Hey, Hey We're The Monkees
In 1966, a group of scruffy television execs created a situation comedy that combined Top 40 music with a silly avant-garde look, and years of subsequent syndication testify to the fact that this insanely high concept had an odd abundance of appeal. But Hey, Hey We're The Monkees doesn't begin to answer the question of why we should care. It utterly fails as a documentary, refusing to provide either a modicum of objective pop-cultural criticism or a jolt of cheesy cheap thrills. Instead, the endless footage of boring interviews and the lack of any narrative voice reek of the words "authorized history." The video is full of self-congratulatory remarks by stars and producers alike, and some of them are downright irksome: For example, on no fewer than two occasions, a Monkee compares the group's comedic talents to those of the Marx Brothers without the slightest trace of irony. For those interested in an insider's history of the show, anything that might classify as good, trashy gossip is excised. Mike Nesmith's years-long refusal to partake in the pathetic "Monkees reunion" is never even mentioned; he even portrays himself as a proud member of a group of musicians still creating vital music. (This occurs at about the same time the filmmakers gloss over the group's recent opus, Justus, with tellingly hurried tact.) It is, however, amusing to watch the band members squirm in defensiveness about their musical pedigrees a full 30 years after the world was shocked to learn that they didn't play their own instruments on the show.