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.
This is probably the most critical studies interesting thing — their identity construction and of course by that we mean when we look at an actor many people assume they have the traits of their character, right? Tom Selleck is not, in fact, a Vietnam vet right? Magnum P.I. doesn’t exist but we assume they have these traits. This was very difficult for these guys because normally on a TV show you’d be given a character name right? The guys on the Big Bang Theory that’s not your– it’s Johnny Galecki it’s not Leonard, right? So we know that they’re acting they have a fake name on this show. For whatever reason, they chose to use their real names — not them personally but the producers chose to have them use their real names. So right away the audience is lost between who’s Michael Nesmith the man versus Michael Nesmith the actor on the show right? Versus all these other Michael’s that are going to be invented here. What’s really triply interesting is in the very first pilot they gave Micky Dolenz the name he’d used on Circus Boy. That’s his acting name because when he was a child his dad didn’t want people to think that he got the job because who his dad was, so on Circus Boy, it stars Micky Braddock.
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?