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Episode No. 46:

“The Monkees On The Wheel”

The Monkees invade Las Vegas where, mistaken for crooked
gamblers, they try their luck at exposing the real gang.

Vital Stats, Credits and Releases On Home Video:

Production No. 4742
Final Draft: October 18, 1967
Filmed At: Screen Gems Studios, Hollywood, CA.
Filming Dates: October 23-27, 1967
Original Air Date: December 11, 1967
Ratings: 17.0 rating/27.1 share (9,520,000 viewers)
© Raybert Productions; 12-11-67; LP37685
Sponsor This Week:
Yardley Of London™
Rerun Dates: June 10, 1968 (NBC); March 20 and July 24, 1971, August 19, 1972 (CBS); December 30, 1972, August 11, 1973 (ABC)

Written by Coslough Johnson.
Directed by Jerry Shepard.
Produced by Robert Rafelson & Bert Schneider.
Associate Producer: Gerald S. Shepard.
Production Executive: Ward Sylvester.
Background Music Composed and Conducted by Stu Phillips.
“Cuddly Toy” Written by Harry Nilsson; Produced by Chip Douglas.
“The Door Into Summer” Written by Chip Douglas & Bill Martin; Produced by Chip Douglas.
Guest cast:

Biggy..............................................................................Pepper Davis
Manager.............................................................................Rip Taylor
Policeman...........................................................................Dort Clark
Zelda...............................................................................Joy Harmon
Della.............................................................................Sharyn Hillyer
David Astor as Boss

Home Video Releases:

  • The Monkees: The Collector's Edition - VHS Tape #15 (Columbia House #19940, May 22, 1995)
  • The Monkees Deluxe Limited Edition Boxed Set - VHS Tape #14 (Rhino R3 2960, October 17, 1995)
  • The Monkees - Season 2 DVD Boxed Set - Disc 3 (Rhino RetroVision DVD R2 970128, November 18, 2003)
  • The Monkees - Season 2 DVD Boxed Set - Disc 3 (Eagle Rock Entertainment DVD EM351369, September 27, 2011)
  • The Monkees - The Complete Series - Blu-Ray Disc 6 (Rhino BD2-552705, July 8, 2016)

Prologue:

Las Vegas. Pleasure capital of the world, where each man seeks the things he loves most. [Peter follows a girl.] The things he loves most. [Michael follows a girl.] The things he loves most! [David follows a girl.] But all is not fun and games in the gambling capital of the world: while some pursue their pleasures, others pursue their greed. A hideaway on the other side of town...

Synopsis:

The Monkees are in Las Vegas for an engagement and head for the casino while in a hideaway on the other side of town, a crooked gambler and mob boss known as simply The Boss tells his man Biggy to enter the casino at precisely 7:54, for he has a Roulette wheel automatically fixed to land at 16-Red for five minutes starting at 8:00. At the slot machine, Micky hands coins to Zelda, a pretty girl he tries to woo but she rebuffs him when he doesn’t win anything. Angered by her rejection and his rotten luck, he pushes the handle on the slot machine and winds up winning a large amount of coins which impresses Zelda who claims he has “magic fingers.”

While Micky is trying to explain to Mike about what happened, he mistakenly puts the bag of coins he won on the Roulette wheel on on 16-Red, the same number Biggy is betting, and ends up winning in his stead! The angry thug tries to warn Micky not to bid on 16-Red because it's an unlucky number, but Micky ends up winning again! Then Peter gets him to bid again since you should never quit when you’re ahead. Micky keeps on winning until he breaks the bank, and soon The Monkees lug the bags of money into their hotel room on a stretcher and revel in their fortune. After informing his boss of the misfortune, The Boss orders Biggy to get Della The Decoy to swipe the money away from the guys. Soon Biggy shows up at their suite disguised as a maintenance man dragging a vacuum cleaner, while Della shows up as a gorgeous French maid in a sexy uniform, and in no time has the guys fawning all over her. While distracted by Della, Biggy manages to toss all their money into the vacuum cleaner before they both depart; and then the guys realize they’ve been robbed! Meanwhile at the casino room, the manager finds the wire attatched to his Roulette wheel; distraught on discovering it has been rigged, he summons the police. When the cops and the manager arrive at The Monkees' suite, they think they came to investigate their robbery and Micky unwittingly signs a confession that they stole the money which eventually gets them all arrested.

During an interrogation at police headquarters, The Monkees claim their innocence when they are told the wheel was rigged, but the policeman doesn’t believe them and Micky learns to his dismay he didn’t win and he doesn’t have magic fingers after all. However, the manager releases them on a 24-hour reprieve on condition they get back the money or face a 20-year jail term! Then the guys devise a plan to pose as mobsters to lure the crooks to them. Peter, Micky, Michael and David don disguises and sunglasses (with the exception of Peter, who wears normal glasses) and pose as crooked gamblers—The Professor, The Insidious Strangler, Vicious Killer and Muscles The Mauler, respectively—and return to the Roulette wheel in the casino where they encounter Biggy. They tell him of their plans to take over the city and win all the money via a system to beat the Roulette table that the Professor has invented. They are brought by Biggy to The Boss where he and Micky square off with hilarious James Cagney impressions. Then The Boss orders Peter The Professor to reveal his system, and he gets the mobsters drunk while explaining the system until they pass out. The Monkees attempt to search the place for the stolen money when suddenly they trip an alarm which revives The Boss, who orders the boys to gamble with their system and his cash.

Back at the Roulette table, the cop tells Insidious Strangler they need proof that the money with which they’re gambling is stolen and warns him to lose on the wheel or else. The Monkees to lose the money back to the casino but end up winning every time, while Micky continuously fends off Zelda who swears that she knows him. Finally, they do lose all the money but Zelda finally yanks off Micky’s shades and recognizes him as “Magic Fingers,” giving them away to the crooks. The Boss figures out their plans to steal back the money they stole from them and orders Biggy to get them, and they start chasing the boys around the room. The ensuing romp, which is set to “The Door Into Summer”, involves David, Peter and Biggy each taking turns capturing each other, then being distracted by Della The Decoy and escaping; Micky using Michael for a money scale; and the participants passing around a yellow rose, resulting in the recipient catching a sneezing fit. Finally, the exhausted gangsters pass out on the tables, covered with their own cash.

Tag Sequence:

Michael introduces a "Here We Go Again" tag that Peter and David do involving Micky, and repeatedly cut between Micky at the slot machines (and wining at each and every one of them!) and the boys before The Monkees, clad in Vaudevillian gear, sing “Cuddly Toy”; then, 6 outtakes of Micky and Michael from the soon-to-be-telecast “The Monstrous Monkee Mash” (#4767, 11-2-67) are shown.

Production Notes:

The origin for “The Monkees On The Wheel” can be traced back to the recording sessions for “Daydream Believer”, for which The Monkees searched for some great horn players. The story goes that Dean Davis gave producer Chip Douglas a few numbers out of his address book which just happened to belong to some of the top jazz musicians of the day; two of which, Shorty Rogers (who also arranged the song) and Pete Candoli, wound up on the record. Dean, Pete, and Shorty became friends when Dean interviewed each of them for Girlie-Q magazine. Shorty and Pete also appeared on the King Bennett To Be Or Not To Be album. Shorty eventually would do future arranging and session work for The Monkees as would Pete and his brother, Conte. To thank Dean for turning them on to these great musicians, The Monkees decided to do an episode based in Las Vegas, and thus begat “The Monkees On The Wheel”.

Dean Davis was asked to write this episode, but a scheduling conflict prevented him from doing so. He was nevertheless written into a casino scene: Micky walks up to Dean at a craps table and says, “Hey, have you seen Peter?”. Dean then replies, “No, but if he’s missing I know a good detective that can find him.” Though the scene was never actually filmed for this episode, Dean Davis would become an extra and a stuntman in The Monkees' 1968 movie HEAD. A hard hat which bears a red and white checker pattern that he wore for his stunt in the movie, which he had a prop man decorate in the form of the pattern that was on Damon Runyon's typewriter case as a tribute to his favorite writer, replicates a helmet Micky wore in Episode No. 22, “The Monkees At The Circus”, as part of his clown costume in the “Sometime In The Morning” romp.

The technique of hilarious flashcuts first demonstrated at the beginning of “The Monkees On The Wheel”'s tag sequence is repeated in Episode No. 50, “The Monstrous Monkee Mash” and No. 58, “Mijacogeo” (a.k.a. “The Frodis Caper”).

Douglas and Martin's “The Door Into Summer” makes its debut appearance here. Whereas here it's used for the musical chase, a second appearance, 10 episodes later, in No. 56, "Some Like It Lukewarm" (a.k.a. "The Band Contest"), finds The Monkees performing it.

Nilsson's “Cuddly Toy” appears here in an alternate mix, with no reverb at the close. It appeared before, in Episode No. 35, “Everywhere A Sheik, Skeik.”

“The Monkees On The Wheel”'s entry in Screen Gems' Storylines featured an alternate tag sequence in which Micky swears off gambling forever; after which, David discovers that Peter has caught the gambling bug, having converted their hard-earned salary into quarters and returned to the slot machines with Zelda!

“The Monkees On The Wheel”'s submain title theme can also be heard in Episode No. 12, “I've Got A Little Song Here”, No. 28, “The Monkees On The Line”, and No. 53, "The Monkees Race Again" (a.k.a. "Leave The Driving To Us").

CBS preempted Gunsmoke this week for a National Geographic special on sharks which recieved a 24.2 rating /37.6 share (13,550,000 viewers), while The Monkees came in second.

“The Monkees On The Wheel”'s first of just 2 telecasts on ABC Saturday, December 30, 1972, coincided with David Jones' 27th birthday and Michael Nesmith's 30th.

The first draft of the Bob Rafelson and Jack Nicholson's script for The Monkees motion picture (tentatively entitled Changes) was compleeted December 19, 1967, 8 days after “The Monkees On The Wheel”'s firstrun airing.

Trivia Notes:

“The Monkees On The Wheel” is the first episode to show a significant change in the off-the-wall humor of The Monkees TV series.

This episode first aired on the 27th birthday of David Gates, composer of “Saturday's Child”

David Jones' marriage to Linda Haines occurred in the exact week “The Monkees On The Wheel” aired on NBC (on December 15, 1967).

White carnations worn by Muscles The Mauler (David), The Insidious Strangler (Micky), and Vicious Killer (Michael) and dangling off the large pencil of The Professor (Peter) are references to Episode No. 11, “Monkees A La Carte”, which saw The Monkees incognito as the white carnation-adorned Purple Flower Gang; Micky, Michael and David's sunglasses and cigars wrapped in plastic are hand-me-down props first used in No. 34, "The Picture Frame" (a.k.a. "The Bank Robbery"). And the interrogation scene (the third to be shown in the series) reflects similar sequences in both episodes; notice that all 4 Monkees are seen ruthlessly grilled here, whereas only Peter was put under the hot light in “Monkees A La Carte”, and Micky, Michael and David were brutally questioned in "The Picture Frame".

Peter The Professor employs the use of a sliderule to calculate the way to win in Roulette. In Episode No. 3, “Monkee Versus Machine”, Daggart (Stan Freberg) was seen with a similar sliderule.

The numbers Peter predicts will win are: 24-red, 212-green, 87-plaid (aborted).

Throughout “The Monkees On The Wheel”, David Astor (The Boss) can be heard mimicking 2 big-screen tough guys: Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney. Astor also provides the opening narration heard at the beginning of this episode's teaser sequence.

This is the final outing of Micky doing Cagney. In the scene where Micky, as The Insidious Strangler, confronts The Boss in comparing Cagney impresarios, they both can be heard singing the opening lines of George M. Cohan's "The Yankee Doodle Boy" from Yankee Doodle Dandy (Warner Bros., 1942). And right after Peter (The Professor) gets The Boss and Biggy drunk while explaining his system for beating Roulette, Micky is heard to imitate another star, Lawrence Welk ("Beautiful, Pe-tah! Beautiful, beautiful! Lovely, lovely!"), whose Lawrence Welk Show was the toast of television for 27 years (1955-82) and about 1,500 shows.

In the scene where Zelda bothers Micky while The Monkees attempt to win back the stolen money at Roulette, he mimics Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula -- a foreshadowing of events The Monkees will experience in “The Monstrous Monkee Mash” (the outtakes from which are seen in this episode's epilogue). And clips from the movie The Black Cat (Universal, 1941), which starred Lugosi, will be seen in the movie HEAD.

For the first time, Michael Nesmith makes an unprecedented plea to devout Monkees viewers to "save the Texas Prairie Chicken!" Further pleas will be made in the closing minutes of Episode No. 48, "Fairy Tale", and No. 51, "The Monkee's Paw". This was made to bring awareness that the number of Texas Prairie Chickens has declined since the mid-1800’s chiefly because their prairie homes have been plowed over for farmland.

Also, Michael Nesmith is seen wearing his normal sunglasses for the first time as part of an actual episode (it's the same pair of shades he also wears in the wraparounds for Episode No. 49, "The Monkees Watch Their Feet", the movie HEAD, and the TV special 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee) rather than a musical number (or, in the case of Episode No. 35, "Everywhere A Sheik Sheik", an interview segment), prior to his disguise as gangster Vicious Killer, which has him wearing totally different sunglasses. Other episodes to feature Nes in shades are Episode No. 49, "The Monkees Watch Their Feet", No. 54, "The Monkees In Paris" (a.k.a. "The Paris Show") and No. 58, "Mijacogeo" (a.k.a. "The Frodis Caper"). In No. 34, "The Picture Frame" (a.k.a. "The Bank Robbery"), in the scene during the brutal interrogation where the hot light shines upon them, Micky, David and Michael don the same shades they're wearing in “The Monkees On The Wheel”.

In the interrogation scene, told by The Policeman (Dort Clark) to "think of a better story than that!," The Monkees reel off events which describe that timeless Fairy Tale story Jack And The Beanstalk.

At the beginning of the “The Door Into Summer” romp, as The Monkees are being chased around the Roulette table, watch out for Monkee stand-in/roady David Price playing at a craps table on the right.

This episode borrows a popular element from the phenomenal series Batman (ABC, 1966-68): the "crooked angle" camera shot, which is employed for the interrogation scene. Other Monkees segments to utilize "crooked angle" shots are Episode No. 23, “Captain Crocodile” (during the Frogman And Reuben sequence) and No. 49, "The Monkees Watch Their Feet" (in the scene where David and Peter put the robot Micky under the hot light).

The toy tiger Peter is seen cuddling with in this segment is the same one which "attacked" Micky in Episode No. 24, “Monkees A La Mode”, during the musical romp for “Laugh”.

“The Monkees On The Wheel” marks the first episode in which Michael Nesmith flaunts his jacketless long sleeved-shirt/necktie look!

The Boss (David Astor) wears a suit which closely resembles that of Mr. Zero (Monte Landis) in Emmy-nominated Episode No. 52, "The Devil And Peter Tork".

Greeted by Biggy, disguised as a janitor, David raises his hand and utters "How?" -- foreshadowing a certain scene where he does the same thing in Episode No. 51, "The Monkee's Paw", which has himself, Peter and Michael in a laughing fit.

Number of times The Manager says "dun-dum": 3.

Micky's nickname, "Magic Fingers," is foreshadowed in the song “Papa Gene’s Blues”, in which its composer, Michael Nesmith, utters it prior to the start of the instrumental bridge ("Play, magic fingers!").

As The Monkees are ushered out of their casino room by the manager and the police, Micky protests, "Police brutality!" Peter echoes this same phrase in the movie HEAD, not long after he and Micky and Michael were roughly manhandled by longhair-detesting Officer Faye Lapid (Logan Ramsey).

Biggy's one-liner about "The old 'equalization of ratio' bit" is a borderline reference to that venerable spy spoof, Get Smart (NBC/CBS, 1965-70).

Once again, a tag sequence provides Monkee viewers an advanced glimpse of a future Monkees episode. The B&W screen tests of Michael and David seen in tag to Episode No. 10, “Here Come The Monkees” (Original Pilot Film), are introduced by Micky and Peter, in the midst of production of Episode No. 16, “The Son Of A Gypsy”. The interview tag to Episode No. 19, “Find The Monkees!” (a.k.a. "The Audition"), takes place in a locker room used as a set for the very next episode, “The Monkees In The Ring”. And the interview tags of "Fairy Tale" and "The Monkee's Paw" find The Monkees clad in the same attire they are seen wearing in the wraparound segments of Episode No. 54, "The Monkees In Paris" (a.k.a. "The Paris Show")

Guest Cast Notes:

Monkee stand-in David Pearl cameos as the casino patron who tweaks Michael’s nose and calls him “Wizard Glick,” which is in reference to a villainous character from a heretofore completed (and which would later be the 58th and concluding) episode of the series: the Micky Dolenz written-directed “Mijacogeo” (a.k.a. “The Frodis Caper”). Coincidentally, Rip Taylor, seen as the long-suffering Roulette dealer in this episode, made his second appearance on The Monkees in “Mijacogeo” as none other than the evil Wizard Glick! Taylor's further TV work includes Sheldon the Sea Genie in Sigmund And The Sea Monsters (NBC, 1973-75), a stint as host of The $1.98 Beauty Show (Synd., 1978-80), Sydney Laskin in Santa Barbara (NBC, 1984-93), and the voice of Uncle Fester in the 1992 Hanna-Barbera version of The Addams Family.

You also may recognize Joy Harmon (Zelda) as the bankteller in Episode No. 34, "The Picture Frame" (a.k.a. "The Bank Robbery"). Harmon made a guest appearance on You Bet Your Life (a.k.a. The Groucho Show, NBC, 1950-61) and as a result became a regular on the TV series Tell It To Groucho (CBS, 1962). Her most memorable performances were in films, appearing in Village Of The Giants (Embassy, 1965) and Cool Hand Luke (Warner Bros./Seven Arts, 1967, which also featured Monkee guest alum Lou Antonio ["Hillbilly Honeymoon" (a.k.a. "Double Barrell Shotgun Wedding")]).

The late Pepper Davis (Biggy) played the role of Manny on the TV series Vega$ (ABC, 1978-81).

Sharyn Hillyer is known to devotees of Star Trek (NBC, 1966-69) as Girl #2 from the January 12, 1968 episode "A Piece Of The Action," which also guest starred Monkee guest actor Vic Tayback (“Your Friendly Neighborhood Kidnappers”, “The Son Of A Gypsy”, "Art For Monkee's Sake"), and was directed by onetime Monkee episode director James Komack (“The Prince And The Paupers”). Hillyer also did numerous turns for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (NBC, 1964-68), one of them with Monkee guest Leon Askin ("The Card-Carrying Red Shoes"s") in "The Off-Broadway Affair" (#8427, Nov. 18, 1966).

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