back at the roulette wheel, the manager finds a wire and frets to the police that the wheel has been rigged and that he is ruined. They approach the boys, convince them to sign a confession, and arrest them. Gasp!
The boys convince the cops they can come up with a plan to get the money back and have the actual crooks arrested. Dressed as a gang, they approach “The Boss” who joins Micky in a James Cagney face-off. Micky convinces him that “The Professor” (Peter) has a guaranteed way to beat the roulette table.
Peter tells him that it’s based on the Equalization Ratio and demonstrates his method by giving them drinks until they pass out. The Boss wakes up and decides to follow the boys to the roulette wheel.
At the wheel, Peter informs everyone that the next number is 24 Red. They win, which is not according to plan. Peter then instructs him to play 212 Green, and since there isn’t any 212 Green, they can’t win. But of course, the ball lands on 212 Green forcing the manager to start falling apart again. The crooks are thrilled, but not the Monkees or the cops.
When Zelda arrives and identifies Micky as “Magic Fingers,” the Boss realizes they are trying to “steal the money we stole from them that they stole from us!” After he exclaims, “Get them!” the Monkee romp ensues coupled with “The Door Into Summer,” written by Chip Douglas and Bill Martin and making its TV series debut here. It is a favorite from Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, & Jones, Ltd.
Although it’s not clear, one can assume the money is restored to the proper owners — in this case, the casino/
After commercial break, Mike addresses the audience that this is the part of the program known in the television industry as a “tag,” specifically the “here we go again” tag with Davy and Peter demonstrating and flash cuts of Micky. Mike’s sarcastic, “Isn’t that funny kids?” is only a painful reminder of how he and his bandmates truly feel about the show at this point.
The episode concludes with an alternate video of “Cuddly Toy,” written by Harry Nilsson and also from Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, & Jones, Ltd., that showcases the Monkees’ vaudevillian talents.
Viva Las Vegas!