Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Davy Jones (1945-2012), formerly of The Monkees. R.I.P.
Somewhere in the bowels of the Archives d’Elisson, there resides a copy of the TV Guide Fall Preview Issue from 1966.
That was back in the days when broadcast television bestrode the airwaves like a colossus, cable TV being a dot on the horizon, the last resort of people in fringe reception areas. A weekly magazine that had complete listings of programs for a given market, TV Guide was a costlier alternative to the TV program listings in the daily fishwrap. This meant that pretty much the only time I would purchase a copy was when they would publish their Fall Preview.
The networks, you see, would all add new shows to their schedules in September, the month that marked the beginning of the year for schoolchildren (up North, anyway), carmakers, and television programmers... not to mention us Red Sea Pedestrians, whose New Year arrives in September or early October. This custom was adhered to religiously: Midseason replacements were rare to nonexistent.
All of this meant that a single issue of the TV Guide could act as a handy reference, with reasonably thorough descriptions of all the new shows... very useful when deciding what to watch.
The 1966 Fall Preview is, in retrospect, a remarkable historical document, for there were several noteworthy shows that made their debuts that September.
There was The Jean Arthur Show, significant mainly for having been exceptionally short-lived.
There was It’s About Time, a sitcom in which two contemporary astronauts find themselves back in the Stone Age, where they must deal with dinosaurs, volcanoes, and the cave-dwelling locals (Joe E. Ross, formerly of Car 54, Where Are You? and Imogene Coca).
There was The Time Tunnel, an Irwin Allen adventure series involving (you guessed it) time travel, effectuated by having the heroes run into a Sooper Seekrit Scientific Tube and emerging at the other end to kill Hitler or some similarly stupid shit.
There was another science fiction adventure show, an obscure drama that starred a handful of semi-unknowns, among them William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForest Kelley. Not much ever became of that one.
And then there was... The Monkees.
Inspired by the Beatles - and particularly their film A Hard Day’s Night - the geniuses behind The Monkees (producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider) set out to create a TV series about a rock band. They had, at first, planned to cast an existing band... but the group they had in mind, the Lovin’ Spoonful, already had a record deal which would have prevented the TV series’s production company from marketing music from the show.
Enter Mike Nesmith, Davy Jones, Peter Tork, and Mickey Dolenz.
At first, they were only permitted to sing - other musicians provided instrumental backing in a sort of reverse Milli Vanilli scheme. But eventually, as the show (and the band) developed a following, the boys won the right to supervise their own musical output. And they were not without a degree of talent.
Me, I was never much of a fan... but The Other Elisson owned pretty much all of their records, if I recall correctly.
Alas, now one of The Monkees is no more. Davy Jones died this morning of a heart attack at the age of 66. There is now one fewer Monkee in the barrel, alas.
Jones leaves, in addition to his body of work with The Monkees, a peculiar legacy. It seems that his immense popularity inspired one Gene Roddenberry to create a character for Roddenberry’s own show - the obscure science fiction adventure mentioned above - that, except maybe for the Russian accent, looked and acted very much like Davy hizzownself. That’d be one Pavel Chekov.
Separated at birth? Davy Jones and Walter Koenig (AKA Pavel Chekov).
Alas, Davy - we hardly knew ye. Ave atque vale!