Michael Nesmith in Television Parts was a summer TV series broadcast by NBC in 1985. The 30-minute comedy-variety show was created by Nez as a continuation of his Grammy Award-winning video production Elephant Parts. The first episode was a stand-alone special which aired on March 7, 1985. The following series premiered on June 14, 1985. Micky Dolenz acted as a director for the show during its brief run, and the Modern Folk Quartet, which included former Monkees producer Chip Douglas and legendary rock photographer Henry Diltz, made a guest appearance.
Television Parts was a mix of music videos (by both Michael and others) combined with comedy sketches and commercial parodies. It was hosted by Nez himself, who participated in many of the sketches. Television Parts also featured guest appearances by a variety of comedians, including Martin Mull, Whoopi Goldberg, Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Martin, and Garry Shandling, whose appearance laid the foundation for It's Garry Shandling's Show. One of the show's featured pieces, "Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey" (with Michael as the narrator) was later picked up by Saturday Night Live in 1991.
Unfortunately, the series was canceled after just 5 episodes. The last airing ran for 90 minutes and was broadcasted in the Saturday Night Live time slot. It returned as two separate home video releases on VHS and Betamax, Television Parts Home Companion (1985) and Dr. Duck's Super Secret All-Purpose Sauce (1986). The first was a 40-minute compilation of the original show featuring the comedy skits and music of Michael Nesmith only. Dr. Duck's was a 90-minute montage of sketch comedy with a variety of stars and music videos (none featuring Nez). The stars included Bobcat Goldthwait, Ed Begley, Jr., Jimmy Buffett, Rosanne Cash, Whoopi Goldberg, Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, and Garry Shandling.
Dr. Duck's Super Secret All-Purpose Sauce
In the era before DVDs and Blu-ray, Rhino Records released a limited edition (and numbered) 21-tape box set of The Monkees TV series in October 1995. Co-produced by Andrew Sandoval and featuring a packaging design made to look like a vintage television set, the box included the original 58 episodes along with the unaired version of the pilot, and 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee.
The collection was reissued in 1997 without the collectible watch that was included in the original release, and the boxes were not individually numbered:
DVD sets of both Season 1 and Season 2 appeared in the early 2000s. The series debuted on Blu-ray (with a bevy of bonus material) in 2016, just in time to celebrate The Monkees' 50th Anniversary.
To view the complete contents of the 1995 VHS box and to read the liner notes from its 48-page booklet, be sure to visit Monkee45s.net.
'Elephant' Innovator Serves Up Some 'Duck'
By Andy Wickstrom
As the first recording artist to win a Grammy Award for a video production, Michael Nesmith has a reputation as an innovator in the field. In the introduction to the award-winning made-for-video program Elephant Parts (1981), he referred to it as his first video album - in fact, the first video album ever. It was a spectacular blend of highly original music videos, skits and commercial spoofs.
Now comes another blend, under the painfully coy name of Dr. Duck's Super Secret All-Purpose Sauce (82 minutes, Pacific Arts Video, $39.95). If that title strikes you as trying too hard to be clever, you'll probably not find the concoction to your taste. Five years have passed in the brief history of home video, but Nesmith seems not to have noticed. His Dr. Duck is hardly more than warmed over Elephant Parts, and not the choicest cuts at that.
The charge that Dr. Duck is serving leftovers is lamentably accurate. The advertising and packaging for this tape are careful to mention the hallowed Elephant Parts, but they avoid naming the program's true predecessor, a fizzled network television show.
In the summer of 1985, NBC aired half-a-dozen installments of Michael Nesmith in Television Parts, a comedy-variety show trading on the cachet of the cassette. This led in turn to its own cassette, Television Parts Home Companion. If Dr. Duck has a "super secret," it's that some of this material was conceived for, and in some cases was shown on, the TV show. One segment (Jay Leno describing a '55 Buick) even begins in front of the Television Parts graphic.
Dr. Duck is unmistakable television fare. In contrast to the virtual one- man show of EP, this venture is awash in a guest celebrity roster fine-tuned to the hippest of demographics. Appearing in song or comedy bits (besides Leno) are Whoopi Goldberg, Jimmy Buffett, Roseanne Cash, Gary Shandling, Martin Mull, Jim Stafford, Jerry Seinfeld, Bob Goldthwait and Ed Begley, Jr. (Perhaps Nesmith's nom de video on this program comes from his ducking the camera.) It's a veritable list of Johnny or Joan's guests next week.
The mere fact that this is a TV retread is no reason to dismiss it entirely. It has some very entertaining moments. Nesmith figures in one as a Fassbinder-esque film director being interviewed by Dick Cavett. Puffing intently on short cigarettes, Nesmith expertly parodies the pretense of foreign "art" directors. In another fine bit, Lois Bromfield works herself into a frenzy while recounting the details of a slasher movie to her cowering date.
Other segments have a decidedly stale air. Goldberg does a turn as a surfer chick, a variation on the airhead Valley Girl that may have been funny two years ago but has since been worked to death by every talk-show comic. Goldberg contributes nothing new.
Even more boring is Goldthwait, who does his "Bobcat" routine introducing animal escape artist Houdini the Pig. Goldthwait is another in the current rash of comedians - such as Pee-wee Herman and Emo Phillips - who affect personas so geeky that the viewer squirms. It's funny at first but it's strictly one-note humor. After a minute's time, you've seen the entire repertoire of tics and grimaces.
There's one big music video production number that recalls the glories of EP. In Buffett's "La Vie Dansante," a Caribbean beach bum imagines a dreamy world of tap-dancing people in white tails, culminating in the appearance of a huge top hat that goes soaring among the stars with a line of dancers on its brim. That's just the kind of outlandishly beautiful image that Nesmith is known for, but has it become a trademark or a cliche?
This article was originally published by the Philadelphia Inquirer on December 7, 1986.
Hey, Hey We're The Monkees premiered on the Disney Channel in late January 1997. The documentary includes interviews with all four Monkees. It was later made available on VHS, but has never been released on DVD or Blu-ray.
Remember VHS tapes?! Here's an ad for a summer 1986 release of a couple of the shows on videotape. Click on each image to enlarge.
Thanks to Jeff Gehringer for submitting this to the Live Almanac.