NBC has been busy trying to make the “event series” into a legitimate thing (because a sub-par Rosemary’s Baby remake sounds so much more epic if you label it an “event”), but now television’s proud, strutting peacock has an actual event on its hands.
According to Deadline, the network has begun work on an eight-episode series that would chronicle the lives of The Beatles, arguably the most important musicians of the 20th century. The miniseries, which for right now remains title-less, will be written and executive produced by one Michael Hirst, a smart pick to cover the Fab Four. Hirst is both well-versed in television — most recently, he’s done the writer/executive producer thing on History’s Vikings and Starz’s Camelot —and he’s roughly as English as the Queen, eating a crumpet and swimming in a small reservoir of tea.
Hirst’s filmography is almost exclusively about ancient British folk being both ancient and British, starting with Elizabeth, then Elizabeth: The Golden Age, The Tudors, Camelot and Vikings (Vikings who regularly venture into England for pillaging galore). Also The Borgias, which I’m assuming was a mistake (English actors as Italian characters? That could trip anyone up). If NBC wants their Beatles to be authentically across-the-pond-ian, than Hirst’s a wise choice.
And they will need this Beatles limited mini-event series to be as authentic (also: good) as humanly possible. Adapting the story of The Beatles into anything (TV, movie, crumpet) takes some series chutzpah.
Because nobody touches The Beatles.
They may be an ever-present part of pop culture, some 44 years after they broke up, but to do a straight-up biopic (or TV biopic, I suppose) of how the band got together, smoked various things, composed various things and then parted ways, has never been done. Ever.
Seriously. Think back to any movie you’ve seen that had some semblance of Beatle in it. Actual Beatle-made movies don’t count (sorry, A Hard Day’s Night, Help!, Magical Mystery Tour, Yellow Submarine and Let it Be), so cross those off.
Let’s also include the documentary The Beatles Anthology in this category, because it, too, was composed mostly of real Beatles. The only subjects interviewed were the Fab Four, plus the Usually Nearby Three — producer George Martin, press agent Derek Taylor and Apple Corps manager Neil Aspinall. It’s a thorough chronicling through all of Beatlemania, but then it’s far less of a risk to just ask The Beatles, “hey, what were The Beatles like?” than to create your own account.
You certainly can’t count movies that feature Beatles-like bands that aren’t actually The Beatles, so no more All You Need is Cash, with its parody group The Rutles, or That Thing You Do! and The Oneders.
Then, erase the films inspired by (but not technically about) The Beatles. That would be Across the Universe‘s Beatle-infused teen angst and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, a 1978 musical re-telling of the group’s eponymous concept album featuring the acting abilities of the Bee Gees, Peter Frampton, Alice Cooper and Steven Tyler, and the singing abilities of Steve Martin.
Test yourself and see how far you can get into the video below without panicking into an abrupt force close of your entire web browser. For the record, I made it all of 27 seconds.
But now we’re getting closer. The next category is films about people who were tangentially related to at least one Beatle: I Wanna Hold Your Hand, about the Ed Sullivan Show just before the group’s iconic performance; Backbeat, a biopic detailing the early rise of The Beatles, but from the perspective of the band’s original bassist, Stuart Sutcliffe; and the Mark David Chapman biopic Chapter 27. This group gets to stand on the shoulders of the Beatle empire, but without the responsibility of actually having to adapt the complete Beatles story. Inventive, but kinda-sorta like a cop-out.
After this, we must remove films that follow actual Beatles but are basically Fab Four fanfiction. Specifically, Two of Us
Scratch those off, and all we’ve got left are three films. One, Nowhere Boy, is about the early life of John Lennon and the formation of The Quarrymen, the group that eventually morphed into The Beatles. Second, there’s In My Life: The John Lennon Story, a TV movie on the same subject. They’re about The Beatles, but they’re not about their time as The Beatles, so one would be hard-pressed to call these true biopics.
And the third, of course, would be Walk Hard: The Legend of Dewey Cox.
Drink it in. Right now, that’s the one time in the last twenty years that anyone’s attempted a real movie with real Beatles in them. Jack Black doing a half-assed English accent that also sounds like a Scottish accent (and “not an accent”) is the best there is.
The Beatles deserve better than that. Now it’s on NBC’s shoulders to deliver. First up should probably be securing The Beatles’ music catalog, because Deadline mentions absolutely nothing about the network getting their hands on those rights, and no one wants to see a Beatles miniseries that abruptly cuts away any time one of the four leads picks up an instrument.
After that comes the agonizing process of making the first true Beatles biopic under the scrutiny of basically the entire modern world. Hop to it, NBC.