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music

2009

A&E's The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty offers a peek behind the famous family

If it weren't made clear from the start that the "real-life" series The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty began filming months before brother Michael's death, it would have come across as crass exploitation, floating on the resurgence in popularity of the Jacksons most famous (dead) brother. But the show, loosely revolving around the idea of a 40th Anniversary Jackson 5 reunion, was well into filming when the brothers hear of their most famous sibling's much-publicized death. Creepy coincidence? Sure. But the timing of that event can only help this series, both in the curiosity factor and in the content.

As it is, even before MJ was out of the picture, it never seems that he was going to be involved in the Jackson 5 reunion. The stars of this A&E show (and the much-discussed reunion) are actually only the Jackson 4: Tito, Jackie, Marlon, and Jermaine. Brother Randy (of the post-Motown Jacksons) is never mentioned and is mysteriously absent. Mother Katherine appears, as do some of the foursome's kids (including Tito's sons who form the creatively stuck band 3T).

As I was a HUGE Jackson fan in the early 80s, I admit I was curious about the show. The opening credits show the nattily-dressed brothers emerging from a limo to an adoring crowd, to the infectious disco hit "Can You Feel It" (I swear, I've watched the opening credit several times, and it gives me a chill). Hearing the brothers sit down and scratch out a potential set list for a reunion concert just about brings me to tears, especially when (after MJ's death) they all agree wholeheartedly to do a medley of Michael's hits. But as this was all filmed in the spring and summer of this year (and it is implied they would have a concert within two months) we already have the hindsight that this concert being discussed never happened. Or at least it hasn't happened yet.

The series starts out strangely stagey, as the brothers sit down to hash out details, they get in fights and run to mom Katherine (Jackie sounds like he is reading a script when he admission to their mom that he cut Jermaine's vocals out of a demo). But by the second episode Michael has died. As horrible as this is for the family, it shakes things up as far as this show. Jermaine plays the flighty diva, not showing up for photo shoots or group interviews. Tito and Marlon get notably pissed off, and Jackie lets out some raw emotion (and hard-to-watch tears) about his brother's death. In the meantime, all of them hide behind their sunglasses even while indoors.

One of the most fascinating scenes shows the brothers hashing out some hard feelings that have been buried for DECADES. Jermaine explains how freaked out and hurt he was when the rest of the brothers left Motown Records for a new deal with CBS, for more creative power. At the time, Jermaine was married to the boss' daughter, and stayed as a solo artist at Motown. Apparently each side thought the other was ditching them, and it caused a huge unspoken rift in the family. And, if we are to believe this show, they have never talked about it! As hard as that might be to believe, it makes for fascinating TV for any fans of the Jackson brothers.

I don't know if someone who isn't already a fan, or who is at least familiar with the family beyond Michael, will find The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty riveting. But I'll say as a fan, I found the show at least interesting... We'll see how the rest of the episodes flesh out. In the meantime, yep, I'll still buy a ticket in a second if they ever get their act together and have a reunion tour.

OFFICIAL SITE: http://www.aetv.com/the-jacksons-a-family-dynasty/

The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty premieres Sunday, December 13 at 9pm ET/PT on A&E. The series will then move to its regularly scheduled time, Sunday's at 10:00pm ET/PT beginning December 20 on A&E.

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