ABC, NBC plan sweeps Michael Jackson specials. ''20/20'' will air a British documentary look at life in Neverland, while ''Dateline'' will trace the King of Pop's morphing face

By Gary Susman
January 31, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST
Michael Jackson: Martin Grimes/Splash News/Newscom

If you’re truly curious about what’s really going on with Michael Jackson — and honestly, who isn’t? — you’ll have plenty of opportunity to find out during February sweeps. Both ABC and NBC are devoting major primetime news specials to the King of Pop, and while they’re currently scheduled to air 11 days apart, NBC may move its Jackson show so that the two programs air virtually nose to nose.

NBC announced a couple weeks ago that it would devote the Feb. 17 episode of ”Dateline” entirely to Jackson’s morphing face. ABC announced it has purchased a new British documentary about Jackson that it will air as a two-hour episode of ”20/20” on Feb. 6, shortly after it airs on British TV. Now, NBC, worried that ABC is stealing its thunder (ABC outbid NBC and CBS for the English documentary, paying a reported $4-5 million for the rights), may move its ”Dateline” forward, trade reports say.

Though the topic of Jackson’s face would surely be enough for a full hour of ”Dateline” (really, would an hour even be enough?), NBC officials now tell Variety that the show will focus on his evolving career as well. Correspondents will hear from one of Jackson’s plastic surgeons and others close to the singer. The ABC show features a lengthy interview with Jackson himself — making it the King of Pop’s first sit-down to air on U.S. TV since 1995 — and behind-the-scenes footage of Jackson with his kids and their life at his Neverland ranch. In the show, Jackson answers questions about his surgeries and allegations of child molestation, an ABC spokesman tells Variety.