"Jacksons" reality show short on spontaneity

Thu Dec 10, 2009 1:29am EST

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The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty

By Randee Dawn

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Faced with the loss of a beloved brother who also was an international icon, it seems unlikely that most folks would decide, mere months later, to sign up for a cable reality show.

But the Jackson family is not like most folks. They are sui generis, an entity unto itself. And Marlon, Tito, Jermaine and Jackie -- four of the original Jackson 5 -- are the sort of people who would sign on to A&E's new six-parter "The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty." The show was to have been a one-off, framing the brothers' reunion for a 40th anniversary album and possible tour, but after Michael Jackson's death in June, things changed.

The series begins while the foursome are mounting that album, even working on some dance moves. They're a little rusty but sparkle the moment they step in unison or croon out a lead vocal. (Michael never was involved in the project.) Personal lives get a light going-over, from a party with the "second-generation Jacksons" (conspicuously missing are Michael's children) and a spotlight on Jermaine's wife-cum-manager, Halima, who keeps him in line and provides reality checks. The brothers bicker and fist-bump their way through early recording days, and Jermaine proves to be something of a prima donna.

Michael's death comes as a shock to all, but no one sends the cameras home -- and within days the brothers are back doing talking-head interviews, picking up more or less where they left off.

Still, anyone other than hard-core Jacksons fans will have to seek insight elsewhere. There's a great moment when Tito asks everyone to back off of him a little; he can't help it if he looks like their father. But overall, spontaneity is a dead thing in "Dynasty," mainly because the stiffly formal brothers hide behind sunglasses or joke around (cue Marlon), and the episodes feel like a high-concept press kit.

Ultimately, however, the degree to which this series tweaks consciences -- or piques interest -- will depend on viewers, not the brothers. Whatever grievances they have with one another, or egos they battle in the studio, they are fully committed to the process. The Jacksons are the embodiment of the song "Let Me Entertain You," and they know that, no matter what, the show must go on.

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