The TV Column by Lisa de Moraes: All Jackson, All the Time

By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Michael Jackson Memorial Orgy of Excess has arrived.

First: The Elephants.

News crews and Jackson fanatics camping outside the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, where the Jackson memorial takes place today, may -- or may not -- be surprised by the herd of 11 Asian elephants that will pass through the side entrance of the complex in the wee hours of this morning. But, we're sorry to report, while planners thought to invite Mariah Carey to sing a Jackson tune at the memorial, you will not get to hear from the elephants during today's coverage.

Turns out Stevie Wonder, Usher and Lionel Richie, Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, the Rev. Al Sharpton, and basketball stars Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant will be part of the freak show -- but the elephants are part of the circus.

The elephants, and the seven horses accompanying them, are there for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus opening at the Staples Center the next day. That seems completely appropriate. A circus spokeswoman says the elephants are very comfortable around people and will not be fazed by Jackson fans.

It's a decades-old tradition to parade the giants through the streets of the circus's host city, and Ringling Bros. and the city's Animal Services office decided not to let Jackson's memorial get in the way of the three-mile hike from their train in Union Station to the arena. The circus will use the same arena as the Jackson event, but the animals -- which also include big cats -- will be stowed in a barn until the crowds clear out, the rep told the Associated Press.

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Now, the freak show:

At least 16 television networks plan live coverage of the Jackson memorial. At press time, the list included ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, Fox News Channel, CNN, CNN Headline News, MSNBC, TV One, MTV, VH1, VH1 Classic, VH1Soul, TV Guide Channel, E!, Univision and we're sure we're missing a few. Think Princess Di times 2.

Overwhelmed by the sheer number of Jackson death-march viewing options? We're here to help.

For starters, given the historic ratings problems at most of the broadcast networks this summer, the timing of Jackson's death has been their salvation, ratings-wise. They have high hopes for a large viewership today. FYI, when the Michael Jackson child-abuse trial verdict was read on June 13, 2005, about 31 million were watching it on TV. (Princess Di's funeral was watched by about 33 million on a Saturday in September '97 across eight networks.)

ABC has planned today's gutsiest coverage, once again trotting out Martin Bashir. We're guessing Jackson fans probably won't be watching ABC's coverage, Bashir being the guy who profited most by taking down Michael Jackson. In case you just came out from under a flat rock, Bashir's the guy who did that 2003 documentary, bought by ABC, that led to Jackson getting slapped with those child-abuse charges and Bashir getting offered a job at ABC News. In Jackson-fanatic circles, Bashir is That Backstabber Who Has Michael Jackson's Blood on His Hands.

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