The four surviving members of the Jackison 5 join the reality show brigade Sunday with “The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty” at 9 p.m. on A&E.
Atlanta-based executive producerJodi Gomes, who has known the Jacksons since the ABC miniseries in 1992, put the show together with Jermaine Jackson. Jermaine convinced Marlon, Jackie and Tito to join him to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Jackson 5’s first hit “I Want You Back.” The quartet had plans for an album and tour.
There’s another local connection: Marlon, 52, lives in the Atlanta area and scenes for the show were shot at Justin’s Restaurant in Buckhead. (A&E provided a solid budget, enabling Gomes to also tape Marlon in Nigeria, Jermaine in Mumbai, India and Tito in the U.K.)
Gomes said the show started taping in January, originally as a one-hour special, but was greenlit by A&E in the spring as a six-episode series. In fact, the pilot was finished just days before Michael Jackson’s death on June 25. That first episode at 9 p.m. references Michael’s death at the end. The next hour, to air at 10 p.m., deals with the aftermath.
“My heart,” Gomes said, “is always bleeding for them. I sometimes wear my heart on my sleeve for them.”
The brothers, in mourning, postponed filming until September. Gomes said the Jacksons never considered nixing the show, even if some critics might perceive the timing to be exploiting their brother’s passing.
Michael, she said, was actively involved behind the scenes of the show but had no plans to be on camera. He helped get clearances for the Jackson 5/The Jacksons music you’ll hear. She said he also had ideas for a cool opening for the show but got caught up with his own concert tour that was never to be.
The last time she spoke with Michael was just two days before he died. She had a meal with Jackie (the oldest brother at age 58) in Las Vegas and they were en route back to Los Angeles when they found out about Michael.
The point of the show, Gomes said, was to “dispel myths” of the Jacksons. For instance, many think the brothers were estranged from Michael. She said that was totally untrue. With all the media heat, “at the end of the day, no matter what is thrown at them, they are family.”
Gomes also said she never saw any of them express jealousy toward Michael, though his life in recent years was hardly fodder for jealousy. “They’re very protective of each other,” she said. She said the Jackson brothers over the years wanted to defend their brother more aggressively from charges of children molestation and other accusations but given the legal ramifications and the media’s penchant for twisting their words, they kept their mouths shut.
“People think they come from a different planet and are unattainable,” Gomes added. “That’s understandable. Their brother was the most famous man in the world. They all led sheltered lives.”
She wanted to make it clear these guys have a sense of normalcy to them, that they are entrepreneurs, not a bunch of entitled layabouts living off the past. “They each have different ventures and we wanted to show them,” she said. “They are not little kids glued to the hip.”
In fact, Gomes said it was a challenge getting the four of them in the same place. Jermaine, 54, travelled the most and was often out of the country working on business ventures and producing records.
Two of them are no strangers to reality TV. Tito, 56, had done a reality documentary in the U.K. Jermaine had participated in both “Big Brother U.K.” and CMT’s “Gone Country.”
The show doesn’t hide their faults; there is no shortage of bickering, especially over Jermaine skipping key meetings and doing things apart from the others. And he gets upset when he finds out the others erased vocals he taped because they weren’t happy with them. There’s also a scene in which he tearfully explains why he left the group in the 1970s.
The show ultimately became therapy for the brothers, who likely spent more time together as a result of the TV show than they otherwise would have.
“It’s been a long road,” Gomes said. “It’s been a road that wound up in a place nobody would have imagined. I’m very relieved it’s finally coming on the air. I’m very proud of it. The family has been through so much. People are going to love it or hate it.
As the Jacksons spoke by telephone on a recent Thursday morning, their personalities were quickly revealed. Jermaine is the most outspoken; Marlon is the jokester; Tito is laconic and Jackie is more laconic than Tito. (In a half-hour conversation, Jackie uttered only one remark to this reporter: “Um, why you ask us so many questions?”)
And this is my personal favorite Jackson 5 song, “I’ll Be There.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.