The Monkees were my gateway into the great music of the 1960s and '70s, back when I was twelve and they had their big twentieth-anniversary revival. I was already a little familiar with the Beatles' early stuff, but the Monkees hooked me big-time -- it was so much better than almost everything else coming out in 1986 and made me eager to explore more music of the period. The irony is that they were the first manufactured band, thrown together by TV executives only to cash in on the trends of the time as a fake American version of the Beatles -- and yet twenty years later, their best music held up far better than most mid-'80s hits do now. (In my opinion, anyway. I still can't fathom why so many people would rather hear A-ha's frigid, tinny, godawful "Take on Me" than "I'm a Believer".) Sure, the band itself had little to do with the quality of the music -- it helped to have the likes of Neil Diamond and Carole King as songwriters. But it's surprising to come back to the music after not having heard it in a while and rediscovering how good some of it was.
The TV show was stupid. I'll grant that. It was pretending to be Help!, but with the exception of the innovative, pre-MTV music videos, it really wasn't much different than all the other silly, cartoonish mid-'60s sitcoms like Gilligan's Island, Beverly Hillbillies, The Munsters, etc. But you have to admit that the Monkees themselves sold it well. They were full of unpretentious charm and spontaneity, and it's not surprising that they briefly became teen idols rivaling the Beatles themselves. And not untalented, either. Mike Nesmith wrote a number of their better songs, and Peter Tork was reportedly a good guitarist.
Anyway, let the music speak for itself. In addition to "Daydream Believer", here are four other valid arguments that the Monkees were (and are) seriously underrated.