Rosanne Welch, PhD, Author of Why The Monkees Matter, presents “How The Monkees Changed Television” at a Cal State Fullerton Lunch Lecture on May 8, 2018.
In this talk, she shows how The Monkees, and specifically their presence on television, set the stage for large changes to come in the late 1960s.
In this metatextuality world, they weren’t — The Monkees weren’t the first ones to do it. We can go back to George Burns and Jack Benny and they talked directly to the screen. George would be having a problem with Gracie then he would walk into his study and look right at you and say “Well, what’s Gracie gotten us into now?” So talking to the audience — breaking the fourth wall — it’s been done before, but no one was doing it right there in the 60’s so I think it’s interesting that our guys jumped in and did that. And you see that in a lot of ways. They would write on the screen, so in the Pilot, you have dancing and then ‘Typical Teenager? No, friends of the producer.” So there were often those kinds of inside jokes so they’re talking to the audience. They’re letting you in on the joke which made a younger audience, a hipper audience think “Wow. We’re part of this things. That’s really exciting.” Now we also have the fact that they were on NBC and in one of the episodes they were running through town and they were at NBC. It’s a little knock knock cute.
A hit television show about a fictitious rock band, The Monkees (1966-1968) earned two Emmys–Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Directorial Acheivement in Comedy.
Capitalizing on the show’s success, the actual band formed by the actors, at their peak, sold more albums than The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined, and set the stage for other musical TV characters from The Partridge Family to Hannah Montana. In the late 1980s, the Monkees began a series of reunion tours that continued into their 50th anniversary.
This book tells the story of The Monkees and how the show changed television, introducing a new generation to the fourth-wall-breaking slapstick created by Laurel and Hardy and the Marx Brothers.
Its creators contributed to the innovative film and television of 1970s with projects like Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Laugh-In and Welcome Back, Kotter. Immense profits from the show, its music and its merchandising funded the producers’ move into films such as Head, Easy Riderand Five Easy Pieces.
Want to use “Why The Monkees Matter” in your classroom?