‘The Monkees’ Legacy Could Have Looked Very Different if the Series Kept The Character’s Original Names

The Monkees television series piggybacked The Beatles’ rise to fame. However, its pilot stacked up to be very different than what the show eventually evolved into. This was prior to the casting of actors Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork, and Davy Jones. In fact, the overall legacy of The Monkees television series could have turned out very differently if the characters’ original names were used.

The Monkees cast includes Davy Jones, Mike Nesmith, Mickey Dolenz, and Peter Tork.
Davy Jones, Mike Nesmith, Mickey Dolenz, and Peter Tork | NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

‘The Monkees’ original pilot bombed with viewers

According to TV Party, The Monkees television series was the lowest-rated pilot upon its 1966 debut.

Fans didn’t get to see the original pilot of the series until the 10th episode of the first season when Monkees producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider re-edited the pilot to include the actors’ screen tests.

This addition gave viewers a personal look at several cast members’ auditions, including Davy Jones and Mike Nesmith. This edited version subsequently proved to be a winner with fans.

In fact, it tested so well NBC ordered two seasons of the series, which would run until 1968.

Micky Dolenz revealed the original names of ‘The Monkees’ characters were once very different

The Monkees pose for a publicity photo on the set of The Monkees television show.
Peter Tork, Davy Jones, Mike Nesmith, and Micky Dolenz | NBCUniversal via Getty Images

In his book “I’m a Believer: My Life of Monkees, Music, and Madness,” Dolenz spoke of his audition for The Monkees. He admitted that the audition process was very different from what he was used to.

Dolenz was a child actor who starred in the television series Circus Boy which ran from Sept. 1956 through Dec. 1957. At the time, he used the stage name, Micky Braddock.

Upon entering the audition room, Dolenz wrote he saw Rafelson and Schneider wearing casual clothing, with longish hair, relaxing on a sofa. He admitted he knew right away that this television experience would be “different” and to “go for it” during his audition.

After getting a callback, Dolenz got his first glimpse at the first for the series, which revealed the names of its four main male characters. These were very different from The Monkees’ which made it to air.

The characters had the very odd names of “Biff,” “Dicky,” “Fred,” and “Suds.”

‘The Monkees’ legacy could have looked very different if the series kept the original character names

The Monkees cast sit on a curb in a scene of the series.
The Monkees cast | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Looking back, the lead character names for The Monkees sounded more like those found in a 1950s sitcom rather than something that would have aired on television in the late 1960s.

However, upon hiring Dolenz, Nesmith, Tork, and Jones, Rafelson and Schneider realized that using thier cast’s real names as their character names wouldn’t allow fans to differentiate between the actors and the roles they played.

The idea for The Monkees was relatively simple: hire four guys to play musicians on a sitcom. If successful, the reward would be high ratings and record sales. This genius idea proved to work, and The Monkees fans didn’t differentiate between the actors and their roles on camera.

In hindsight, Dolenz admitted that the producers of The Monkees weren’t trying to “cast” the show in a traditional sense.

“They were looking for unique, multitalented personalities who would be distinct, dynamic, yet be able to work together without stepping on each other’s toes and hopefully, develop a rapport that would translate onto the screen.”

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