Michael Jackson will finally have his say on TV. Variety reports that Fox has agreed to air Jackson’s rebuttal video to last week’s British documentary ”Living with Michael Jackson” and air it as part of a two-hour special on Feb. 20 called ”Michael Jackson Take 2: The Interview They Wouldn’t Show You.” The special will include the five-minute video provided by Jackson — which he has said contains footage of ”Living” interviewer Martin Bashir praising Jackson for parenting skills he would later disparage in the finished film — as well as testimonials by Jackson’s ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, and 12-year-old cancer survivor (and occasional Neverland sleepover guest) Gavin Arvizo.
Viewers can get a sneak peek at Jackson’s tape Wednesday on ”Entertainment Tonight” or on ”ET”’s website. In ”ET”’s excerpt, Bashir tells Jackson, ”Your relationship with your children is spectacular. And in fact it almost makes me weep when I see you with them because your interaction with them is just so natural, so loving, so caring, and everybody, whoever comes into contact with you, knows that.” Bashir’s comment was reportedly recorded during his eighth and final month spent following Jackson around, the same month that, in ”Living,” he said he felt compelled to confront Jackson with his concerns about Jackson’s parenting.
According to Variety, the filmmaker behind the new Jackson footage is F. Marc Schaffel, whose past as a gay-porn producer may have derailed the release of ”What More Can I Give,” the charity song Jackson recorded with an all-star chorus after Sept. 11. Jackson hired Schaffel to produce the recording and the accompanying video, but according to the Los Angeles Times, Jackson’s managers pressured his label, Sony, to shelve the song when they learned of Schaffel’s résumé. Schaffel told MTV News last year that Sony suppressed the recording in order to avoid stealing the thunder from the concurrent release of Jackson’s ”Invincible” album. Jackson’s managers and Schaffel have disagreed on which of them owns the rights to the recording, but that dispute has apparently not dampened Jackson’s friendship with Schaffel.
There won’t be any new interview material with Jackson in the Fox special, for which the network paid the King of Pop a reported seven figures (Variety reports more than $2 million; the New York Post says $2.5 million.). The show may also have to face Jackson fatigue; ”Living”’s broadcast last Thursday on ABC was the week’s most-watched show, according to Nielsen, and it’s airing three more times this weekend on VH1. Plus, NBC’s ”Dateline” has its own Jackson special airing Feb. 17, devoted largely to the singer’s morphing face.
Bashir’s producers have stood by his documentary, but fans and detractors can question him personally via a live session airing Wednesday at 2:30 EST at the website for ITV, the British broadcaster that initially aired the special. Participants must submit their questions in advance.