What kind of John Lennon tribute doesn't play one note of his music, opting instead for Paul McCartney's 1982 elegy, "Here Today"? How about "John Lennon Remembered," an hour-long mishmash that plays tonight at 9 on Channel 5.
The signs aren't too good right from the start, with only Wolfman Jack's gravelly cadence and huckster personality to connect disparate interviews. Among those heard from in a series of head shots interspersed with quick photo flashes: Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Julian Lennon (in a 3-year-old interview), George Martin, Allan Williams ("the man who gave the Beatles away," though he forgets to tell that story), May Pang and Mr. Popjoy, John's old headmaster, who recalls Lennon as a bright student who failed his examinations. In other words, nothing is revealed about Lennon that hasn't been revealed before and better.
The Wolfman can't even come to terms with Lennon's murder, saying "it's been some time since his life ended." The program goes on to ask (and inadequately answer) such insightful questions as "What was John Lennon really like?" and "What was it like to be a Beatle?" The continuing refrain seems to be "Where were you when you heard about it?" -- though McCartney at least manages to mention his reaction before being asked to rehash how he and John wrote songs.
Martin and Williams rehash other Beatles minutiae, while May Pang, who lived with Lennon for 14 months between two Yoko stages, proves that opportunism knocks several times. The key question to her: "Do you have any recollections or impressions of John?" She does, but they're irrelevant.
The only two segments that work are with Harrison, who doesn't say much but says it well, and Julian Lennon, gracious and soft-spoken and so much the uncanny image of John. Although he seems dazed by some of the questions ("Which Beatles tunes did you like?"), he responds with the only dignity evident in the show. "He was great, a total loonie," Julian says of the father he hardly knew. The interviewer seems more interested in the son's remembrances of Yoko Ono and with the plight of growing up the son of a Beatle. "I wouldn't know any other way," Julian sighs, "but it doesn't seem that bad."
You wish the same could be said for the program. 'Deja View'
"What would happen if you took some terrific songs from the '60s and recast them in the context of '80s video? Well -- surprise -- you'd have a program like "Deja View" (Channel 9, Sunday, at 4:30 p.m.), hosted by Lovin' Spoonful stalwart John Sebastian (it's the '80s, so the glasses are gone and contacts are in), featuring six new videos grafted onto the original hits.
It's a great idea with pretty good execution so far. The best clip on the premiere is Procol Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale," directed by David Hogan and starring the ubiquitous Harry Dean Stanton and Bernie Taupin, who do nothing to explicate Keith Reed's surreal lyrics but seem perfectly cast in a beautifully filmed piece of neo/western/gothic that would be right at home as a "Hitchhiker" episode. Also outstanding is the Hollies' "Bus Stop," directed by Dominick Sena and Greg Gold, a swirling, dissolving montage that presents a microcosm of love and life played out at said bus stop (guest appearance by Graham Nash).
The Rascals' "Good Lovin," starring Felix Cavaliere and two members of the cast of "St. Elsewhere" and directed by that show's Eric Laneuville, is dumb and cute in an obvious kind of way; it could slip onto MTV's play list without a hitch. Sly and the Family Stone's "Everyday People," directed by Jeremy Kagen ("The Journey of Natty Gann") recalls both old Coke commercials and Godley and Creme's recent "Stay" video. The Zombies' "She's Not There" wastes Teri Garr in literal explication, while the Beach Boys' "Don't Worry Baby" wastes Brian Wilson on unimaginative expansion. Not bad, but not great.
There's also live music on the show, from Nash, Sebastian and Ronnie Spector. Oddly enough, some of the best "Deja Views" are provided by the show's national sponsor, Lincoln-Mercury, which has been using the old music/new clothes concept better than anyone else in the ad business. Their spots incorporate Curtis Mayfield's "Get Ready," the Beatles' "Good Day Sunshine" and the Vandellas' "Heat Wave" in 60-second vignettes that are beautifully produced and paced. It's a different twist, but just as effective. Another special is scheduled for March, after which "Deja View" hopes to expand into a series.