The Beatles Top TV Moments: 3. ‘The Beatles’

The Beatles on ABC
American Broadcasting Companies via Getty Images

Hey there, The Beatles fans! Join us in our 10-day countdown to the premiere of The Beatles: Get Back on Disney+, sizing up the 10 greatest TV moments in the long and winding history of the lads from Liverpool.

This is an excerpt from TV Guide Magazine’s The Beatles on TV Special Collector’s Edition, available for order online now at BeatlesonTV.com and for purchase on newsstands nationwide.

3. The Beatles

Series aired on ABC

Sept. 25, 1965–Oct. 21, 1967

The Big Picture

The Beatles were always animated; here, they proved they could also carry a ’toon.

Behind the Scenes

After seeing the Beatles bring teens to their feet on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, Al Brodax—then producing Popeye and Beetle Bailey cartoons on television—approached the band’s management about translating their songs and energy into an animated series in the States. The papers were signed, and this first-ever weekly TV show featuring cartoon versions of real people launched on ABC’s fall 1965 schedule in a Saturday-morning 10:30am slot. In all, 39 episodes were produced, featuring short pieces illustrating Beatles songs pulled from albums up to and including Revolver.

The show used the same fast-cutting style of A Hard Day’s Night and Help! to give it a breezy impudence. The only thing missing? The clever writing from those films. To its credit, the series did try to capture the personalities of the lads. It even suggested something of a pecking order, with John as the ever-joking leader; Paul the stylish, happy-go-lucky second banana; George the hunched but angular, wryly humorous Beatle; and Ringo—with the shaggiest of the mop tops—being silly, likable and innocent, not to mention short.

George Harrison, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr in Yellow Submarine

Yellow Submarine (Courtesy of Everett Collection)

The episodes took their titles from Beatles tunes, and the plots—if one can call them that—referenced song lyrics. To wit: John is given a friendship ring from a Polynesian tribal chief, which obligates him to marry the chief’s daughter; antics proceed to “Can’t Buy Me Love.” In another, the Beatles jump in a diving bell to hide from fans, only to be dropped into the ocean, where a lovesick octopus awaits, leading to the song “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Popular British comic actor Lance Percival was brought in to voice Paul and Ringo. American performer Paul “The Man of a Thousand Voices” Frees did the honors for John and George; he did not appear to attempt a British accent.

But what was not to like about all those popular songs? There were even two “sing-along” segments in each episode.

The Beatles was an instant ratings hit, racking up a 52 percent share—which was unheard of for daytime TV. For the third season, the show moved to noon on Saturdays.

Except for their songs, the band had nothing to do with the show. Their initial reaction to the series led them to also shy away from voicing themselves in Yellow Submarine. It was only after viewing that film—and liking it—that they agreed to create its live-action ending. Later on, the Beatles admitted enjoying the cartoon series; in 1999, Harrison said, “I think the passage of time might make them more fun now.”

The Beatles Top TV Moments: 2. 'The Ed Sullivan Show'See Also

The Beatles Top TV Moments: 2. 'The Ed Sullivan Show'

We're sizing up the 10 greatest TV moments in the long and winding history of the lads from Liverpool.

Fun Fact

Frees also provided the voice of Boris Badenov on the popular The Bullwinkle Show.

Why It Ranks

Talk about a great way to bring younger kids into the Beatlemania fold.

See It Today

The Beatles: Get Back, Documentary Premiere, November 25–27, Disney+