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Dark, Unseen Original Monkees Pilot
I'll just assume you know who and what The Monkees were and let's skip the gratuitous synopsis
In 1966, a low budget pilot episode for The Monkees was shot for NBC in San Diego and Los Angeles; money was so tight, in many scenes the band wore their own clothes. Here's that unaired pilot in full - notice the much slower-paced theme song, sung here by songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart (Boyce & Hart) as is the musical interlude.
Note the beachfront apartment set is very different, more open than what they went with on the series and Micky Dolenz is listed in the end credits as Micky Braddock.
Here Come The Monkees (Original Unaired 16mm Full Pilot Episode)
Audience test scores for the first pilot were unimpressive so filmmakers Bob Rafelson (co-producer of the show with Bert Schneider) re-edited the half hour to include some of the actors' screen tests to better introduce the band members to a TV audience. The re-imagined pilot tested so well NBC placed an order for 2 seasons, very unusual in the sixties for an unproven concept.
For the most part the network liked what they saw but wanted the series to be more punchy, more colorful, like the Batman TV show that had unexpectedly shot to number one on ABC earlier that year. The re-edited pilot was broadcast November 14, 1966, as the 10th episode of the first season.
When asked if he knew The Monkees was going to be a television and Top 40 hit, “No, no way,” Micky Dolenz says. “If there was a formula, there would never be a flop. You don’t know. You have no way of knowing. You do your best, obviously. You work hard and surround yourself with talented people, and you hope they’re also working hard, doing their job.
"I was blessed to be part of it," Dolenz continued. "The Monkees was not just the four of us. It was songwriters [an all star lineup of Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Neil Sedaka, Neil Diamond]. It was producers. It was musicians. The directors. The writers. And everybody in between. That’s the case with really any project. No one is out there just totally on your own. You’re always surrounded by other people."
The Monkees ran for two seasons, a total of 58 episodes, on Monday nights leading into I Dream of Jeannie beginning in September of 1966.
The Monkees (Episode 1) "Royal Flush"
The Monkeemobile seen in the credits, designed and built by designer Dean Jeffries, was a modified Pontiac GTO - the GTO emblem can be seen on the front grille. At the end of the episode there is a 1 minute interview with the cast, this was done whenever the show ran short that week.
In a newly uncovered 2007 interview for Rolling Stone, Peter Tork said about The Monkees, "All credit has to go to the producers: It really was Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson’s show. One of the ways that these guys expressed their brilliance was by picking me. And they produced this fabulously successful event, which we’re talking about 40-odd years later. So this is not nothing; this is certainly something.
"As to whether the Monkees could play their own instruments, the usual joke is that no, we all played borrowed instruments, and we went out on the road and played our own hits, and it was kind of funny. That’s almost exactly what the Byrds and the Beach Boys did, and the Byrds, after all, were playing other people’s songs with other musicians in the studio. McGuinn played on their own cuts, I gather, because he knew how to get that 12-string."
The Monkees TV program won two Emmy Awards in 1967: Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy, beating out The Andy Griffith Show, Bewitched, Get Smart, and Hogan's Heroes. That was stiff competition!
Had the series been renewed for a third season, The Monkees had planned on making the show more of a musical-variety program or a sketch comedy series. (Considering Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In rocketed to number 1 when it debuted in January of 1968 that would have been a solid idea.) NBC blamed the lackluster performance of the second season on the lack of a laugh track, which producers never liked from the start and used more sparingly as the first season went on.
Reruns of The Monkees had a long run on Saturday mornings in the 1970s. 20 years after debuting on NBC, The Monkees enjoyed a revival when MTV aired a Monkees Marathon over the course of an entire day in 1986.
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