TV Saturday: BritBox must-see doc Lennon’s Last Weekend.

Yesterday, December 8, 1980, marked the 40th anniversary of the death of one of music’s greatest icons John Lennon. He was killed by Mark David Chapman, described at the time as a “local screwball who had just a day earlier asked for and was given an autograph by Lennon as he was on his way to the recording studio.

Chapman waited outside of the rock stars New York City home at the Dakota a luxury apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side where he shot the 40-year-old Lennon four times.  As fans outside the building were stunned Lennon was rushed to nearby Roosevelt Hospital around 11:20 p.m. where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

So now on that 40th anniversary, we have the Britbox exclusive documentary Lennon’s Last Weekend that was brilliantly written and directed by Brian Grant. The doc is focused on the final 48 hours of Lennon’s life and in particular his last interview given to BBC One radio.

I spoke with Grant last week from his home outside London and we pick up the story of a BBC One D.J. by the name of Andy Peebles. It was Peebles who talked John Lennon and Yoko Ono into giving him an interview to help promote his soon to be released Double Fantasy album. 

Despite agreeing to a short twenty-minute interview with Peebles, the two hit it off and Lennon and Ono spent eight hours over what would turn out to be the final weekend of his life-giving his most lengthy, comprehensive, and honest interviews ever. Lennon spoke very openly about everything from The Beatles break-up, working with fellow music legends on their projects, producing solo albums, and life in New York.

While Peebles was headed back to London early in the evening on December 8, 1980, he had no idea that in his suitcase was the last interview Lennon would give. A few hours after Peebles plane left JFK Airport Lennon was shot by Mark David Chapman, who was described at the time as a “local screwball,” waited outside of Lennon’s New York City home at the Dakota a luxury apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side where he was shot five times and pronounced dead at the age of 40 on arrival at nearby Roosevelt

The tapes of that extraordinary interview are the focus of a brilliantly crafted documentary Lennon’s Last Weekend, that is streaming now on Britbox here in the U.S. Last week from his home in London I spoke with the documentary’s writer and director Brian Grant.

LISTEN TO STREAM ON WITH JIM WILLIAMS FOR THE ENTIRE INTERVIEW

He is one of the accomplished the U.K’s most accomplished and talented director’s and it shows in the masterful way he handled the Lennon documentary. We talked about Peebles’s interview and that the reason Lennon was comfortable doing it was because of his relationship with the BBC. He grew up listening to the BBC, and they also played a very big part in helping to launch the Beatles to the rest of the world.

Grant and I spoke about what happened not only in the interview but also how the world learned about Lennon’s death. Here in the United States, it was on Monday Night Football while the news broke to the rest of the world early Tuesday morning on the BBC World Service.

The Monday Night Football Game that night was between the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots. It was Howard Cosell but only after a conversation with his producer Bob Goodrich and his broadcast partner Frank Gifford. When they got the news Cosell was concerned about the timing as the Patriots were about to attempt a game winning field goal with 3 seconds left in the game.

Should they wait till after the kick or simply break the news and forget the game? It was decided in a commercial break that the Lennon story was far more important than the game so Cosell would make the announcement coming out of the break and Gifford would set him up. 

Music fans across the country and the world were stunned by the report of his death.

It was over the Atlantic that Peebles got the news and awaiting him back at Heathrow in London was a team from BBC. The goal was to get those tapes on the air as quickly as possible and to pay homage to the music icon.

Lennon’s Last Weekend showcases so many wonderful interviews to compliment the audio tapes of Lennon’s interview. It is as important to watch 40 years after his death as it was back in 1980.

“As the true home of Great British programming, BritBox is proud to be sharing this beloved British icon’s story with our audience,” said BritBox President and CEO, Soumya Sriraman. “I hope this documentary provides a way for John Lennon’s fans to celebrate his life and legacy in what would have been his 80th year

This is a five star must see documentary for anyone who is a music fan but especially for those who loved the Beatles. Britbox is a streaming service of the BBC and ITV, which can be seen on multiple devices. They also offer a seven day free trial of their service where you will find some of the best in British, comedy, drama, documentaries and much more.

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Jim Williams is the Washington Bureau Chief, Digital Director as well as the Director of Special Projects for Genesis Communications. He is starting his third year as part of the team. This is Williams 40th year in the media business, and in that time he has served in a number of capacities. He is a seven time Emmy Award winning television producer, director, writer and executive. He has developed four regional sports networks, directed over 2,000 live sporting events including basketball, football, baseball hockey, soccer and even polo to name a few sports. Major events include three Olympic Games, two World Cups, two World Series, six NBA Playoffs, four Stanley Cup Playoffs, four NCAA Men’s National Basketball Championship Tournaments (March Madness), two Super Bowl and over a dozen college bowl games. On the entertainment side Williams was involved s and directed over 500 concerts for Showtime, Pay Per View and MTV Networks.