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Reference Library: Oh, Yoko

From: echen@imgen.bcm.tmc.edu (Edward S. Chen)
Newsgroups: rec.music.beatles
Subject: Yoko Sunday: Two Reviews
Date: 16 Nov 1995 15:49:52 GMT

I think we can safely say this burst of Yoko publicity was done to promote her new album, and as a teaser for "Anthology." If we accept those premises, both programs did a good job, if not a stellar one.

The "Mad About You" episode repeats next year (check listings), and the "Lifetime" program repeats this Friday (11/17), and probably several times afterwards.

"Mad About You" -- 11/12/95 -- "Yoko Said"
NBC television; 24 minutes.

The NBC blurb describes the plotline as:

Upon reading an article that Yoko Ono is planning to do a "series of film happenings," Paul sells Jamie's idea to have the Explorer Channel film Yoko's series. Hanging on her every word, Paul is nonetheless baffled when Yoko suggests he film the wind. Yoko Ono guest stars as herself, in her first comedic appearence.

As such, a review needs to be divided into how well the program succeeded on its own (for its core audience), and how well it succeeded in using Yoko as a guest star. Since the first part isn't particularly relevant to this group, I will leave it with the statement that all of the characters were more or less "in character," and the continuity reference (the Buchmans had visited The Dakota in a previous episode) worked well.

Now, as to how Yoko herself did, I would say she clearly has a good sense of humor about her life and situation over the last 30 years, and that was put to good use in the program. People used to the cold stereotype that is still occasionally seen must think her one incredible actress to pull off the deft comedic touch this role asked of her.

Breaking down the episode a bit more closely:

The setup is just that...an introduction to the story, and how and why these characters will interact with Yoko Ono. The newspaper story is a plot contrivance, but not an unforgivable one. Similarly it is unlikely a filmmaker (even one known to Yoko) could obtain an audience as quickly as shown in the program. The respect the producers have for Yoko is clearly expressed, without getting syncophantic.

Yoko's participation begins with the Buchmans arriving at the Dakota for a business meeting. Jamie is busy playing with miscellaneous breakables, while Paul frets over the myriad ways he could accidentally offend Yoko, and how he feels he doesn't have an "interesting" birthdate.

As pictured the "Dakota" bears no resemblance to the actual Lennon apartment (it is, in fact, a re-dress of the Buchman apartment :-), but given that this is a fictional universe, it doesn't really have to. The art directors really should've borrowed an actual Lennon lithograph for the wall of their mythical Dakota rather than simply blowing up a print of John's pencil drawing of himself at the piano (as seen on the cover of _Ai: Japan through John Lennon's eyes_)

Immediately following the pronouncement "Don't talk about the Beatles," Yoko's entrance to "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was a brilliant piece of comedy. The remainder of the scene is light, with Yoko getting a few nice humorous bits (her expression after the "that you broke up the..." statement from the Buchmans, and her kidding with Paul B. after *he* refused to stop talking about Birthdays). The ultimate payoff of "filming the wind" is exactly the sort of thing Yoko would have written in "Grapefruit." (Never mind that 25 years have passed since then :-)

The bridging scenes again worked fine, although the reaction to the fast, and "Yoko said" (hence the title of the episode) may have been used once too many times. The plug for "Rising" was mostly unobtrusive (much more so than the McCartney cookbook/frozen dinners plug on the recent "Simpsons"), and a bit of the piss was taken out of it with the line "Do you really like it, or are you just kissing up to her (Yoko)?"

Yoko returns for a scene at the Buchmans, and admits that it might have been a bad idea to suggest filming the wind. An obligatory mention of John follows (when exactly would John have thought of "putting Ringo out front?") and the episode ends. Yoko's happy, the characters are happy, the audience is happy, and the mythical Explorer channel is happy :-)

One final surpise ended the episode. As in the publicity for the show, Yoko re-created the "Bed-In" with the Buchmans for the closing credits, (Flashing the peace sign and saying "Give Peace a Chance," followed by the trademark Paul Buchman line "That's all we're saying");

*********

A Lifetime Intimate Portrait: Yoko Ono
Lifetime Television, 46 minutes.

A reasonable look at the life of Yoko Ono, although neither as in-depth, or as interesting as it could have been. _Yoko Ono: Then and Now_, which was produced by Ono for Polygram over ten years ago actually does a better job.

Sally Kellerman ("Hot Lips" Houlihan from the original film M*A*S*H) provides the narration, and does a competent, if not particularly inspired job.

The story proceeds roughly chronologically, beginning with tales of Yoko's childhood and family troubles during the second World War. The hoary chestnut claiming John was born in the middle of an air raid is also presented here, but original research was fairly minimal for this project.

Following the hardships of the war, most of Yoko's childhood and adolescence is skipped over fairly quickly. Perhaps the highlight of this all-too-brief section is the discussion of Yoko's life with Fluxxus (and that photo of her at Sarah Lawrence!), and some of her avant-garde projects. Yoko's first two husbands are almost completely dismissed, with the first left unnamed, and Tony Cox notable only for helping Yoko wrap the Lions in Trafalgar Square.

Before the beginning of the third commercial break, the film breaks into the well-worn JOHNandYOKO territory. This could've come from any of a thousand places, and adds nothing new to the pantheon. Perhaps worst of all, chronology is sacrificed for no apparent reason, with events from 1968-1972 thrown out to viewers in haphazard fashion, continually skipping forward and backwards in time.

The program picks up again in the last 20 minutes or so, as Yoko discusses the last fifteen years of her and Sean's life. The program closes on a forward looking note, with mention of Yoko's "New York Rock" and her recent work with Ima, including some nice footage of her and the band together in the studio.

I did think it odd that Yoko's "reconciliation" with Paul was more or less ignored (with Paul's quote about him once thininking Yoko a "hard woman" from almost ten years ago!), although perhaps that was done deliberately to separate this show from "Anthology" promotion.

Beyond archival footage and photos, three main people were interviewed:

Elliot Mintz -- I really wish he *hadn't* been interviewed. Mintz has been upholding the myth for so many years, he actually believes it. In his mind John and Yoko have been elevated to Sainthood, and he is incapable of allowing either to be *human*.

Yoko Ono -- By contrast, Yoko's interviews are good, solid stuff. She shows genuine emotion when discussing John's death (take note, naysayers who claim she didn't *actually* care for her husband), yet she has clearly moved beyond it, living life each day as we all must.

Sean Lennon -- Sean provides the perspective of a twenty year old in his interviews. This is perhaps most interesting as a counterpoint to how Yoko remembers things, particularly when discussing how Sean "convinced" his mother to go back into the recording studio.

All in all, an adequate special that could've been done considerably better. More mainstream than its predecessor, and a good primer when introducing someone to the woman who shared much of John's life.


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