How John Lennon and Yoko Ono ‘Hijacked’ an American TV Show

John Lennon and Yoko Ono were essential figures in the counterculture movement of the 1970s. Not only did their music embrace the avant-garde, but they also performed several publicity stunts, like the anti-war protest bed-ins. Lennon and Ono were seen as controversial figures on certain sides of the political aisle, and many were not pleased when the couple “hijacked” an American TV show in 1972.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono appeared on several episodes of ‘The Mike Douglas Show’ in 1972

After The Beatles ended in 1970, Lennon fully committed to voicing his politics in his music. While he had more subtle, calmer songs like “Imagine”, he also had more provocative and uncompromising songs like “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “Power to the People”.

This made Lennon a not-so-popular figure with certain politicians, who didn’t want his counterculture brand to infect the youth. However, audiences were given a healthy dose of Lennon and Ono’s politics when they co-hosted five episodes of The Mike Douglas Show. While they hosted, they spoke about issues like police brutality, the environment, and women’s empowerment.

They also brought on several essential figures of the counterculture movement, like musician Chuck Berry, Black Panther chairman Bobby Seale, and comedian George Carlin. “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.”

Lennon and Ono’s co-hosting gigs are explored in a new documentary titled Daytime Revolution. Director Erik Nelson told Variety that when the couple “hijacked the airwaves,” it became a pivotal moment in the counterculture movement of the 1970s.

“It’s become a cliche that Woodstock was the defining moment of the counterculture,” Nelson shared. “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.”

The Nixon administration did not want Lennon to get on television

It’s safe to say that John Lennon and Yoko Ono were not fans of President Richard Nixon and vice versa. The former Beatle and his wife were staunch anti-war activists, and Nixon didn’t want U.S. public opinion to turn against the war in Vietnam any more than it already was. Nixon was made aware of the duo’s co-hosting duties and was staunchly against them doing so.

“We heard that on February 4, just 10 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,” recalled E.V Di Massa, an associate producer on The Mike Douglas Show in 1972. Still, Lennon and Ono co-hosted the show without any government interference, and it’s fascinating to see how impactful one of the world’s biggest music stars was on American politics.

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