It was by August 1965 that Paul Mazursky and Larry Tucker finished the script for the pilot of what was tentatively called The Monkeys. It was on September 8 1965 that the famous ad calling for "folk and roll musicians" for "running parts for 4 insane boys" ran in Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. Around 400 young men showed up to audition and fourteen would be called back for screen tests. Davy Jones, who had played the Artful Dodger in Oliver! and had a recording contract with Columbia Pictures, was already in consideration for the show. Ultimately, the other three Monkees would be Mickey Dolenz (former child actor and son of character actor George Dolenz), Mike Nesmith (who had already recorded for Columbia's record label under the name Michael Blessing), and Peter Tork (a folk musician recommended by Stephen Stills).
The pilot was shot on a shoestring budget around San Diego and Los Angeles and was directed by James Frawley. an actor who had guest starred on Gunsmoke, The Outer Limits, and The Bill Dana Show, among other. The Monkees pilot was Mr. Frawley's first director's job. Unfortunately when the pilot was tested before audiences it received some of the lowest scores for any pilot ever. Bob Rafelson then spliced in the screen tests for the four Monkees. For its next audience test The Monkees received much better scores. NBC then picked up the show and placed it on its fall schedule. It debuted on September 12 1966.
In honour of the 50th anniversary of NBC picking up The Monkees, here is the first season opening and close of the show complete with the classic theme song.