April 25, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT

What we learned from Jacko’s home movies

Meet Michael Jackson, the real Mr. Personality. While Jacko presented Thursday night’s ”Private Home Movies” special as an image-rehab attempt, it’s really just the latest proof that the water-balloon-loving Moonwalker has become reality TV’s biggest star. Although Jackson was unhappy when Martin Bashir’s unflattering ”Living With Michael Jackson” documentary — with its creepy scenes of Jacko and a pubescent friend — aired on ABC in February, he also must have noticed that his personal life has become a much bigger draw than his pallid attempts at new music.

Seen in that light, ”Michael Jackson’s Private Home Movies” becomes an intriguing act of self-exploitation, although two hours of ANYONE’s home movies is way too much. Thursday night’s special could have been at least an hour shorter (lose the scenes with Michael laughing at his Uncle Johnny’s Southern accent, and then yank the endless shots of kids pushing Jackson into various bodies of water). But we’re still grateful for the following revelations that came along the way:

Jackson pal Gregory Peck has (or had) a dog named Blanket — a moniker already made famous in Bashir’s special as the nickname of Jacko’s youngest son. So was the kid named after the dog, the dog named after the kid, or what? We can only hope this pressing issue will be resolved in future Jacko specials (”Michael Jackson’s Ultra-Private Security Camera Footage”?).

Speaking of names, Jackson (who, by the way, insists on calling his videos ”short films”) says that most of his young friends don’t call him ”Michael.” Instead, they opt for, um, ”Applehead,” or ”another name that I don’t want to say.” Jackson, however, emphasizes that the latter nickname is ”not a bad word.” Good to know.

Applehead can be catty when it comes to his sister Janet. Though he speaks of her with obvious affection — and even puts on her music to practice dancing — he also chooses to note that she ripped off her ”Rhythm Nation” video concept from his ”Captain EO” film (she did ask permission first). And then, watching Janet in family reunion footage, he notes, ”There’s Janet with two ice cream bars. She loves to eat” — an unfortunate comment considering her weight fluctuations over the years. He also reveals HER nickname: Donk, short for Donkey.

Jackson is good friends with… ”Red Dragon” director Brett Ratner? In the special’s most random sequence (and yes, we’re counting the one where Liz Taylor gives Michael an elephant), Ratner and Jackson are stuck in traffic in a nondescript car, bopping along to R. Kelly’s ”Ignition (Remix).” The scene was shot earlier this year, presumably around the time Ratner was trying to cast ”Superman” — a task he ultimately abandoned. Was Jacko a wild-card pick for the Man of Steel? Probably not, but if they make ”Batman,” he’d be a shoo-in for the Joker.

What did you think of Michael Jackson’s home videos?

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