This is a guest post from Nick Scalera, resident music enthusiast and part-time history buff here on WETA's digital team. He writes more regularly over at Boundary Stones, our local history blog focused on the Washington, DC area.
Magical Mystery Tour, the surrealistic 1967 Beatles TV special shown only in the U.K., will finally premiere on TV in the States — 45 years later, newly restored, in December on PBS stations. The film was originally broadcast in black and white on BBC One on Boxing Day 1967 to a family audience expecting a frothy entertainment in the style of A Hard Day’s Night and Help!. It followed a Petula Clark special and preceded a Norman Wisdom feature film.
While the music itself had been rapturously received in the form of a double EP already high in the U.K. charts, the response to the “film” from TV critics and the majority of the 15 million adult viewers was negative to the point of downright vitriolic. As a result, the film was never nationally broadcast in the U.S. and had only limited distribution elsewhere.
The U.S. telecast will premiere on WETA TV26 & HD, on Dec. 21, at 9:00 pm and will be part of an exclusive double feature, accompanied by a new documentary, Magical Mystery Tour Revisited, featuring the history of the bizarre project, as well as snippets of outtakes.
So, why it this big deal? Read on.