Worst to Best
The Monkees
Season One

This month marks the 52nd anniversary of The Monkees TV show, a programme based around a fictional band that ended up becoming a real one.


Back in 2016, an an article ranking the second season was published on the site to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the series. Here a look at the entire show is completed with a ranking of season one, along with a discussion of a new Monkees autobiography published in the interim: Mike Nesmith's Infinite Tuesday.

32 Son of a Gypsy

The Monkees isn't exactly known for its complex, labyrinthine plots, but even by the usual "loose romp" standards of the show, this is a weak instalment. The Monkees cross a group of gypsies by being chosen to play at a ball instead of them, and the gypsies - all a family of a violent thieves - want their revenge. Peter is taken hostage (an occurrence so frequent that it happens again just the following episode) and they're forced to steal for the gypsies.
     The harsh stereotypes never amount to offensive, or "funny because they're so offensive"... they're just dull, in one of the weakest episodes of the series. While the first season lacks the free-falling, Devil-may-care attitude of the second, it is more professionally made, and, for what it is - a cartoonesque show there to appeal to under 12s - it works. Out of the 32 episodes present, only maybe one or two are genuinely below par, even if nearly all of them fit under the category of "not as funny as you remember them".
     A top ten of Monkees episodes would be almost exclusively composed of season two episodes, but the lesser quality control at work gave the follow-up season half a dozen below-par offerings.
     There are two elements that make this particular episode work... at times Micky seems genuinely amused by Mike, and Peter gets a corny joke that shouldn't work, but does: "[...] it's curtains for you!" "Oh (relieved)... for a minute I thought you were gonna kill me."

Songs: "Let's Dance On," "I'm a Believer"

31 Monkees On
The Line

Monkees on the Line is a reminder that different things were regarded as acceptable to laugh at in years gone by. After the group get a job at a telephone switchboard, Mike gets a call from a girl who wants to commit suicide. It's like a reworking of the 1965 Sidney Poitier movie The Slender Thread... only we're supposed to laugh along with someone wanting to end it all, the canned laughter having a riot.
     What makes things even worse is that it's the worst of the series' playing, with cartoonesque, "full bore" acting, and day-glo antics. There's another plot with some gangsters, a romp featuring a giant telephone (pictured), and finally the realisation that the potential suicide victim was really just an actress practising for a play. It's all very broad, OTT stuff, even by the lowest standards of the series, and it can be a little wearying.

Song: "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)"

30 The Case Of The
Missing Monkee

With a special ray that can erase a man's memory, this is one of just five first season episodes that could be described as being in the SF/fantasy genre. While The Monkees doesn't really fit into this site's cult/SF remit (though considerably more than the likes of Orange is the New Black), there are around 14 episodes throughout the entire two seasons that could fit into the core material of this site, including alien invasions and visitations to Hell.
     The Case of the Missing Monkee isn't a bad episode, just one of the more forgettable instalments, hence its low ranking here. Those who look for some form of continuity in a silly comedy series may be disappointed to see Davy breaking the fourth wall to say he doesn't like Chinese restaurants... despite clearly loving them in Monkee Chow Mein.

Song: "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone"

29 The Spy Who
Came In From
The Cool

The first instance of one of the Monkees unwittingly being handed a secret document from a spy ring, and then getting pursued as a result. It's a slightly trite, basic plot, the kind of set-up there solely to amuse 9-year-olds, and it wasn't the last time it was used: writers Gerald Gardner and Dee Caruso virtually rehashed the exact same plot for Monkee Chow Mein, and Treva Silverman crafted yet another "missing microfilm" tale for season two's weak The Card Carrying Red Shoes. Some of the better jokes here involve Davy conjuring a genie and observing that it's the "wrong show" (I Dream Of Jeannie followed in the schedules), but largely this is flaccid stuff.

Songs: "The Kind of Girl I Could Love," "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone," "All the King's Horses," "Saturday's Child" (album version)

28 Your Friendly

The Monkees fall foul of a crooked manager known as Trump(!), who wants to ruin their chances of winning a music competition so his own band, the Four Swines, can win. Filmed from July 25-29, 1966, the episode features a joke title whereby a gangster with fists raised is compared to "Cassius Clay"... despite the fact that Clay had changed his name to Muhammad Ali over two years earlier. Four months after the episode aired, Ali had his infamous "what's my name?" moment... all of which might seem trivia, but does illustrate how "safe" the series really was at this point, any attempts to be against "the establishment" purely superficial. (Ironically enough, Sonny Liston, the first man to fight Clay after the name change, appeared as himself in the superb Monkees film HEAD).

Songs: "Let’s Dance On," "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone," "Last Train to Clarksville"

27 Monkee See,
Monkee Die

Generic, very bog standard kid's stuff, reminiscent of The Laurel-Hardy Murder Case, or, less creditably, an episode of Filmation's original Ghostbusters. Featuring the group in a "haunted house", it's very "trad" TV, though may have worked okay as a first episode to introduce the series. Filmed seventh in production order from June 20-24th, this is the series very much pitched to its pre-teens core audience. Surprisingly, given the low target area, there's one corny joke that's absent: despite much musing over sending a message via pigeon, none of the group decide to verbally pass the message on to the unfortunate bird.

Songs: "Last Train to Clarksville," "Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day"

26 Monkees á la Mode

A fairly toothless satire on fashion and print media, whereby the morally murky world of journalism gets mocked by a TV series featuring in-story plugs for Kellogg's Cornflakes. Valerie Kairys gets her only credited role in the series, giving a fairly flat and uninspiring turn as the reporter with integrity, but she appeared in another fourteen roles throughout the series and the movie, playing various uncredited roles such as "party guest" and "Girl with check skirt".

Songs: "(Theme from) The Monkees", "Laugh," "You Just May Be the One" (original version)

25 The Prince and
the Paupers

One of the Monkees getting a doppleganger isn't unique to the series - it happens again only four episodes later - but this is diverting enough stuff. A rejig of Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper, it contains a little more plot than usual, even if it never really catches fire in the format. While the series can tire by featuring the guest cast giving "big" performances, the slightly more restrained take on villainy by Oscar Beregi Jr. here shows that the more cartoonesque antics need "big" in order to really work.
      The 2007 Channel 4 documentary Making the Monkees gives a suitably bleak and cynical look back at the entire process, with all four members giving interviews (Mike archive footage). While the documentary has some minor factual innacuracies, it paints a picture of the group as just actors in a TV show, with the music almost an accidental afterthought, and offers a sympathetic ear to the case of maligned Music Supervisor Don Kirshner.
     Other revelations include "Sugar Sugar" being planned as the third single for The Monkees before Kirshner was fired (probably Kirshner having a bad memory, given that Sugar Sugar wasn't written until 1969), and Monkees co-creator Bob Rafelson throwing their new manager down three flights of stairs during the production of the movie HEAD.

Song: "Mary, Mary"

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