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Television Review

'Revolution' a Fab Look at Impact of Beatles

November 17, 2000|STEVE HOCHMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"Everything was different. Every single thing was different."

"The Beatles came along and everything changed."

" 'Sgt. Pepper's' changed the world."

If you notice a theme running through these quotes from a motley trio of cultural critics--Tim Allen, Eric Idle and Alice Cooper--you have the basic idea behind "The Beatles Revolution," a two-hour documentary special debuting tonight on ABC, followed by multiple airings on VH1 starting Thursday.

And when they say everything changed, they mean everything. In the course of this well-thought-out show, hosted by "The View's" Meredith Vieira, celebrities ranging from 'N Sync and Kate Hudson (somewhat questionable, given that they weren't born yet when the Beatles broke up) to President Clinton and Salman Rushdie gush about the Fab Four's indelible impact on music, fashion, spirituality and global politics.

Clinton recalls how the group's February 1964 appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" helped him (and the nation) rebound from the JFK assassination. Tommy Hilfiger confesses that the group's shaggy hair and keen clothes "triggered an idea in my head to start a business."

Musician Anoushka Shankar (daughter of Ravi Shankar) credits the band for widespread interest in Eastern mysticism--"Now we have yoga on every corner. There was nothing like that before the Beatles came along." And Czech-born film director Milos Forman says that the Beatles' spirit of freedom was directly responsible for nothing less than the fall of communism.

For all the social theory explored, the greatest insight may well be held in the quote that's the most touching and personal: "I always remember crying at the end of 'A Hard Day's Night,' " says actor Mike Myers. "Because I liked these guys so much and I wanted to go have fun with them."

Of course, everything is also what has been said about the Beatles before, so by definition there's nothing new here--no new insights, no new revelations, no new music. The 1989 documentary "It Was Twenty Years Ago Today," on the era and making of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," set the standard for Beatles-related social studies, and the 1995 "Anthology" TV series, overseen by the group itself, was ultra-completist. (Curiously, this show sidesteps two revolutions commonly associated with the Mop Tops: sex and drugs.)

Yet like the music itself, the discussion has not worn thin with time or repetition. And any show featuring music and film clips of the Beatles--you know that can't be bad.

* "The Beatles Revolution" airs tonight at 8 on ABC.

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