Friday, January 18, 2013

Audition Reel, Micky and Peter (Scenes Cut from #10, The Pilot)

Just keep in mind that the pilot was shot almost 6 months before the rest of the show officially began filming on a regular basis. It was essentially the "audition" piece for the networks, to see if they would sign on for a full tv series. 

And it got rejected.  

At least the first time it was shown in front of test audiences, it got the LOWEST ratings ever!  But then Ray & Bert went back and re-edited.  They included Davy's & Mike's screen tests (At the beginning!!  On the DVD and in syndication, these appear at the end).  And they cut the scene in the record shop, where they talk to their "agent".  

The Micky and Peter screen tests were nowhere to be seen on any kind of compilation video or DVD.  Now, through the magic of hyperlinks, you too can watch the full screen tests.  Includes silent profile poses and black & white versions of 2 scenes that resemble ones from the pilot.

There is some great tragedy in the making when we first see Micky talking. "Wasn't that on film?"  His first great vocal performance for the Monkees and they forgot to turn the cameras on!  Ray (or Bert) apparently loves to question out of work actors/musicians about their lack of steady work or pay.  Go for the jugular. Here, Micky laughs it off.  "Box boy at Forest Lawn" (cemetery).  Later, getting into conversation about Barry ("Eve of Destruction") McGuire, he quotes him as not being provocative but wanting people to assess their own beliefs.  And thus ends Micky's political speeches for the next 5 years.

Peter's screen test is almost uncomfortable to watch and almost always leaves me scared that he won't be cast.  There is something vulnerable about him (especially compared to the other guys) that makes you worry that the mean voice off camera will dismiss him.  He walks in with his guitar and uses it as easily as his smile to charm his way through the conversation.  When told to talk sensibly, he recites the alphabet as one word, years before Sesame Street made it pronouncable in a song.  Oddly enough, the two words sound completely different.  (Compare PT at 9:40 and Big Bird at 1:23 seconds in).

He knows he's supposed to be saying lots of cool and clever lines and stumbles a little without a script.      If you've ever seen his live act, you'll know that this piece of his personality hasn't changed a bit.  Once he actually starts talking he says lots of interesting things and even begins pounding on the table self righteously.  And then misses the table.  This kid is funny.  And interesting to watch.

"The Scene in the Pad"
Which here is a plush living room set.  This would be the ONLY time in the entire series where the Monkees would have a matching living room set. It looks as if the scene is being played out in someone's parent's house.

Listen for the great 60's lingo, "She GOT hung up, you didn't hang her up" and "groovy chick".  

There is also the use of the word, "feebleminded", which may or may not be pointing in the direction of a "dummy" character.  Regardless, it didn't make it into the final edit (thankfully).  Even from the perspective of 2013, it seems like a word that might have been used by the older generation of the 60's. Homes for the "Feebleminded" were named and founded at the turn of the century (late 1800's-early 1900's).  People were placed in these institutions for a wide range of diagnoses, or for a lack thereof.  Someone could be deaf or have a brain injury or dyslexia.  By the sixties, they were using much more politically correct words.  Like "Retarded", in the sense of being held back or not fully developed:  "Mentally retarded growth".  

There is a slight undercurrent of bullying in the dynamics of the 4 Boys throughout the show.  Watching the audition scenes with the 4 boys who weren't cast, is a bit like watching a cartoon with the wrong voices dubbed in.  The characters they play are subtle and here we can watch scenes from an alternate universe.  It is actually very common in the casting process to have actors switch roles, to play with chemistry among the others.  Here, it is actually interesting to imagine a time when the 4 Boys would be cast in different roles, or are even in danger of NOT being cast.  

The "Record Shop Scene"
Direct digs at the Beatles (also note the mention in both Micky's and Peter's screen tests).  The setting also brings in an overt opportunity to make fun of commercialism, and the supposed poor sales of their own Monkees records.  Had the series incorporated this as a regular setting, a different slant might have encroached on the series, constraining the material. Every show might have seemed like "I've Got a Little Song Here" or "Find the Monkees", where the situation is rooted in the music business, rather than everyday adventures.  Like Jeannie always returning to her bottle, the show might have been pulled  in this one direction endlessly.

PS Updated 3/2/16
Thanks to Melanie Mitchell, please note the connection to Kurt Russell. How, you may ask? His dad, Bing Russell played the role of the agent. Kurt could've been their little brother!!

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