A Family Dynasty
- Buy the DVD
Reviewed by Will Harris
n January 2009, four members of the Jackson family – Jackie, Jermaine, Marlon, and Tito, to list them alphabetically – kicked off the filming of a TV special for A&E which was to spotlight the 40th anniversary of the Jacksons as a performing unit and follow the brothers as they planned a world tour and discussed the possibility of recording a new album. It’s possible that the special was always considered for expansion into a series, and it would be disingenuous of me to be overly cynical about the matter, but you have to admit: once Michael Jackson died, “The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty” suddenly had one hell of a hook to make it series-worthy.
The biggest question most potential viewers will have about “A Family Dynasty” is whether or not the series provides a no-holds-barred look into the world of the Jacksons. To that, I say, “Are you nuts? Of course it doesn’t,” and I’ll add that you don’t even have to look any farther than the back of the DVD box to be certain that this is the case. Right at the bottom, you’ll see the credit for “Executive Producers,” followed by the names of Jackie, Jermaine, Marlon, and Tito. Do you really think they’d let any dirt get out, especially given that the series made its debut while their late brother was pulling a Generalissimo Francisco Franco and continuing to make worldwide headlines several months after his death? Get real.
Still, just because this is a squeaky clean operation doesn’t mean that “The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty” doesn’t have some merit to it, especially for longtime fans of the group. Once you get past the first episode, i.e. the one filmed prior to Michael’s death, there’s a palpable change – one both expected and thoroughly warranted – in the proceedings. Whereas the first episode was reflecting on the group’s upcoming anniversary, now they are finding themselves looking back on the legacy of their brother, considering what he meant to them, and where they should go from here.
And where do they go? Well, there’s a battle over a concert commitment which had been made by the Jacksons and has been reneged upon, lengthy discussions about a concert to pay tribute to Michael, and continued talks about a new album, possibly to be produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the team who helped turn Janet Jackson into a superstar. (We hear her voice on speaker phone at one point, by the way, but that’s the extent of her appearance on the series.) Tito offers up his first ever solo performance, Jermaine manages to annoy everyone with his failure to appear at a scheduled promotional event, and Jackie gets pissed off that people keep thinking he’s Jermaine. We see several of the second-generation Jacksons as well as family matriarch, Katherine Jackson, but it’s no surprise that Michael pervades every moment of this series, even when he isn’t the topic of discussion.
“The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty” isn’t likely to impress reality show junkies, nor will it do much for those hoping for deeper insight into the Jackson clan, but those who have found themselves missing Michael over the course of the last year – and there are plenty of us, I feel certain – may well find themselves drawn to the series. Although it came darned quickly on the heels of Michael’s death, it doesn’t feel cheap. It does, however, often leave you wondering, “Would this ever have expanded beyond a special if Michael hadn’t died?” The answer: probably not.
Special Features: None. Seriously? Not even any extra footage from the cutting room floor?