A last-minute casting decision finally sold the Monkees’ TV program: ‘It tested terribly’

The Monkees’ late-1960s TV show telegraphed its sense of youth, and of counterculture rebellion, through a key casting choice — leaving out a parental figure to guide them through their various adventures.

“With the networks at the time, and the censors, it was almost unheard of at the time to see young people as masters of their own destiny,” the Monkees’ Micky Dolenz said, during a recent Q&A at Salt Lake Comic-Con. “NBC was scared of it, because of the long hair and the whole hippie thing.”

Only, it wasn’t always that way. In fact, an early version of the Monkees’ show played by the old rules, and it almost sank their fledgling concept.

“There was a parental figure in the pilot,” Dolenz reminds, “and he was our manager. He ran a record shop, if I’m not mistaken. He was my Father Knows Best. He was in the pilot, and he was giving advice, and guiding. But when the tested it, it tested terribly. They were really worried that they weren’t going to be able to sell the show.”

Producer Bob Rafelson, thankfully, stepped in. “He went back in, and he edited the manager out entirely,” Dolenz says, “and he put in those interviews that we did as part of our audition process — and it sold.”

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  • Earl Kliethermes