TV monkeys through the decades
Forget that Darwin guy. We’ve got our own theory of evolution. And it goes like this: Monkeys aren’t just a wacky television staple, they’re revealing symbols that epitomize each decade in TV history. Think about it: Nothing sums up the 1950s’ vaudeville vibe better than Today mascot J. Fred Muggs. Note these other prime primates:
THE SIXTIES Archetypal simians: The Monkees. Okay, so they’re not actual monkeys. But these pseudo-rock stars were almost as evolved as your average lemur. Much like Laugh-In and The Mod Squad, the unthreatening prefab groovesters showed TV’s remarkable ability to co-opt a social revolution.
THE SEVENTIES Archetypal simian: Bear, from B.J. and the Bear. Bear (played by a grinning chimp named Sam) rode shotgun in B.J.’s rig as the two crisscrossed the country, fighting police corruption and wooing hot lady truckers. This was classic disco-decade monkeying around: unironic and gloriously cheesy.
THE EIGHTIES Archetypal simian: Late Night With David Letterman‘s monkey-cam. It was a decade of TV-transforming gadgets and goofy gimmicks (see MTV and Miami Vice‘s slick editing). But no innovation was more illustrative of this trend than Dave’s chimp with a camera strapped to his head. Even better, no union wages.
THE NINETIES Archetypal simian: Marcel, David Schwimmer’s pet capuchin from Friends. He lived in New York, hung out with beautiful people, and was totally self-involved (he loved to dance with himself to The Token’s ”The Lion Sleeps Tonight”). That’s ’90s Must See TV in a furry nutshell.