Yes, yes, it’s probably true that no one would be watching a reality show about Jermaine, Jackie, Tito, and Marlon Jackson planning a reunion tour were it not for the death of their brother Michael earlier this year. But that doesn’t mean The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty, a six-part series, doesn’t exert its own odd pull.
This is reality TV at its most stage-managed and controlled. Watching it, you know that the brothers (all listed among the executive producers) are not letting you see one second of their lives they don’t want you to see.
Which makes some moments — such as Jermaine blowing off a publicity-photo shoot with his brothers (he claims he had pinkeye) or jetting off to Vienna to announce a solo tribute concert when he’s supposed to be rehearsing for a Jacksons tour — all the more intriguing. Just what good did Jermaine think he was doing letting this stuff be shown?
The men try to fit into TV-friendly roles: Marlon, he’s the joker! Tito, he means business! But when they come together, these middle-aged guys all squabble and complain. They’re filmed in the recording studio trying to cut a new track. After Jermaine leaves, Jackie instructs the engineer to erase Jermaine’s lead vocals. ”It didn’t have that Jackson 5 magic,” he says. Later, Jermaine professes to be hurt, but not unduly so, given the nature of this insult. Maybe it’s because this Jackson 4 realizes that without Michael, it will never attain ”that Jackson 5 magic” again.
The theme music for A Family Dynasty is ”Can You Feel It,” a hit for the Jacksons in 1980. Tellingly, the song was co-written by Randy, who doesn’t appear as a regular on this show, and Michael. It only serves to remind you what an uphill battle the other brothers face in trying to stay in the public eye. C+