on December 9, 2003
I'm a huge Monkees fan, and especially, a huge fan of the second season. To begin, I'm with fans everywhere in being thrilled that the entire series is now available on DVD. It's long overdue and I'm happy to have it. BUT -- and it's a big BUT ---
BUT, this DVD set has many, many shortcomings that are unacceptable in this day and age.
1) AUDIO & VIDEO: the quality of these film prints is, in many cases, abysmal. Dirt, scratches and other damage abound. I find it TERRIBLY difficult to believe that Rhino couldn't find a better copy for transfer. Rather, I suspect they didn't want to spend the money 'cleaning' up the picture. I work in TV & Film and ALL of these scratches and dirt marks COULD have been removed digitally. But, they were not. Likewise, the audio is often muddy and at very inconsistent volume. Some passages are soft while others are way too loud. A little quality control would have corrected this problem.
2) AUDIO COMMENTARY: With the sole exception of Mike's commentary on "Fairy Tale Monkees", all the commentaries on the episodes are 99% worthless. We're lucky if, in a given 28-minute episode, there are 5-10 minutes of actual commentary. Most of the time, Davy or Peter just seem to be silently watching the episode alongside us. And most of their comments are of the "Hmm. I remember that shirt!" variety. Just totally inconsequential and very few and far between. If your major contribution on an audio commentary is, "Hmmm, I remember that shirt!", why bother even doing it? It boggles my mind that Rhino even included these commentaries. That's how inconsequential they are. One would expect slightly more insightful commentary given that the commentators are, in fact, the Monkees themselves.
3) EXTRAS: The inclusion of "33 1/3rd" is almost worth the price of admission alone. It's great to have and in the best quality I've seen thus far. The other "extras" are two :30 clips of the Monkees as a trio in '69 on a variety show. You will watch them once, and that's probably it. Also, there is an interesting but overlong interview with the series Editor who sheds many interesting insights into putting the show together.
Bottom line: even though Rhino came through with "33 1/3rd", we're supposedly buying the set for the episodes of the series: and that is where Rhino has totally dropped the ball. Rhino must either a) feel that Monkees fans are not sophisticated enough to enjoy properly restored audio and video a la the Beatles Anthology, or, b) simply not wanted to spend the money doing a proper job.
This box set, we must hope, will NOT be the definitive collection of the Monkees TV series on DVD for very long.
on July 12, 2004
I've had this set for a while, but finally got around to watching them just recently, as I was working my way through the first season. I actually enjoy the second season episodes to the first, but I was disappointed at the sound quality of the music. Rhino owns the original master to the Monkees recordings, and could easily have improved on the sound over the original 16mm prints, but unfortunately didn't. The music clips on most episodes sound muffled and distorted. This is especially true for the "Rainbow" performances, the end-of-show music videos that feature the Monkees lip syncing to their songs. I didn't notice this on the audio of the first season shows. How hard would it have been to overdub the stereo recordings to these clips? On the plus side, the picture quality was generally excellent, and the inclusion of the rare 33 & 1/3 special (with very good audio) makes this worth recommending. However, I was still disappointed at this set from Rhino, a label with a usually excellent track record
on December 13, 2003
First of all, let me state that this review does not concern itself with the content of the Monkees episodes. I grew up with the show in 1970's syndication and love it. I'm a big fan of both the show and the Monkees' music.
The axe I have to grind is not with the show, the music, or the (1960's) Monkees themselves. Those aspects of the show get a 5-star rating from me. (And if you are reading this, then I assume you are also a big fan.) It's just that while Apple was able to wonderfully restore the Beatles' legacy in the "Anthology" DVD collection, Rhino chose not to do the same thing here...
My first problem is the fact that Rhino (or more precisely, AOL Time Warner, which bought Rhino in 1998) did not bother to spend any money to restore & clean up the audio or video of any of these episodes. If you bought the mid-90's VHS box set and were expecting an audio & video upgrade, you're going to be in for a disappointment. Rhino seems to have used the same video masters they used for the earlier collection (the 1994, 1995, & 1996 "program content" copyrights on the DVD boxes would support this theory).
The audio portions of each episode sound much softer than the title screens. As a result, you have to crank the volume up when you watch an episode. When the episode is finished, and you go back to the title screen (and forget to reset the volume), it's almost like being hit on the head when you are blasted by the *very* loud Monkee's Theme that will greet you there. Granted, this is a minor annoyance, but after you are startled a number of times, it starts getting to you.
The video quality is also rather poor. The episodes appear *very* dark and murky. Lots of details cannot be seen as they have faded into the shadows. The prints used for syndication were a bit edited in places, yet they had MUCH more vibrant colors and were not as dark as the prints Rhino used. If you saw the show in the 1970's, then you should remember how much more colorful it looked at that time.
If you are lucky enough to own one of the early 1990's Japanese Laserdisc box sets, you'd know how much better those episodes look when compared to the ones released by Rhino. The LD box only contained 40 of the 58 episodes, yet that's what I still reach for when I want to watch the show.
Now, let me direct my attention to the audio commentaries:
In a perfect world, all four of the Monkees would have done the commentaries together and they would have been complimentary to the producers who gave them the show, the fans who have supported it all of these years, and the other guys in the group. In a less perfect world, they would have at least done a little fact-checking before they got behind the microphones.
It's sad to say that in the Monkees' world, none of this happened. All four of the Monkees (with the exception of Davy, maybe) don't come off very well. Their commentaries are short on anecdotes, and collectively, they appear to be rather dysfunctional. I'd bet that paychecks were driving force behind a few of the commentaries, not out of respect for the fans or the show.
Micky comes off the worst. He may have believed he was being cute and funny, but his rather obnoxious commentary is like a poor-man's version of MST3K. He offers precious little insight into the episode he co-wrote and directed. He is also quite blistering in his assessment of the 33 1/3 special. It really seemed like he didn't want to do the commentary and he was carrying on just to prove a point.
Mike seems to show bemusement that the show was and continues to be popular. He says the intelligence level of the show appeals to 9-year olds. He can't seem to understand that adults like (and continue to watch) the show. While he has mellowed in regards to his place in the Monkees' legacy, it still appears he feels the show was beneath him (and that its fans might be too).
Peter (or "Former Monkee Peter Tork" as he identifies himself at the start of each commentary) uses his commentaries as a platform to rip into Mike and (to a lesser extent) producer Rafelson. Some of his Monkees' history is a bit faulty (like going on about how his song "For Pete's Sake" was edited onto the end of *first* season shows when the show was in syndication in the 70's - it wasn't). Peter has replaced Mike as the group's curmudgeon.
Davy is the only Monkee who is gracious to the others, and who appreciates the fans who have kept the show going for all these years. His commentary is light on the facts and anecdotes, but it's not mean, dismissive, or obnoxious. He definitely comes off the best.
Conversely, the two non-Monkee commentaries here (by Bob Rafelson and Brian Auger) are the most informed and interesting. Mr. Rafelson is very gracious to the group he created and he is very complimentary of the guys. Mr. Auger shares some interesting insights about the 33 1/3 special and he never attacks it (unlike a certain Mr. Dolenz). Both Rafelson & Auger enhance this collection, unlike the Monkees themselves.
So, unless AOL Time Warner / Rhino decides to spend the dough and really restore these classic TV episodes, then this rather disappointing collection is all we're going to get. I recommend it for the inspired content it contains (the original episodes), not for its presentation.
on February 1, 2004
With the release of both Seasons 1 and 2 of "The Monkees" television series on DVD now over, I'm close to saying my Monkees collection is complete. Most of the other reviewers have accurately described the contents within this release: all the episodes look great, the packaging is fantastic and creative, and it certainly is a treat to have the 1969 NBC special "33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee" on DVD (even though it is NOWHERE near as innovative as their 1968 feature film HEAD).
I will also agree with reviewers below who complain about the sound going up and down when switching back and forth from the menus to the actual episodes, but that is a minor quibble, and in the long run, hardly something to lose sleep over. The fact is...I no longer have to watch my 20-year old VHS tapes that I compiled in 1986 during the Monkees resurgence of that year when MTV ran the series three times a day.
Sure, the Monkees' individual commentaries are not overly-enlightening, but what is it about "The Monkees" television show that we already don't know? The general public needs to remember that this series was a 'day job' for the Monkees, and should not fault them for being foggy on the details of a certain episode that aired way back in 1968.
However, longtime Monkees caretakers Rhino could have treated us and included the Monkees' 1997 ABC television special, but it is nowhere to be found. It also would have been nice to collect all of the Monkees' television appearances of 1969 into a bonus feature as well--like their guest spots on the Johnny Cash Show, The Tonight Show, the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, etc. etc. (NOTE: some footage of the Monkees on Glen Campbell's show is included as a bonus, but their musical performances on that show have been edited out!)
This release highlights the superior second season, with episodes like "The Devil and Peter Tork," "The Frodis Caper" and "The Fairy Tale," plus "Monkees on the Wheel"...my choice for most underrated episode of the second season! Recommended.
on November 22, 2003
The second season box set is much like the first, in that it is overpriced, with suprisingly poor sound (the 5.1 selection is best but even that is not anywhere near what it should be), but otherwise a great compilation of all the episodes. Some fans prefer the tighter first season, and some the looser second year. I go for the second season, primarily because the songs are superior (with nearly all stemming from their two finest works "Headquarters" and "Pisces, Aquarious..."--just imagine what those teenyboppers back in late '67 must've thought when they heard "Star Collector" for the first time!), and I do enjoy the greater spontaneity and half-improvised nature of the scripts. The group look like they are having fun, goofing around on set and filming cool tags for the end of each show that parody normal television formulas. The jokes are more sophisticated, culminating in the
delightful "Frodis Caper", directed by Dolenz and quite possibly the first sitcom episode to feature drug humor. There are also cool guest spots by Zappa, Tim Buckley and Charlie Smalls, a stunning a capella rendition of "Riu Chiu" for the Christmas episode, and the increased color and intensity of the psychedelic era in general. Note also the transitional nature of the earliest episodes filmed in the spring of '67 (which you can tell because Mickey's hair is still straight in them): some of the tightness of the first season remains (along with the use of several rejected first season scripts), but the wilder fashions and more risque humor of the latter half of the season also begins to creep in; it is this perfect combination of tight and loose which makes that period my favorite of the show.
The best episodes include the aforementioned "Frodis Caper", the touching "Devil And Peter Tork", the truly bizarre "Monkees Watch Their Feet" (with Pat Paulsen in fine form and Dolenz an absolute riot as a robot) and "The Monkees' Paw" (Dolenz in dazzling comic form once again). The band were even allowed to parody their own frustration with the increasingly formulaic nature of the scripts in "The Monkees In Paris"--which only proved that they weren't so formulaic, although Davy Jones still falls in love every other episode. The commentaries are generally pretty good, and Mickey is a scream reminiscing about "The Frodis Caper".
Finally, the extras are nice, including some TV appearances and news footage, as well as the vastly underrated and overlooked special "33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee". While "33 1/3" has a thin plot and some filler--including their worst filmed moment as singing chimps--it also contains some of their best-ever performances and *spectacular* guest stars, including Julie Driscoll (a superb singer) and her partner Brian Auger (a brilliant Keith Emerson-like organist), plus the three piano giants from the 50s: Little Richard, Fats Domino and Jerry Lee Lewis. Add The Buddy Miles Express, and the complaint that The Monkees were second-billed in their own special becomes moot--with guest stars like these, who cares? The band itself are still good, and the closing performance of "Listen To The Band" has to be seen to be believed--their mind-blowing final live appearance (before the 80s/90s reunion tours) being the total avant-garde antithesis of their commercial bubblegum image. In short, the entire box set is worth it, although you'll have to pay a pretty penny for it...and be sure to turn the volume *way* up.
on February 17, 2004
For me, this was worth owning just for the performance of 'Cuddly Toy' at the end of the 'Everywhere a Sheik, Sheik" episode. Davy dancing with an impossibly cute blonde, and the other three Monkees hamming it up with vaudevillian hats and canes-- that moment captures all the fun and happiness and still woefully underrated musical talents of The Monkees. The shows in season 2 aren't as consistently innovative and clever as the first season product, but the music is superb (Daydream Believer, Pleasant Valley Sunday, Randy Scouse Git and all of Nesmith's country-pop contributions). Sure, the commentaries and sound quality could be better, but just having these shows in my collection is enough for me.
on February 13, 2004
This is a review for season one a great DVD set. It has trivia for each episode which I found interesting and entertaining. It has some commentaries on some of the episodes by each Monkee. Episode 48 has commentaries by Mike and Peter. It was interesting to see the same show and hear 2 different points of view. Bob Rafelson commented on the episode that he directed and it is about time we heard from the man who really created the Monkees. It also includes the Monkees special 33 and 1/3 Revolutions per Monkee commented on by Micky and Brian Auger who was the villian on the show. There is also an interview with the editor Gerry Sheppard and a photo gallery. The box is rather original as it is designed to look like an old portable record player from the 60's. The sleeves of the disc look like the Monkees 45's. A book is included on teh behind the scenes of the Monkees 2nd season written by Andrew Sandoval. If you just want to hear and see the music videos without the episodes there is a feature that that will allow you to just play the videos. After all they were the original MTV. If you are a Monkees fan or a fan of good music or sitcoms from the 60's. Buy this DVD set.
on December 10, 2003
Well here I am again keeping the British end up! I have loved the Monkees for at least 23 of my 26 years on this earth so heres my two pennies worth:
Good Bits About The Set:
They are all a lot more themselves and less cheesy. I.e. Peter is more hippy and less dippy, Mike is more mardy and sarcastic and less strong and silent, Davy camps up his cheesy lines and is a bit more funky, less boy next door and Micky is as silly as ever - but even more!!! His hair says it all!!
I like the way they take the micky out of the stupid situations they are put into. I particularly like Wild Monkees and Some Like It Lukewarm. Speaking from my perspective (as a rag a bone and a hag of hair!) Davy looks particularly gorgeous and apart from Micky they all look loads more attractive in their more natural styles.
Ok so theres some bad bits ....
Sounds goes up and down, need more commentary - and more USEFUL comments I agree with a previous commenter that they dont have a great deal to say about the episodes (Fairy Tale commentary from Mike is the best). 33 and a third RPM is sooooo boring. The one good bit is Mike singing Naked Persimmon and the rest looks like a hippies nightmare. I wonder if these people were paid?
Still, as a die hard Monkees fan I have to like the series itself it and its in stark contrast to the first series. Its a lot cooler but the cold sarcasm and unveiling of their situation only goes to put a nail in the coffin of The Monkees. There is a very samey feel to the episodes - why wasnt Mike ever in a romantic episode? Surely they didnt all fancy Davy - Mike is about 6"2 after all!!!
Ive rated this 4 stars because the Monkees have a special place in my past. If they have that in yours then buy this. If they dont laugh at a friends copy - may be best viewed after a few bottles of wine though!!
As with season one, Monkees fans will be familiar with this show, so I won't go into detail about what the show is about.
As a Monkees fan myself I am quite happy to have this budget priced version of the more costly versions of these seasonal sets as put out by Rhino some years ago.
The quality is great and every episode is included in each seasonal set. I like the packaging as well since I collect a number of shows and a set like this will sit on my dvd shelf much easier than a mini turntable design or something of that nature.
33 & 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee is nice to have on here as well. Strange stuff even by Monkees standards, but nice to have it.
Too bad they didn't throw on the movie "Head". That movie still seems avant garde and self-indulgent to me to this day, and I can't see it selling much on it's own. If it were by anyone but The Monkees I couldn't see how there would be much interest in it all all, so I think it would have made a nice bonus item on a set like this. A good way to get it into the hands of the die-hard fans who might not see value for money in buying the movie on it's own.
On the down side, as with season one, even though these sets come with a lot of Kellogs commercials, the Kool-Aid commercials (including the ones with Bugs Bunny) are not included among the bonus material.
And nowhere in the sets are the alternate versions of about 7 or so episodes where the music was altered. The versions on here and on the season one sets are the versions with the alternate music where members of the band got producers to put in some of their own songs in place of the original songs written by the staff of writers who used to write songs for the show.
Despite the claims of others, the music on these releases is NOT the ORIGINAL music. The versions with the lesser known non-band member written songs are the ORIGINAL music versions.
These are the syndicated re-run versions. They don't contain the original music.
Nice sets for sure, but they could be better. If you enjoy these shows I recommend them. If you are a completist and want original shows, all versions, and everything Monkee, they will be something of a let down.
on November 22, 2003
Season Two looks a little tired in retrospect. The boys may have had more power, but they sure didn't know what to do with it! What kept Season One from being worthless pop trash was the earnest manner in which Mike, Micky, Peter and Davy applied themselves to farcical situations. Also the way the show would segue from comedy to (light) drama and back again. This complexity is what made the films of Charlie Chaplin such classics. Without that sincereity, farce no longer works. It becomes insulting to watch. And that's Season Two! The only message seems to be that the Monkees hate being the Monkees and they think it's all stupd and so are you for watching. Not the best basis for comedy. So why watch? Well, because there are still some shining moments and great songs in the second season, in spite of all their efforts to muck it up. While Peter's self righteous hippy trip and Micky's embarassing mugging may try your patience, keep watching and you'll hit lots of paydirt, even if it isn't of the same calibre as Season One.
Micky Dolenz's commentary is gratingly shrill; if only he had taken a valium or something, he might have cut the shtick and come up with some insightful reminiscences, which is all anyone wants of these commentaries, isn't it? Mike's commentary is a little better in "Fairy Tale", which--surprisingly--he cites as the most fun he ever had making the show!
As for the 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee special at the end, it's painful to behold. Although, as an archivist, I'm still glad it's here. Even Micky in his commentary says at one point, "Is it just me or is this really boring?" I suppose it holds some morbid fascination, like the proverbial car crash that you just can't help but watch. But mostly, it's a chaotic and pretentious hodge podge that doesn't do much to credit the idea that the Monkees should have had complete control over their product. I much prefer them "in bondage" before the lundatics took over the asuylum! Still, this is a must for Monkee fans and they will just have to resign themselves to the fact that this time out, you have to weather some bad moments to get to the good ones.