Hollywood Flashback: In 1967, The Monkees Won Emmy Gold

The Monkees_ Emmys - AP - H 2016
AP Images

The Monkees_ Emmys - AP - H 2016

A short-lived series starring the four-member boy band won drew wooed the TV Academy at its prime, taking home the award for outstanding comedy and comedy directing.

The unique detail about The Monkees is that they were a commercially created boy band that, concurrent to having No. 1 hits, was starring on an Emmy-winning TV show of the same name. Try that, One Direction.

The group got its start in 1965, when ads were run asking for "insane boys, age 17-21" to appear in a TV series. (Among the 400 hopefuls were Stephen Stills and Paul Williams.) The chosen four — Peter Tork, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith and the late Davy Jones — bore a remarkable resemblance to The Beatles, who had just begun their American invasion. To put in perspective how successful The Monkees became: When another David Jones started performing, he decided to change his last name to Bowie.

"I wrote a pilot for the show about eight years before the Beatles phenomenon. And when they happened, that gave television permission to try it," says creator Bob Rafelson. "I wanted the show to be radical for the time with super-fast editing, cuts and balloons with dialogue coming out of people's mouths. From my point of view, we were taking what Truffaut and Godard were doing and applying that to TV. But it had to be madcap like my original inspiration, the Marx Brothers."

The show was popular enough with the TV Academy to win two Emmys, in 1967, for outstanding comedy and comedy directing. (In one of those odd moments of showbiz torch-passing, the first was presented by Jimmy Durante, born in 1893.) The show ran only two seasons, with a number of factors combining to undermine the Monkees phenomenon. Key was the news that they didn't play their own instruments on their four No. 1 records. However, they do now, and Tork and Dolenz currently are doing a 50th anniversary tour.

This story first appeared in a special Emmy issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.