Discovery cancels Michael Jackson autopsy TV show

LOS ANGELES Fri Dec 31, 2010 3:38pm EST

Flowers are placed on the star of Michael Jackson on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California July 1, 2009. REUTERS/Joshua Lott

Flowers are placed on the star of Michael Jackson on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California July 1, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Joshua Lott

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Discovery television network on Friday said it canceled plans to air a reenactment of the autopsy on Michael Jackson's body, citing an upcoming court hearing and concern by the late pop star's estate.

The show, "Michael Jackson's Autopsy: What Really Killed Michael Jackson," had been set to air in several countries of western Europe and in the United Kingdom on January 13.

"Given the commencement of legal proceedings beginning next week, and at the request of Michael Jackson's estate, the scheduled broadcast of the medical documentary related to Michael Jackson's official autopsy has been postponed indefinitely," Discovery Networks International said in a statement.

A Discovery spokesman declined comment beyond the statement. Co-executors of the estate responded in their own statement saying they were "pleased" with the decision.

The "Thriller" singer died suddenly of a prescription drug overdose on June 25, 2009, age 50, only weeks before beginning a series of comeback concerts. An autopsy by Los Angeles officials showed Jackson died chiefly of an overdose of the powerful anesthetic propofol that he used as a sleep aid.

Discovery's show, which was not scheduled to air in the United States, was an unofficial, fictional account of what the autopsy must have been like and its results.

But Jackson fans worldwide protested in an online petition launched earlier this month, and the co-executors of his estate sent a letter this week to Discovery Networks calling the program "insensitive" and "in shockingly bad taste."

A print advertisement for the program shows a body covered by a sheet, with one hand poking out wearing the singer's well-known sequined glove.

Following Discovery's decision, McClain and Branca released a statement saying, "we are hopeful that this show will never run in any market in the future."

"While Discovery cited legal proceedings and our request as the reasons for its decision, none of this would have happened had it not been for the incredible passion displayed by countless Michael Jackson fans worldwide who knew they stood as one and that their voices could not be ignored," the statement said.

Jackson's physician at the time of his death, Dr. Conrad Murray, has admitted giving the singer propofol, which is often used in surgery, and Murray has been charged by authorities with involuntary manslaughter in Jackson's death.

Murray has pleaded not guilty, and a preliminary hearing to determine if enough evidence exists to make him stand trial begins in Los Angeles on January 4.

(Editing by Christine Kearney)