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John, Paul, Tom and Ringo
The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder

John, Paul, Tom and Ringo: The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder
Shout Factory
1979 -81
1:33 flat full frame
165 min.
Street Date April 1, 2008

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

John, Paul, Tom and Ringo: The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder is a collection of three late night talk show episodes with former Beatles. The first disc contains an April 25, 1975 interview with John Lennon, which is thought to be his last such TV interview. It's actually a special re-run of the 1975 interview, aired the night after Lennon's murder on the steps of his New York City apartment building on December 8, 1980. As sort of a memorial, the show is updated with new input from Tom Snyder and new interviews. Far from being a ghoulish or exploitative gesture, the show was accepted as part of a grieving process felt by millions that consider John Lennon one of the 20th century's best songwriters and poets, and an influential advocate of peace.

Snyder begins the rerun of his Lennon interview by telling us that he thinks it's not the best interview ever done, which isn't accurate. Lennon is wonderful, and the only weak link is Snyder. A popular TV personality, Snyder comes off as uptight and insincere, repeatedly angling to goose the discussion with talk of sex and drugs. As can be expected, Lennon remains unflappable, showing grace and tolerance under fire. When Snyder drags out the lame subject of 'groupies' about five questions longer than is necessary, Lennon plays along in a relaxed manner. Snyder tries to get his guest to talk about his friends' drug use, forcing Lennon to nimbly joke that all of his friends are squeaky clean. Lennon deflects the drug topic by noting his host's unhealthy nicotine habit: Snyder smokes through the entire interview.

Much of the talk is pleasant, and Snyder does field constructive questions. John voices his liking for disco and reggae music. He talks about the Beatles breaking up and reminds us that they were together far longer than the five years of Beatlemania fame. Boredom with the music broke them up, not rancor -- the personal fireworks had been worked out years before. Lennon also addresses his ex-partners' post-Beatle careers. He says that they were concerned for Ringo's future, and then laughs at the fact that Ringo's records are probably selling better than his own.

It appears that the reason Lennon agreed to go on the air, and the reason he's being so gracious, is because he's using the appearance to raise public support for his Immigration status legal problem. In trying to become a U.S. citizen, Lennon was hounded by officials who wanted to refuse him resident status on the basis of a minor drug citation back in London. Lennon explains that he was entrapped by a corrupt London cop who wanted to make a career of busting pop stars. Lennon's attorney Leon Wildes comes on to explain that the Immigration officials first tried to deport both John and Yoko, and when she produced a green card from a previous marriage, they withdrew an already-granted extension of John's visa and listed him as an 'overstay.' The lawyer mentions a countersuit against the agency for targeted enforcement.

After the original interview concludes Snyder talks to Lisa Robinson, a reporter who had maintained a relationship with the Lennons. She explains that the interview coincided with the beginning of Lennon's quiet time as a househusband raising his son Sean, material that jibes with the account of these years given in the musical docu Imagine: A Tribute to John Lennon. Snyder finishes the memorial tribute by interviewing Jack Douglas, the music producer of Lennon's last album, who was with him on the night of his murder.

The second disc begins with Snyder's December 20, 1979 interview with Paul and Linda McCartney. He's still up to his old tricks. His guests wait for minutes on a satellite hook-up from London while Tom makes jokes about video monitors. He shows a music video before actually letting them talk. Tom throws out questions in all directions. 'What do you think about the open seating at concerts that results in disasters.' 'How did you join WINGS, Linda?' and the old favorite, 'Gee, Paul what was it like for you when the Beatles broke up?' Paul does the best he can under the circumstances, but with Tom's erratic questions jumping forward and back in time, McCartney is definitely not in top form.

Tom's guests clearly like him, but his attempts to be droll are pretty miserable. Linda says that she's 'doing it my way', and Tom tries to be funny with an allusion to the Frank Sinatra song. On the screen, the McCartney's can't believe he's wasting interview time on such inanities. Like Barbara Walters, Tom claims the right to jump around with pushy and leading questions, framing the answers in advance. "Now that your wild lifestyle is over, what's it like settling down with a wife and kids?" An intrusive "How old are the kids?" is followed quickly by "Do audiences resent you, Linda?" And more questions about 'groupies' that show just how behind the curve Snyder really is. Linda does not look happy, fielding questions about raising her children under the show-biz pressure. Things reach an all-time low when Tom dives in to get the real truth about how the McCartneys shear sheep up on their Scotland farm. Not everyone can be Dick Cavett, but .....

WINGS members Denny Laine and Laurence Juber eventually appear, but Tom hasn't any cogent questions for them. Again, Snyder bounces around in search of sweeping responses that don't come -- to Buddy Holly, back to the Beatles, the nature of Fame, etc. Paul makes jokes as best he can, restrained by the need to be polite. We mostly feel sorry for him.

The Ringo Starr interview from Neil Bogart's home in Los Angeles, November 25, 1981 splits its time between Ringo & his wife Barbara Bach, and star Angie Dickinson. Starr appears to be in attendance to promote his then- new movie Caveman. He's the same loveable 'lad' with a clear attitude and no pretensions.

We can see where Tom's going right away -- he wants Ringo to make offer impassioned statements about the direction of his life, with the assumption that any post- Beatlemania path must lead downhill. Ringo would rather talk about the exciting musicians he gets to work with in his successful albums. Ringo shows a 'music clip' for his Wrack My Brain, a pre-MTV music video. Other subjects touched upon in passing include Ken Russell, the films Caveman and Son of Dracula and Mel Brooks. The interview isn't live and plenty of evidence of editing pops up, indicating topics that went nowhere. Unlike Paul and Linda, Ringo doesn't feel the need to contribute to a party atmosphere.

The unavoidable question about John Lennon elicits a polite and sensitive response. Tom fishes for something negative about Yoko Ono, and harps on the Beatles reunion issue again. Ringo calls the Beatlemania show a rip-off, and reveals that he met Barbara Bach on Caveman.

Barbara joins for a nice stretch, holding 'Richie's hand. They're obviously very much in love. Ms. Bach proves to be the best Snyder wrangler of all, heading off unnecessary questions with good responses and retaining her dignity.

The show moves on to Angie Dickinson, giving us the hint that NBC didn't want the original shows broken up. Dickinson apologizes for her laryngitis and puts up with jokes about her legs -- Tom's opening question presumes that Dickinson didn't make it as a movie star and now settles for television. Much of the rest of her talk centers on post- Police Woman attempts at TV success and her troubles with her married life. Tom inquires about Dressed to Kill, going immediately to the erotic shower scene, of course. But Angie plays the game and divulges the setup behind a sexy taxicab scene. It would all be fine if Snyder didn't have a dirty mind about the whole thing: "Bruce Dern says he did it in a movie."

She also talks a bit about the Kennedys and the Kennedy family, without getting too personal. For some bizarre reason, Tom then jumps to the topic of crime in Los Angeles. We can't tell if Tom allowed the previous subject to die out, or if it was editorially cut off.

Shout Factory's John, Paul, Tom and Ringo: The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder is definitely a worthwhile disc for John Lennon fans who want to see everything he did; he's in fine form and presents a likeable, human image. I've perhaps been unfairly critical of Tom Snyder, considering the general level of quality for talk shows back then. Talk show hosts naturally use their guests to pull in audiences and the guests use the shows to promote their latest commercial ventures. Lennon may be building good public relations for his Immigration problem, but he comes off as completely sincere when he talks about America as the Land of the Free. The man had a way of getting directly to what's important.

The quality of the interviews is quite good, with the tape sources look fine once one accepts the slight bleeding and other NTSC 'qualities' of the time. Audio is also in good shape. The shows are presented intact but minus commercials. The faux Yellow Submarine menu and cover art avoids direct representations or likenesses of any of the stars.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, John, Paul, Tom and Ringo: The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder rates:
TV Shows: Very Good Lennon Interview
Video: Very Good
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: None
Packaging: 2 discs in Keep case
Reviewed: April 5, 2008

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2008 Glenn Erickson

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