Monday, February 25, 2013

#53, Race Again, aka "Leave the Driving to Us"

"Enough gags in this show already."

Coming near the end of the run, the comedy is more obvious and less funny.  There is no laugh track, ad unfortunately Peter openly laughs at gags (warning to comedians: this does not make the joke funnier).  At least the British name is a pun,"T.N.Crumpetts"; however, it seems about as subtle as Baron von Klutz.

Another indication that the show is not even trying is the gag, "I can't move b/c you are standing on my foot", used 3 times in the first 6 minutes.  This might be funnier if the 2-shot was tighter.  We can see that the actors' feet are nowhere near each other.

London Mist Spray, also comes in "roll on". Like a deodorant.  They do a comparative smell test of different smogs including Liverpool, Manchester and LA.  Davy does a Liverpudlian accent (see Beatles). All of the cities mentioned were known to have high levels of pollution.  The funniest part of this joke being that they could tell the difference and that what they are smelling is "Knockout Gas".

Novel uses of materials:
Note the absurdity of the Monkees as mechanics, using "highly unusual techniques".  Hammer, saw, needle& thread.  This calls to mind the unusual use of materials by Surrealist artists, including this Fur Covered Cup.

"Open End" was the title of the David Susskind show (1958-1986), one of the most famous interviews was with the Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschev.

Once upon a time, there were things called telephone books. They were people's addresses and telephone numbers, listed alphabetically.  The books were used as doorstops or for highchairs for children.  And is that a Moog synthesizer by the entryway to the garage?

The subtitle of the episode refers to a slogan for the Greyhound bus company.  There is also a reference to "Put A Tiger in Your Tank", a high octane gasoline ad by Esso.

German References:

The "villan" in the episode is Baron Von Klutz, who is pitted against Davy and his British Uncle's team, an allusion to WWII.  Oddly enough (and probably to confuse us later generations), the Baron wears a WWI helmet.  At one point, they have gas masks, used to protect against Mustard Gas.  Also note the square mustache, also known as the toothbrush or philtrum (named for the location on the upper lip.  It was popular between 1900-1945, first adopted as a more streamlined reaction to the handlebar style.  Chaplin used it and Hitler stole it.  (Note the end date of its popularity).

Micky turns on the radio and a generic 60's dance track plays, then a waltz (see #14) then an instrumental version of "Deutchland Deutchland Uber Alles" (German national anthem during WWII).  Note the earlier pun about a car being "in tune" and using a tuning fork.

There is a joke about trading Micky & TNC for "Wernher", meaning Wernher von Braun, a German rocket scientist who had come to America. Micky turns it into a joke about baseball.

Micky mentions the Blue Max, which was Prussia's highest honor,  Pour le Mérite.  There was a movie called "The Blue Max" (1966, starring George Peppard).  Von Klutz is also prominently wearing a pin which looks similar, the blue Iron Cross, which dates back to 1219.  It has always had a Teutonic, Prussian or German association, but is also now known as the shape of the Bikers Cross.  In the 1960's, it was used as a symbol of rebellion by bikers and surfers or in the car enthusiast culture as a point of pride of their car's country of origin. Note the decoration on the Klutzmobile. Volkswagen was originally designed and translated as "the people's car" in Germany in the 1930's.  By the 60's, the VW Beetle and Van were a ubiquitous (and cheap) choice for the hippie on the go.  They are still popular today, especially among Dead Heads (Grateful Dead Groupies).

By the late 60's, bumbling and overly serious German characters (in uniform) were popular.  Coming out of the horrors of WWII, Hollywood had essentially reduced the idea of the Nazis to a caricature.  Take note of the movie, "The Producers" (1968, Mel Brooks). (You should take note of the movie anyways).  A serious study could be (and probably has been) made of the portrayal of Germans post-WWII.  Compare the attitude in the 60's to 2009's "Inglorious Basterds".  They have transitioned into terrifying movie villains, with no sense of ineptitude about them.  (Whether or not this is accurate is another discussion entirely).

Note: In another blog post, I have recorded a Facebook exchange with someone who posted "We are studying the Nazis, and this episode popped into my head".  I thought it warranted further discussion.
Even if the show is not a primary educational tool, I remember that when I was in high school, *anything* that helped reinforce a History lesson was beneficial.

The Periscope gag is a reference to German U-Boats, popular during both WWI and WWII.  "U Boat" is the Anglicized version of the German "Unterseeboot", which means "undersea boat".  Note the inherent absurdity of using a periscope in, of all places, their garage in LA.  It does help to bring in different shots as an unusual technique to "advance" the plot.  If it's not a great joke, at least it's a bizarre setup.

Davy, while driving, says, "Curse you, Red Baron".  Which is an allusion to Peanuts, Snoopy's catchphrase and 60's song.  Which is an allusion to WWI and Baron von Richthofen.  When the Baron gets into the car to race, he is wearing a white scarf and leather helmet of a WWI fighter pilot.

If nothing else, the Monkees will teach you to count to 10 in German.  Not just in this episode, but Peter can also be heard counting on the beginning of the recording of the song, "All of Your Toys".

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