As the old saying goes, “If you like this kind of thing, you’ll like this.” Mirroring too many other celeb-reality shows that come pledging a personal glimpse at their subjects, “The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty” is stagey, self-conscious and, most of all, self-serving on the part of its participants.
But if you’re a fan of Michael Jackson (always offstage but seldom out of mind), or even the observable members of the Jackson 5 — Marlon, Tito, Jackie and Jermaine — you might enjoy this time spent with them.
The six-hour A&E series premieres at 9 p.m. EST, Sunday, Dec. 13, with back-to-back episodes. The high point of those first two hours comes when Jermaine Jackson cries. Tearfully, he recalls the dark days of 1976, when the rest of the group leaped to CBS Records while only he stayed behind at Motown, being loyal, he says, “to where we started.”
“Do you know what it is to be alone? Just to be alone?” says Jermaine, choking up. “I’m out in the streets and kids are saying, ‘We don’t want your autograph, ‘cause you’re the one that broke the group up.’”
“When you came back to the group, it was one of the best, favorable memories of my life,” says Tito as the foursome shares hugs all around. It’s hard to believe this is really the first time Jermaine has ever expressed his hurt from that rift with his brothers, as he claims. And it’s hard to overlook the fact that, during this scene of high emotion, all of them seem carefully arranged on their sectional sofa for maximum visual effect.
Even so, there’s something real going on here. It’s a nice break from all the canned, rote stuff. The premise of the miniseries (at least when filming started last January) seems to center on the Jackson 5, including Michael, reuniting for their 40th anniversary. The other four brothers start planning a tour and a new album — “the best album we ever made!” Jackie crows.
The first hour (which includes a sentimental, staged-for-TV journey to their childhood home in Gary, Ind.) ends with the news of Michael’s death in late June. Even before his shocking death, it’s hard to discern from the miniseries what Michael thought about his brothers’ plans for the reunion. His involvement is apparently assumed. But he is only seen in archival footage and heard singing on the soundtrack.
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