`John and Yoko': the Fab Two? Simplistic special takes itself too seriously

John Lennon of the Beatles was a complex man whose complex life should have earned him more than a simplistic television special. Even with a little help from his friends -- 28 Beatles songs -- John and Yoko: A Love Story (NBC, Monday, Dec. 2, 8-11 p.m.) barely manages to make it through a long, repetitious evening. The three-hour special takes itself too seriously, and with questionable objectivity, as it traces John and Yoko through almost two decades of self-conscious nonconformity, ranging from politics (the film makes it pure and simple Nixon vs. Lennon) to adultery (Yoko vs. Cynthia).

Starting with the famous controversy when John claimed (not boastingly) that the Beatles were ``bigger than Jesus,'' this pop history so awkwardly insists upon dipping into all of the highs and lows of Lennon's post-1966 life that it hardly ever stops long enough to allow viewers to catch up with motivation. Mark McGann, as John, is authentically Liverpudlian and Kim Miyori, as Yoko, perceptibly Japanese.

For those interested in the whole story of the ``Fab Four,'' the recent film ``The Compleat Beatles'' is a much better account of their rise and fall. This current program might well be called the ``Fab Two'' or ``John and Yoko, As Yoko Sees It,'' since it appears to be a Yoko-approved, Yoko-dominated version of the unconventional love story. It is an unquestionably sympathetic portrait of her. Every now and then, however, a will of iron reveals itself through the depicted vulnerability.

Fans of John Lennon will be pleased to find bits of vintage Lennon floating throughout this overlong paean to a fiercely competitive relationship. But too often ``John and Yoko: A Love Story'' is swamped in a sea of Yoko, as scene after scene centers on the ups and downs of their relationship to the exclusion of other aspects of John's life. And one wonders what part Yoko would have played in John's future as the film portrays him emerging from his house-husband period, a time when he cared for son Sean

while Yoko managed the business affairs, as their relationship seemed to mature.

I have a horrible feeling that this is only the beginning of a soap-opera-style docu-drama revival of Beatlemania. Might it be that writer/director Sandor Stern is already at work on ``Paul and Linda''?

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