Fifty years ago today, September 12, 1966, The Monkees hit the TV airwaves for the first time.
Developed by Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, the series was inspired by the Beatles’ film A Hard Day’s Night. By April of 1965, a pilot script had been written by Paul Mazursky, who would go on to write and direct Academy Award nominated films Harry & Tonto and An Unmarried Woman, and Larry Tucker, who co-wrote and was nominated for an Oscar for Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, and casting began.
Ads were placed in industry papers looking for “folk & rock musicians-singers for acting roles in a new TV series” and described the characters as “4 insane boys”. Out of 400 auditions, the producers settled on Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith. They were taught improvisational comedy and Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart were brought in to develop their sound.
The Monkees debuted on September 12, 1966 with the episode Royal Flush (the original pilot was held for the tenth week) and was directed by James Frawley and written by Robert Schlitt and Peter Meyerson. As with every other episode in the series, the show included music, in this case This Just Doesn’t Seem to Be My Day and Take a Giant Step.
The first season was a hit and The Monkees went on to win the Emmy for Best Comedy Series over The Andy Griffith Show, Bewitched, Get Smart and Hogan’s Heroes; however, NBC executives grew tired of the series as did the four actors and the series was cancelled after two seasons and 58 episodes.
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