The Monkees are a fascinating pop-culture phenomenon. Inspired by The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night, producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider developed a TV series about four young men trying to make it as a rock 'n' roll band. In the trades they placed a notice for "Folk & Roll Musicians-Singers for acting roles" and cast actor Mickey Dolenz, musicians Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork, and Davy Jones, who both sang and acted as illustrated by his appearance in the original Broadway production of Oliver!.
The series, sold to Screen Gems, combined the comedic anarchy of the Marx Brothers with modern-day pop music and avant-garde filmmaking techniques. Due to the quartet's limitations as musicians, Screen Gems head of music Don Kirshner was assigned to create their music. He bought together songwriters and session players, leaving The Monkees just vocal parts to perform. Before The Monkees aired, their first single, "Last Train to Clarksville" with Mickey on lead vocal, was released.
The Monkees became a multimedia success. The first season won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series. During that time their first two albums, The Monkees and More of The Monkees, hit #1 in the U.S. and UK, and each spawned #1 singles in the U.S. The studio wanted them to go out on tour, which they did in December 1966. Over the course of the first season, they had become a band and were no longer actors pretending to be one.
With their success, The Monkees wanted more control over their music and the series and were granted it. Kirshner was removed and the guys wrote and played the majority of the music on Headquarters. Though the episodes still retain the type of humor and stories from the first season, in part because 10 of the scripts were written during that time, minor and major changes happen over the course of the second season, which is presented in airdate order and not production order. Mickey stops straightening his hair. Mike loses his wool hat. Their clothing reflects the times as the does their music with an embrace of psychedelia. "Hitting the High Seas" finds them losing the laugh track. Both Mickey and Peter direct an episode, "Mijacogeo - The Frodis Caper" and "The Monkees Mind Their Manor" respectively. A preview of what the direction a third season would have been had NBC agreed to it can be seen as they welcome guests Charlie Smalls, Frank Zappa, and Tim Buckley in the last three episodes that aired.