First came the Beatles, a/k/a the Fab Four. Then came the Monkees, a/k/a the Pre-Fab Four. Now, 20 years later, after a remarkable resurgence of interest in the Monkees' music and boob-tube high jinks, Columbia Pictures Television is launching The New Monkees, an updated "musical situation-comedy series" starring four bright-eyed, mugging newcomers. Call them the Post-Fab Four.

More than 3,000 would-be simians auditioned for the half-hour show, scheduled to air next September, including the sons of Bobby Darin, Donovan, Frankie Avalon and original Monkee Mike Nesmith. But the Monkee mantle was passed to four unknowns. Just last month Jared Chandler, 19, was busing tables at Universal City's Victoria Station restaurant. Dino Kovas, 20, was flipping burgers at Sneaky Pete's in Livonia, Mich. Marty Ross, 27, was gigging with his band in smoky L.A. dumps and Larry Saltis, 18, was choking down English 101 at Ohio's Kent State. To a man, the boys are gung ho. "Last week we had everyone's dream come true," says Ross. "We walked into a store and pointed to what we wanted. They said, 'It's yours.' "

A New Monkee's dream, however, can be an old Monkee's nightmare. Original band members Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones and Peter Tork—who have reunited for a well-received reunion tour—reportedly are unhappy about having to compete with the upstarts. Their manager, David Fishof, and Columbia, who claims the rights to the Monkees' name, are trying to work out a deal in which the two groups can peacefully coexist. That, it seems, remains to be seen. At the New York City unveiling of the New Monkees, executive producer Steve Blauner glibly suggested that the old-timers and the newcomers get together for a show. "Yeah," deadpanned Fishof. "They can be our opening act."