The Beatles Top TV Moments: 7. A Full Week With John and Yoko on ‘The Mike Douglas Show’
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.
7. A Full Week With John and Yoko
The duo cohost The Mike Douglas Show
February 14–18, 1972
The Big Picture
Middle America meets the counter-culture on a daytime talk show.
Behind the Scenes
Talk about a match made in weird TV heaven. In this corner, John Lennon, who, in the two years since the Beatles’ breakup, had become a leading antiwar voice. In that corner, Mike Douglas, singing host of the most popular daytime variety show in America. Let’s just call it a shock when John and Yoko were announced as cohosts of The Mike Douglas Show for a full week, with carte blanche to pick half the guests to appear.
Yoko had said the duo wished to bridge the gap between generations. By week’s end, it felt more like a Vietnam-era cultural collision.
Douglas couldn’t have been more mainstream—or welcoming. He opened the first day singing “Michelle” in the soft vocalist style of the era. “They’re not only superstars, but they’re super people…and two very warm human beings,” he said in his first introductions, hoping to prepare the folks at home for what was to come. After John and Yoko came out, Douglas asked, “What would you like to talk about?” Lennon said, “Well, we like to talk about love, peace, communication, women’s lib, racism, war, prison conditions—life in general.” But for most of Mike’s audience, “life in general” didn’t quite cross with the perceived political motivations of the pair. Still, Douglas kept his ever-calm veneer throughout, awkwardly participating in the antics to come, calling people (at John and Yoko’s request) to say “I love you” (Mike called David Frost) and watching John and Yoko have their alpha brain waves hooked up to a synthesizer.
John and Yoko were combative and diplomatic at the same time, chain-smoking except when President Nixon–appointed Surgeon General Jesse Steinfeld took to the stage to decry violence on TV. Their side of the guest list included Ralph Nader, Black Panther Bobby Seale and George Carlin.
The musical numbers featuring Lennon with the Plastic Ono Band were good, but there were…moments. When Chuck Berry joined them, Ono pulled the mic away from her bongo drum and commenced to screech, as she often did. The camera caught Berry’s eyes widening in shock.
Douglas called it “probably the most memorable week I did in all my 20-something years on air.” Memorable indeed.
Well, not exactly fun: Two weeks after the show aired, the Nixon administration’s Immigration and Naturalization Service ordered Lennon out of the country.
Why It Ranks
For reality TV long before its time, it doesn’t get any more fascinating than this TV week.
See It Today
The Beatles: Get Back, Documentary Premiere, November 25–27, Disney+