It's the 50th Anniversary of 'The Monkees' TV Debut

A look back at the iconic TV show and the band.

ByABC News
September 12, 2016, 12:10 PM

— -- "The Monkees" debuted on TV 50 years ago today -- decades before shows like "Glee" – and proved that a fictional music act could get great ratings and sell millions of records.

After answering a casting call for "four insane boys," Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith were selected to portray "The Monkees," whose similarities to The Beatles were entirely intentional.

Dolenz told ABC News that when the show started out, "nobody knew if it was going to be successful," while noting that it didn't hurt to have songwriters like Carole King, Neil Diamond and the duo of Boyce & Hart contributing tunes.

"The Monkees" ran for two seasons, while winning a pair of 1967 Emmys, including Outstanding Comedy Series. Its most enduring legacy, though, has to be the music, including pop-rock classics like "I'm a Believer," "Daydream Believer," "Last Train to Clarksville" and "Pleasant Valley Sunday."

While most of the band's songs were written by established songwriters and strictly controlled by the TV show's producers, the band members eventually gained creative control of their own records. After the TV show's demise, the band has continued, off and on, as a recording and touring act.

Still, it was the series that first introduced the boys to the world, and while it was a wacky comedy show, Dolenz notes, it actually had an important social impact.

"The Monkees [brought] long hair into the living room and [made] it OK to be a kid with bell bottoms and have long hair," Dolenz, 71, said.

In honor of The Monkees' 50th anniversary this year, the surviving band mates released a well-received new studio album -- "Good Times!" -- while Dolenz and Tork, 74, also have mounted a commemorative tour.

Jones died in 2012.