‘The Monkees’ Pilot Set a Record, But Not For the Right Reasons

The Monkees television series remains beloved by fans for many reasons. The show took on network censors by uttering a word not allowed on television at the time. The NBC series was also the first to showcase the hippie lifestyle for the first time on the small-screen. The show mixed lighthearted hi-jinx and chart-topping tunes. It also featured many of the era’s most recognizable faces and beloved legendary entertainers such as Frank Zappa and Liberace. However, in 1966, The Monkees pilot set a record but not for the right reasons.

The Monkees cast includes Davy Jones, Mike Nesmith, Mickey Dolenz, and Peter Tork.
The Monkees cast includes Davy Jones, Mike Nesmith, Mickey Dolenz, and Peter Tork | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The Monkees was the first to showcase the hippie lifestyle

In an interview for Best Classic Bands, Dolenz said The Monkees series showcased the hippie lifestyle for the first time on television. The series star believes The Monkees changed the way people saw the evolution of the younger generation in the late 1960s.

“I think that may be the legacy. It made it OK to be a hippie, have long hair, and wear bell-bottoms. It did not mean you were a criminal, a dope-smoking fiend. The only time you saw people with long hair on television was when they were being arrested or treated as second-class citizens,” he explained.

In 1966 the show set a record, but not for the right reasons

The Monkees pose for a publicity photo on the set of The Monkees television show.
The Monkees | Getty Images/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

Upon The Monkees’ debut in 1966, the series set a record for reasons, they would have rather not have been publicized.

According to TV Party, it was the lowest-rated pilot at the time of its debut.

However, The Monkees producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider re-edited the first episode to include the actors’ screen tests. This gave viewers a personal look at several cast members’ auditions, including Davy Jones and Mike Nesmith. This edited version proved to be a winner with fans.

In the additional footage, Jones joked about his height, claiming he was “5’3 in boots.”

Subsequently, Nesmith told a story about the time he turned over a general’s airplane while he was in the Air Force.

The re-edited version of The Monkees pilot tested so well with audiences that NBC ordered two seasons of the series.

‘The Monkees’ series was also a trailblazer for taking on censorship

The Monkees on the set of The Devil and Peter Tork episode.
The Monkees cast | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

In season 2’s “The Devil and Peter Tork,” Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork, Davy Jones, and Micky Dolenz had some fun with NBC’s censors. Each cast member slipped in a forbidden word during filming.

The Monkees episode was loosely based on the film The Devil and Daniel Webster.

Tork sold his soul to the devil to learn how to play the harp after finding the ornate instrument in a pawn shop.

In the scene, Nesmith, Jones, and Dolenz tried to explain the idea of hell to Tork. However, the use of the word ‘hell” on-camera was not allowed at the time.

Subsequently, each time a cast member mentioned “hell,” an off-camera toot censored the word so viewers could not hear it.

Nesmith shared the idea of the devil, telling Tork, “That’s what hell is all about.”

“Yeah, hell is pretty scary,” said Jones.

“You know what’s even scarier? You can’t say ‘hell’ on television,” joked Dolenz, who looked directly at the camera as he said the word.

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