Like millions of Boomers, The Mike Douglas Show was regular afternoon fare on our family TV. The affable crooner and host served up a daily dose of celebrity, humor, with an occasional discussion of current events. It was the quintessential daytime chat show, airing from 1961 through 1982, and drew about 40 million viewers each week.
The format featured Douglas interacting with 60s staples like Jackie Gleason, Tony Randall, and Joe Namath. Musical guests ranged from country crooner Eddy Arnold to The Turtles. However, Douglas didn’t shy from controversy, also sitting down with Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Angela Davis. For a show aimed at Middle America, Douglas wasn’t afraid to take a few risks.
One week in particular showcased Douglas’ willingness to test the limits of daytime TV, namely, the week in 1972 when John Lennon and Yoko Ono co-hosted. A new documentary, Daytime Revolution, is an inside look at the impact of their appearance. In many ways, it’s even more relevant 52 years later.
John and Yoko appeared on The Mike Douglas Show on Feb.14-18, 1972, not long after they’d released “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)”. Ono explained, “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…And everybody that we selected is participating in efforts to change the world.”
Among the curated guests were Black Panther Bobby Seale and activist Jerry Rubin. For Douglas’ typical audience, these names often elicited a kneejerk reaction (and not a good one). Yet Seale talked about the Panthers’ policy of “food not guns,” and Rubin opened up to Douglas about the death of his father. It was a humanizing moment that bridged the generations.
Comedian George Carlin appeared that week during a pivotal moment in his career. He was transitioning from the “Hippy Dippy Weatherman” character that had earned him laughs in his early days to the cutting-edge truthteller that we now know.
Alongside Lennon, Ralph Nader pushed a “get out the vote or risk peril” message not unlike what we’re hearing today. Also spotlighted is Nader’s prescient warning about Roger Ailes, the ultra-conservative TV executive who would later create Fox News. Ironically, Ailes had once held a job as a production assistant in the early days of the Douglas show.
Of course, Lennon being Lennon, there were plenty of musical moments that week. He performed alongside one of his heroes, Chuck Berry, and offered a poignant rendition of “Imagine.”
Both Yoko and Sean Lennon have authorized the documentary (a release date is still pending).
While most of us have likely seen some isolated YouTube clips of John and Yoko on the Douglas show, Daytime Revolution presents that memorable week in a fuller context, recalling its astonishing impact on the times.
All photos by Michael Leshnov