I am far too young to have ever owned a lunchbox emblazoned with the likenesses of Tito, Marlon, Jermaine and Jackie, so it was with great curiosity that I tuned into last night’s premiere of “The Jack5ons: A Family Dynasty.” That’s right; “Jackson” is spelled with a “5.”
Who are these guys aside from a precursor to the New Kids on the Block? (My favorite is Jonathan!) Well, after investing two hours in the A&E series, I’m not sure that I came away with a lot of answers. I, will, however, share with you what I know for sure. Marlon is the one with the mustache. Tito looks like Muhammad Ali in a bowler hat and Jermaine is the one with the Muslim wife. And Jackie is … well, he’s the other one.
The premiere started off innocently (zzzz!) enough, with the brothers making plans to record a 40th anniversary album. You see, as they will all gladly explain to you, their talent was the genesis of the entire family’s collective achievements, from “Good Times” all the way up to “Captain Eo.” “Michael’s success comes from us,” offered one of the brothers. (I’m not sure which one he was but he was wearing sunglasses and he looked jealous of Michael).
After a commercial break hawking Michael Jackson commemorative coins (Christmas shopping done!), we see the “5,” who are actually only 4, preparing for their comeback by driving around in Phantoms and trying to lay down tracks. I say “try” because they never seem to accomplish much. In fact, Marlon mentioned that he wasn’t even looking forward to getting back in the studio and I can see why. At one point Jackie surreptitiously tells the producer to erase Jermaine’s vocal track. Perhaps bickering is the “new Motown sound?”
Enter Mama Katherine to offer some advice. Why not go back to Gary to reclaim that Jackson sound? This way, you can kill three birds with one stone: You may be inspired to write music that doesn’t suck; you can get in a few good homecoming clips for the reality show and, most importantly, it affords you a perfectly good excuse to play “Goin’ Back to Indiana.”
As the brothers stand in their former home, they reminisce about their father and how he “scolded” them. (We all know by now that is code for something else.) I mean, Jermaine had to suffer some kind of childhood trauma to grow up and name his own kids “Jermajesty” and “Jaffar.” Interestingly enough, they defended the choices Joseph made for the family, saying that it made them who they are today. It seemed a little contrived and the mere mention of him made his absence from the show all the more conspicuous.
Also contrived was the heart-to-heart Jermaine had with the others about leaving the group — back in 1976! Are you kidding me? It was “something we never discussed, something we never resolved” … until now?! On a freakin’ reality show 33 years later? How convenient for the folks over at A&E. Without all that drama there’d be no show.
Oh, who am I kidding? Without Michael there’d be no show.
The irony of the program is that while it’s supposed to center on Tito, Jackie, Jermaine and Marlon, it really ends up being about the King of Pop. Especially as the first episode comes to a close, and the brothers learn about MJ’s passing.
Once again, Michael overshadows his brothers, even in death.