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'The Jack5ons: A Family Dynasty' Premiere Recap: The Jacksons Make Their Reality TV Debut

by Chris O'Connell, posted Dec 14th 2009 8:00AM
The King of Pop is dead, but he certainly isn't gone. With the new A&E show 'The Jack5ons,' expect the late Michael Jackson and the rest of his family to stick around for a long time -- assuming the show receives good ratings and some generous press from a media that is most likely bored to tears with this never-ending saga.

The show goes to great lengths to inform us numerous times that the wheels were in motion for 'The Jack5ons' before Mike's death on June 25 of this year. The question facing the remaining members of the infamous pop family was whether to continue filming the reality show or not.The Jack5onsThe King of Pop is dead, but he certainly isn't gone. With the new A&E show 'The Jack5ons: A Family Dynasty,' expect the late Michael Jackson and the rest of his family to stick around for a long time -- assuming the show receives good ratings and some generous press from a media that is most likely bored to tears with this never-ending saga.

The show goes to great lengths to inform us numerous times that the wheels were in motion for 'The Jack5ons' before Michael's death on June 25 of this year. The question facing the remaining members of the infamous pop family was whether to continue filming the reality show or not.

The first installment of the show is split into two hour-long parts: the first part is used to show the family in the time immediately preceding Michael's death and the second, immediately following. The initial purpose of the show was to promote a new Jackson's record featuring the four least-famous Jacksons, Jackie, Jermaine, Marlon and yes, Tito. The quarreling quartet celebrate Marlon's return from Nigeria by attending a choreography lesson, followed by a day in the studio where -- surprise, surprise -- the brothers can't agree on a song.

"It doesn't have that Jackson 5 magic," Jackie remarks. (Is he really surprised? The Jackson 5 magic has been gone since around the tail end of Richard Nixon's Presidency.) Jackie authorizes a totally unnecessary deletion of the track, while Tito and Jermaine are at lunch and a lackluster and predictable fight ensues between the brothers.

Marlon and Tito make a pilgrimage to Gary, Indiana, where the Jacksons grew up, and at about the 40 minute mark in the first episode, the brothers have not mentioned Michael once, yet have referred to each other innumerable times, which feels odd. The quartet seems to be operating on a completely different plane than the rest of the family.

The Jack5onsThey do, however, manage to gloss over their father Joe Jackson's famously abusive treatment of his children, managing to say that he just "had a dream." Jermaine literally pulls a 180 three minutes later as he tearfully describes a moment when Joe made Jermaine feel guilty for remaining on Motown Records when the rest of the Jacksons defected to Epic in 1976. The boys hug and decide to bring it all together.

Cut to paramedic transcripts of the 911 call from Michael's house. And now the show gets interesting.

One thing 'The Jack5ons' does well is reflect on Michael Jackson's death from a personal perspective, humanizing the pop star and shedding light on him beyond tabloid fodder and music-industry anecdotes.

Ironically, the album and subsequent reunion tour are derailed in the wake of Jackson's death, but the show finally has a purpose. The brothers remember Michael as their loving brother in touching confessionals about him. Whether or not MJ was morally bankrupt or criminally guilty of any crimes is irrelevant in this context; the brothers miss Mike dearly and find trouble coping with his death.

Once we see the Jackson four eulogize their brother, the show gains a validity that it wouldn't have had the focal point been about the reunion. Judging the show on the first episode alone, the show would have been unwatchable for a full season had Michael not died. Jermaine even grasps at Michael's legacy by planning a tribute concert for Michael featuring Mary J. Blige and Akon in Vienna -- and then it just sort of falls apart and is postponed an entire year. Then he gets pinkeye and misses a photo shoot. These are the main plot points in the second part.

Is the show contrived and little bit goofy? Sure. Yet a show involving maybe the most famous entertainer of all-time and his family around the time of his death has to provide us with some interesting personal Jacksons stories and some unintentional comedy on behalf of the other brothers. If you don't believe me, check out Tito's perpetual bowler hat and Jermaine's Ed Hardy polo shirt. You can't make this stuff up.

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