U.S. Musical Situation Comedy

The Monkees, a situation comedy about a struggling rock-and-roll band of the same name, originally aired on NBC from 1966 to 1968. During its 58 episode run, the program was awarded an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Program in 1967. The show's popularity continued and it was broadcast in re-runs on CBS from 1969-73 and cablecast on MTV in the 1980s.

Inspired by the success of the two Beatles films directed by Richard Lester, the show was aimed at 1960s American youth culture. Considerable controversy surrounded the show because the band, four young men who "portrayed themselves," was "manufactured" by Raybert Productions. In 1965 an advertisement appeared in Daily Variety, a major U.S. trade publication for the film and television industry, requesting responses from "4 insane boys aged 17-21." More than 400 individuals replied.

Though Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork, two of the young men selected for the program, had some previous musical experience, the other two, Davy Jones and Mickey Dolenz, had none. Several recordings, closely tied to the series, were released and became commercial successes, but it also became widely known that the actors did not play their own musical instruments--on the recordings or in the series. This controversy rising from this "revelation" was further exacerbated when the actors embarked on a concert tour. Despite these issues, The Monkees became teen idols, sold millions of records, and were heavily merchandised.

The show was innovative in both form and content, violating the conventions of realist television. Episodes were characterized by self-reflexive techniques such as distorted focus, direct address of the camera, the incorporation of out-takes and screen tests, fast and slow motion effects, and continuity errors. In all, however, the television version of "psychedelic" cinema was tamed for the domestic medium, and the boys generally engaged in wholesome, if quirky, fun.

"Monkee Mania" experienced a renewal in the 1980s when the program was re-run on MTV. The popularity of the show with contemporary youth audiences led to re-issue of recordings, fan conventions, and a concert tour by three of the original members.

-Frances K. Gateward


The Monkees

CAST (as themselves)

Davy Jones
Mike Nesmith
Peter Tork
Mickey Dolenz

PRODUCERS Robert Rafelson, Ward Sylvester


September 1966-August 1968              Monday 7:30-8:00


See also Music on Television