Sunday, January 17, 2016

50 Years Ago Today NBC Picked Up The Monkees

It was fifty years ago today that the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) picked up the TV show The Monkees. The show was the creation of Bob Rafelson. Mr. Rafelson drew upon his own experience having played in a jazz a band to conceive a show about a group of young musicians more concerned with having fun than furthering their career. Unfortunately he would not find anyone interested in the project until after The Beatles had arrived on American shores and their film A Hard Day's Night (1964) had met with great success. It was in April 1965 that Mr. Rafelson sold the idea for the series to Screen Gems, the television arm of Columbia Pictures.

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.


1 comment:

Steve Bailey said...

The strangest fact of all (which I'm sure you know) is that Rafelson used his profits from "The Monkees" to finance the industry-shaking movie EASY RIDER.