Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon have authorized “Daytime Revolution,” a documentary about the week John Lennon and Ono co-hosted “The Mike Douglas Show” in early 1972, a few months after the release of their single “Happy Christmas (War Is Over).”
The Shout! Studios, Creative Differences, and CBS Media Ventures feature docu uses archival footage from each of the five 70-minute shows as well as interviews with six surviving guests, including Ralph Nader, to tell the behind-the-scenes story of the unprecedented week. While Ono and her son did not participate on camera, the duo approved and creatively consulted on the project. Directed by Erik Nelson, the 108-minute docu recently wrapped production and is looking for a distributor as Ono prepares to celebrate her 90th birthday Feb. 18.
“It’s become a cliche that Woodstock was the defining moment of the counterculture,” Nelson says, but “when I watched these broadcasts in their entirety, I realized that, in reality, this week in 1972, when John Lennon and Yoko Ono essentially hijacked the airwaves and presented the best minds and dreams of their generation to the widest possible mass audience of what was then called ‘Middle America,’ was as far as the counterculture would ever get. Not just music but a prescient blueprint for the future we now live in.”
Nelson believes that today’s viewers could learn from this remarkable week of programming 51 years ago. “Basically, this past points a way to our future,” he said.
When Lennon and Ono hosted the Philadelphia-based talk show alongside Douglas, it was the most popular show on daytime television, seen by about 40 million people a week. As hosts, Lennon and Ono broached controversial topics, including the empowerment of women, the deterioration of the environment, as well as police violence. The duo personally invited Black Panther chairman Bobby Seale, political activist Ralph Nader and comedian George Carlin to join them on the program.
“We wanted to do the shows to show that we are working for peace and love and also to change the world, not with violence, but with love,” Ono explained in 1972. “And everybody that we selected is participating in efforts to change the world.”
The shows also featured musical acts, with Lennon performing alongside Chuck Berry as well as delivering a poignant rendition of the now classic “Imagine.”
“Let’s say that some of the people around the back of the show who were nervous about certain aspects of what we were doing were happy about it at the end,” Lennon said after completing his hosting duties.
But not everyone, especially the Nixon administration, was thrilled with the duo taking over as co-hosts.
“We heard that on February 4, just ten days before these shows were about to air, Senator Strom Thurmond went to Attorney General John Mitchell and wanted to warn the Nixon administration that John and Yoko were about to take sides,” says E.V Di Massa, an associate producer on “The Mike Douglas Show” in 1972.
“Daytime Revolution” is produced by Amy Briamonte and executive produced by Bob Emmer and Jeffrey Peisch for Shout! Studios, Lynn Fero and Adam Licker for CBS Media Ventures and Clark Bunting, and Dave Harding on behalf of Nelson’s production company. Creative Differences. All sales are being handled by UTA Independent Film Group, with Marc H. Simon from Fox Rothschild and Jonas Herbsman from Herbsman Hafer Weber & Frisch, LLP, representing Creative Differences and Ono and Sean Lennon, respectively.
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