The TV Column: Lisa de Moraes on Michael Jackson and Billy Mays

By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Within hours of Michael Jackson's death, MSNBC picked up ABC's old Jacko documentary, and Comcast's TV One had slapped on CBS's old Jackson 5 special.

Anybody who has a copyright on anything Jackson has been out shopping it to any network that will take the meeting.

"If it's him on film at any point in the last 20 years, you can bet it will show up somewhere," one network exec said of the whole swap meet footage frenzy.

Remember that British documentary "Living With Michael Jackson" that clocked 27 million viewers for ABC back in 2003 -- the one in which the King of Pop revealed to Martin Bashir that he shared his bed with other people's kids, which eventually led to child molestation charges for Jackson and a gig at ABC News for Bashir?

Well, NBC Universal scooped up the rights to an edited one-hour version last Saturday afternoon -- about 48 hours after Jackson died and for an undisclosed sum -- and slapped it on MSNBC at 7, 10 and 11 that very night. Then MSNBC ran it again the next day at 7, 8 and 11 p.m. Even then NBC Universal was not through wringing every last rating out of this buy: NBC aired it last night at 10 and MSNBC will run it six more times through July.

Remember that Michael Jackson 30th-anniversary celebration, which marked his first performance in 17 years with his brothers? It copped nearly 26 million viewers for CBS in November 2001.

Lucky TV One had been in talks to buy that special before Jackson's death, intending to run it at the time of his 50-concert London marathon. Presumably TV One got the special at a bargain-basement rate, relative to what the special's price tag would have been starting Thursday afternoon.

When Jackson died, TV One shoved it into its Friday night lineup. The network will air it again, though the dates have not been determined.

And how about that "Do the Bartman" music video that Jackson co-wrote and produced in 1990? Fox aired it at the start of "The Simpsons" on Sunday, three days after Jackson died.

It's unclear whether Fox can also repeat the '91 episode of "The Simpsons" in which Jackson played a guy who's in an asylum because he thinks he's Michael Jackson. If not, don't worry: The episode has been part of the show's syndication package for a while -- your local station with the rerun rights will surely air it if Fox can't.

Still unaccounted for:


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