By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Surprise, surprise. The A&E cable network is going to turn what was planned as a one-off Jackson family special into a Jackson family reality series. Why?
Because A&E suits are not stupid and the Jackson family is TV crack these days.
The network would not cough up any details about the show on Tuesday, except that its name has been changed from "The Jackson Family" to "Jackson Family Dynasty." And A&E decided to confirm what we all knew was inevitable because celebrity-suck-up show "Entertainment Tonight" somehow got hold of some of the series footage and aired it Tuesday night.
Coincidentally (yeah, right), A&E's announcement comes one day after an affidavit from an LAPD officer was unsealed, revealing that Michael Jackson died on June 25 from a deadly dose of the powerful anesthetic propofol.
And who will watch "Jackson Family Dynasty," which oozes desperation from both sides of the camera?
Well, loads more people now than would have watched it before June 25, when it was just some lame "See the Non-Michael Jackson Brothers Go on Tour" special.
Who are these people? The people for whom TMZ is their home page. The same people who thought it was a Very Special Moment at the Michael Jackson memorial when the family took terrified little 11-year-old Paris, who'd been home-schooled and hidden behind veils her whole life, and shoved her in front of a microphone so she could tell 31 million people how sad she felt that Daddy was dead.
"What you're about to see will become a reality series on A&E!," "ET" Anchor Guy Kevin Frazier emotes as the show introduces the footage it had "somehow" gotten its hands on.
"A very revealing look at [Michael's] brothers and his mother, Katherine!" Anchor Guy Kevin enthuses, followed by footage of the non-Michael Jackson brothers and their mom sitting around a table in the back yard of the family compound in Encino, Calif., with one lone paper plate filled with food. Grandkids are heard playing in the background.
The brothers talk about the album they're trying to make.
"It's been a long time," Katherine observes suspiciously, in a sort of when-will-you-guys-get-your-act-together way, reports The TV Column's "ET" beat reporter, Emily Yahr.
"It's the graceful, loving matriarch of the Jackson family, joyously eager to see her sons reunite," gushes Anchor Guy Kevin.
Cut to Jermaine, Tito and Jackie sitting on a couch in the den, talking about the album and how they owe it to the fans. The Jackson brothers appear to favor pastels. Tito is in a pink polo shirt and black fedora. Jermaine looks dapper in an ice-blue V-neck sweater with a popped white collar underneath, and Jackie is wearing a T-shirt that's either yellow or badly in need of bleaching.
"It's a lot of responsibility. How are we going to make this happen? I mean, there's always bickering," Jermaine ruminates . . . zzzzzzzzzzzzz.
"If there's one thing I don't want to have -- I don't want to have conflict. . . . I can't deal with that," Jackie chimes in.
At which point Anchor Guy Kevin jumps in with another of his trademark sparkling segues:
"The leaked footage of the brothers butting heads is a glimpse into the months and months of footage that gives a rare look inside the family!"
After a few seconds more of Jackson brothers' cross talk, Anchor Guy Kevin raves that A&E will soon announce the series premiere date and warns us "ET" has more of the leaked footage in store for Wednesday. Consider yourselves warned.
That's it. No Michael Jackson, no Michael Jackson children.
We hear A&E found out about the leaked footage when staffers from other celebrity-suck-up shows started calling A&E and saying "What the heck?!" about "ET's" exclusive. Apparently when celebrity-suck-up shows feed their upcoming episodes to their affiliated TV stations, staffers at other celebrity-suck-up shows can see those feeds. What a racket.
This show was originally conceived as a one-hour special about the non-Michael Jackson brothers planning a new album and tour together, as a way of trying to cash in on this year's 40th anniversary of the Jackson 5.
Michael Jackson had nothing to do with this project and was not involved in any of the initial filming, which began back in January when the King of Pop was still very much alive.
Shooting wrapped just days before Jackson's sudden death. After that, the production company behind the special, Point 7, started shooting more footage -- this time of the family dealing with the loss of Michael.
Since June 25, A&E has been sitting in the catbird seat, having already announced its Jackson project to advertisers back in May, among its slate of new shows. Technically, it was not listed among its unscripted series pilots. It was a one-off, and described as a show in which Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Randy Jackson "allow unprecedented access into their world as they embark on their most personal reunion album and tour."
But A&E didn't mind when, after Michael's death, The Reporters Who Cover Television began hinting it might be one of those backdoor pilots -- a special that, in ratings success, would become the pilot episode of a series. "We commissioned it as a special, but we think of all our specials as backdoor pilots," A&E senior veep Robert Sharenow told The TV Column, coyly, in July.While the Getting's Good
While Michael Jackson's memorial service did not live up to hysterical ratings predictions that it would break all U.S. viewing records, it did average an impressive 31 million viewers across 19 networks. About one in every 10 people in the country watched celebrities send Jackson off at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles that day. That was a very significant stat, given that the memorial aired from 1 to 4 p.m. ET (10 a.m. to 1 p.m. PT), when, presumably, many people were at work.
Since then, the Jackson hysteria has not abated. It has spread to eBay, which is now offering more than 25,000 King of Pop-related items, including programs from that Staples Center service, which are going for hundreds of dollars. Signed Jackson albums are being auctioned off; the sellers have set the starting bids in the $5 million-to-$10 million range.
Meanwhile, Jackson music sales have soared, which lit a fire under merchandisers, concert promoters and moviemakers to get their pre-death contracts with Jackson reauthorized during probate hearings.
They told the Los Angeles Superior Court judge overseeing the hearings on Jackson's estate that they need to ride the tsunami of interest before it ebbs.
Clearly, A&E wants to ride that tsunami, too.