Sunday, 12 September 2004

The Cold, the Fair, and The Monkees

Well, I spent most of last week with a severe cold. On Wednesday alone I went through one box of Kleenex. I even took a sick day off, which I almost never do unless I have the stomach flu or something similar. Anyhow, I am feeling much better now.

The 116th Old Settlers Reunion and Fall Fair ended last night. I was a bit disappointed with the turnout Thursday and Friday, but Saturday evening it seemed things picked up. There were a larger than normal crowd there for the parade. And the parade was larger and longer than usual. It seems to me that the past few years, the parades have been over in a little under 10 minutes. This one seemed as if it went on for the better part of an hour. Anyhow, that gives me hope. Maybe the Old Settlers Reunion and Fall Fair won't cease to be.

It was on this date 38 years ago that The Monkees debuted on NBC. It has been my favourite sitcom since childhood. I don't really know if I ever got to see any of the episodes in its first run on NBC, although I know I watched it regularly when it was rerun on Saturday afternoons on CBS and later ABC, starting in 1969. It was a show that would naturally appeal to a boy of six. Following the sometimes far fetched adventures of a struggling rock band, The Monkees played like a live action cartoon. The jokes, sight gags, and non sequiturs all came so swiftly that it was hard to catch them all. And as a child, there were many jokes that went over my head. Regardless, as a child I realised something that repeated vieweings as an adult would confirm--The Monkees was a work of brilliance.

Unfortunately, I don't either the TV show The Monkees or the rock group The Monkees ever got the respect they deserved. When it debuted, The Monkees received good reviews for the most part. The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences liked the show as well. In its first season The Monkees won the Emmy Award for Best Comedy Series and the Emmy Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy for the episode "Royal Flush." For its second season it won no Emmys, although it was nominated for Outstanding Directorial Achievement In A Comedy Series for the episode "The Devil and Peter Tork." Despite this, The Monkees performed very poorly in the Nielsen ratings. For its first season it averaged only a 31.4 share. Its second season was even worse--it averaged only a 27.2 share. Despite the show's popularity with much of the youth of America, its ratings doomed it to an all too brief, two year run.

As recording artists, The Monkees performed much better. No less than three of their singles went #1 ("Last Train to Clarksville," "I'm a Believer," and "Daydream Believer") amd three more went top ten. In all, The Monkees had six singles go gold (in addition to the aforementioned songs, "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You," "Pleasant Valley Sunday," and "Valleri"). Their first four albums went to #1 on the charts and their first five albums went gold. Despite the impressive sales of The Monkees, rock critics to this day despise The Monkees as a group hired for a sitcom rather than coming together by happenstance as most groups do. From my standpoint, these critics ignore the fact that The Monkees' music was every bit as listenable and sophisticated as that of many other groups of their time. And it ignores the fact that The Monkees music grew more sophisticated as the show and the band progressed, particularly after The Monkees took control of their own musical career. Indeed, The Monkees were the frist group to use a Moog synsthesizer on a pop record (the songs "Star Collector" and "Daily Nightly").

As far as I am concerned, The Monkees ranks as one of the greatest sitcoms of all time. It was fast paced, imaginative, and innovative. I believe there have been only a few sitcoms before or since which matched The Monkees for sheer inventiveness. And as far as I am concerned, The Monkees were one of the best groups of the Sixties. They were capable of producing listenable pop songs and more sophisticated fare, such as "Daily, Nightly," a song Nesmith wrote about the Sunset Strip Riots of 1966). It is hard for me to understand why neither the show nor the band have ever quite gotten the respect they deserve. At the very least, I think they will be remembered. After all, for every critic they have, there are probably millions of more fans like me.

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