Friday, March 1, 2013

#17, Case of the Missing Monkee

Teaser:  "War is war.  Peace is peace.  And Science is Science."  See the full episode here.

This random typical vaudeville setup actually contains a deep tribute to writers of classic tv. Peter  says: "Funny thing happened on the way to the bandstand".  It's a play on the Broadway show (1963) and film (1966) called "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" -Or as Broadway people say it, "Forum".  Written by Stephen SondheimLarry Gelbart, who had also written a bunch of episodes for M*A*S*H* among a ton of other TV shows.  Gelbart worked with Larry Tucker and Paul Mazursky (The "Developed By" credit on each Monkee episode) on Danny Kaye Show.

Mike's joke about Peter, (who takes a lot of looking after, "Not any more than the average aircraft carrier") might be a self referential joke about the General's aircraft that Mike had turned over when he was in the Service?  (See Mike's audition piece.  I'd love to hear the fuller story, especially if it IS true!)

They go to the clinic, and the Evil Guy w/ goatee is there.
Return to restaurant, which has suddenly changed into a Chinese place, Evil Guy w/Goatee is there too (in a Chinese getup, which somehow includes prominent cheekbones).  The room suddenly resembles Chan's "Egg Rolls and Jazz" in Woonsocket, Rhode Island.  It's a place where Shoe Suede Blues (aka SSB) been known to play, basically a bandstand surrounded by Chinese decor.

"One hour after you eat there, you disappear" is a takeoff on the Western "joke", that one hour after eating there, you are hungry again.  Mostly because the belief is that the food is mostly rice, which digests quickly vs the American diet of steak & potatoes, which takes forever to digest.  It is less of a Politically Incorrect joke than just a misunderstanding of diet.

After the miracle cough drop, Davy begins to sing "Old Folks at Home" (aka "Swanee River"), a minstrel song written by Stephen Foster in 1851.  (He later regretted the association, supporting the North in the Civil War) Commissioned by the Christy Minstrels, which were a blackface group.  They were considered the most popular and set the style for blackface as a tradition. Edwin P. Christy, the founder left the group and committed suicide in 1862 over the Civil War.

Barry McGuire sang lead on "Green, Green" a hit for the New Christy Minstrels nearly 100 years later. That group was formed by Randy Sparks (who had spent 40 years writing Burl Ives' act) and who was committed to the idea of the chorus existing to allow people "to forget their troubles".  This did not bode well for the emerging political movement of folk music.  Other members would include Kenny Rogers, Kim Carnes, Karen Black and Gene Clark.  Know him?  He would later be in the Byrds with Roger McGuinn and David Crosby.  In 1966  he formed Gene Clark & the Group which included Joel Larson, Bill Rhineheart and Chip Douglas-who would be the Monkee's producer!

Alright, back to our story.

After the Nurse takes the miracle cough drops, (at 8:10 into the episode), there is some stock footage of a rocket. I want to call it Sputnik, but I'm probably wrong (because it is in color).  She is Nancy Fish, who has had a prolific career, appearing in a wide range of tv shows, including Roseanne.  Also on board this episode are Vito Scotti and Vince Gardenia, amazing character actors who are easy to recognize but hard to place.

Note the mention of a "Bathook" (from Batman and other cat burglar-type superheros who need to break into places every now and again).

Also note all the *cute* old-fashioned bits of *exercise* equipment in use in the late 1960's.  A sweatbox, an exercise bike you can row and a "rubber tire" getter-rid-of Davy has a joke where he is being shaken by this absurd rubber band and a "spare tire" magically appears. Not that he had one to begin with.

Mention of "Ben Casey, Act 1" which was a Medical Drama tv series, which ran from 1961-1966. (In Vietnam, the name was slang for a medic) Hearing "Act 1", I had always thought it was a play.  Then PT looks into a mirror and says "Shazam!" and name drops Captain Marvel (which was ranked as the 55th most popular comic book character by Wizard magazine).

Amid lots of mildly funny gags (Mike singing with a banjo on the rowing machine to Valerie Kairys), there is a sudden call from TV Guide, in which Mike helps them to fact check the events of the episode.  When the show runs low on plot, it runs high on clever gags to cover.  Mike begins singing "Dem Bones" done originally by the Delta Rhythm Boys, he sings it incorrectly, of course.  Asking for scalpel & sponge, is a very indirect reference to  Elaine May and Mike Nichols' comedy routine. "A Little More Gauze".  Menu for the Vincent van Gogh Gogh.  Wrist slapping from the American Medical Association and it all ends like an episode from old time radio dramas (note Micky's funny voice and pronunciation of "evil").

Now, what countries was everybody from again?  The Italian actor putting on a vaguely Russian/Boris Badenuf (Rocky & Bullwinkle character who looks very close) accent.  Does it matter?

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