Haunted Flower’s DVD Review of The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty

6 Episodes, 2 Discs Widescreen Edition (2010)

“The Jacksons, A Family Dynasty” is a six episode docu-series from A&E Television Networks with the four brothers as producers that blends a reality tv format with a documentary style and older footage of the Jackson 5. The series begins with the premise of the four brothers coming together to make an album to celebrate their 40th anniversary and the first episode was filmed before Michael Jackson’s death. The rest of the series explores the aftermath.

Each brother has issues. Jermaine is a diva who always wants to be out front getting attention and being the lead singer. He has a wife that he can’t express affection with on camera who does everything for him. Jackie is a cry baby and barely anything makes him break down. Marlon gets really excited when he comes up with something creatively but drags his feet so much that the brothers move on ahead without him and then he gets mad and leaves the group temporarily. Tito always tries to stay cool and funny in that hat and finally gets his own solo performance.

The early conflicts are whether to make the album, not messing with the standards and focusing on what their goals are and shunning the tabloids claiming they are making the album without Michael because of jealousy. All four claim not to be jealous of Michael’s career and that he wouldn’t be where he is (was) without them. It is awkward watching the casual beginnings of this series meant purely to give an insider look at the making of the album in hopes of capitalizing on the anniversary and attention given to Michael’s tour knowing that the tragedy hasn’t happened yet and how the direction of the series will change.

The innocent introduction of the second generation Jackson kids and displaying everyone hanging out together at family barbeques and calling Janet to wish her happy birthday is all very pleasant. They try to create some drama for the reality TV aspect with arguing while recording about who is being bossy and who is low energy and who is plain sloppy going sharp and flat. For four brothers who always talk about how well they get along, the cameras really liked to focus on any animosity they could get. Oh, no! Someone erased the session they did that wasn’t any good and it seems very petty making these legends into invented drama on all the other reality shows. One literally goes crying to their mother in very scripted sounding material to create an excuse to go back home to Gary, Indiana and relive some nostalgia and show how cramped their house was and how hard they had to work to get to where they were. Manufacturing drama where it doesn’t exist with fights about vocals and sports is ridiculous.

After Michael’s death, the series takes a big turn into more legitimate drama with paparazzi following them around and asking questions while they claim they just want to be left alone (but are all too happy to talk to press sometimes). It is unclear how much time has passed between the recording of the first episode and the rest, but after a few initial teary asides, they seem to be ready to move forward using the press to their advantage since their brother who was arguably the biggest star in the world passing puts them under a magnifying glass and gives them attention they wouldn’t have otherwise. They try to act doubtful or ashamed but at the end of the day, it’s a smart business decision just like this DVD set of this series. Capitalizing on the attention while it is there is the best thing they can do regardless of any moral opinions.

The rest of the arc of the series consists of finding their sound by going back into record stores and admiring how many albums Michael and Janet had and getting asked for autographs. Jermaine goes off and tries to do a tribute concert without consulting the other brothers. After their initial grief, it goes right back to business as normal with arguments over who is at what concert or photo shoot and rehearsing and trying to create new songs that sound like their old sound but staying current. Hearing them bicker over who used to stand where is silly.

This series is a mix of an interesting look back into the past of a group that really shaped and influenced generations of music, but also an exploration of the backlash of fame for Michael and Janet affecting the other brothers not getting enough attention. The bickering seems juvenile and they capitalize on the attention they are getting by appearing in public and going to a musical show based on their past and going to the “This Is It” premiere and trying to put on tribute concerts. Having these group discussions in their kitchens and living rooms always feel like they have a bit of a scripted quality since they are probably going over information they’ve already shared off camera. It is occasionally a struggle not to look at the camera when they are having a “conversation” with each other. After breaking up and making up, they never accomplish anything through the course of the series except a vow to each other to work together creatively to finish that album…someday.

DVD Extras: None

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