On A&E: Four-fifths of the Jackson Five

BOWLER FOR DOLLARS — The Jackson Four (l-r): Jackie, Marlon, Tito (wearing his trademark bowler) and Jermaine. Photo credit: A&E


NEW YORK, Dec. 8, 2009 — Years ago, some clever writer of TV promos came up with a generic plot description for “The Honeymooners” that could be applied to virtually any episode of that classic 1950s sitcom.  The promo copy went something like this: “Ralph has big plans,” boomed an enthusiastic announcer, “until his friend Norton steps in!”

The same kind of description could be applied to the first two episodes of A&E’s new reality series about the Jacksons: “The Jacksons [or at least three of them] have big plans . . . until Jermaine has a tantrum or an issue or some kind of complaint!”

But like “The Honeymooners,” all parties come together in the end, although in “The Jack5ons: A Family Dynasty” — premiering with two, one-hour episodes back-to-back on Sunday, Dec. 13, starting at 9 p.m. — they come together with a group fist-bump as the Jackson Four agree nobly to put aside their differences and come together for the sake of their music and their fans.

These four, this band of singing and dancing middle-aged brothers, are four of the original Jackson Five — Jackie, Marlon, Tito and Jermaine — and they are the stars, along with their various wives and offspring, of this promised glimpse behind the scenes at the sprawling, and mildly brawling, Jackson clan.  However, nine siblings and two parents comprised the Jackson family, and five sibs — Michael, Janet, Randy, Rebbie and Latoya — and one parent — Papa Joe — are missing (as are Michael’s three children), though Janet Jackson is heard briefly in a phone conversation.

Michael’s absence is the one that is most felt, and also the most understood, since he passed away last June 25.  However, the series begins a couple of months before his sudden death, as the other four Jackson brothers were preparing to regroup to produce a Jackson Five reunion album to commemorate the act’s 40th anniversary (dating the group’s origins to 1969, the year they had their first hits).

Michael’s impending death notwithstanding, it’s not clear if he ever intended to  participate, even partially, in the reunion effort, especially since, as we now know, he was preparing for his own series of comeback concerts.  Alas, they were not to be, and at the end of the first one-hour episode of “The Jack5ons” — one of two A&E provided for preview — Michael dies without apparently participating in any filming on the reality series.

Still, Michael’s shadow hangs over the whole thing, starting with the show’s theme song, “Can You Feel It?,” a 1980 single on which Michael sings in the era when the Jackson Five were known as The Jacksons.

Episode Two, titled “The Aftermath,” deals nominally with his death and then jumps inexplicably to a month later, as the four surviving Jackson Five brothers try and come together to perform a concert that they were apparently obligated to perform (possibly with Michael, though that remains unclear) under some contract they signed before Michael’s death.

Certainly, there are millions of Jackson fans for whom any consideration of the Jacksons begins and ends with Michael.  And without him around, they might not tune in for “The Jack5ons” on A&E.  But there will likely be millions of others — be they enamored with any of the Jacksons singly or in various combinations — who will be left for A&E to capitalize mightily on the Jackson mania that made itself apparent, and appeared to be even bigger than anyone previously realized, in the aftermath of Michael’s death last summer.  In fact, this reality series, in which not much actually happens, could be the biggest one yet for A&E.

TV Howl photo gallery: Pictures from “The Jack5ons: A Family Dynasty”:

Mister Lucky’s Lounge in downtown Gary looks a little down on its luck, despite the presence of hometown hero Tito Jackson. Photo: Richard Knapp

Tito (left) and Marlon marvel at the snug, modest living room in Gary, Ind., where the Jackson Five got their start. Photo: Richard Knapp

Back in L.A., the not-so-united four Jackson brothers (l-r: Jermaine, Jackie, Marlon and Tito) rehearse before a dance studio mirror. Photo: Richard Knapp

Contact Adam Buckman: AdamBuckman14@gmail.com



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