The Jacksons: An American Dream (1992)

Let’s face it: it’s nearly impossible to rerun most miniseries.  Can you imagine a network giving up valuable hours to rerun “Backstairs at the White House” because it’s a great historical record?  Who has the attention span anymore?  The cable miniseries are chopped up into small edible pieces.  HBO’s recent “Mildred Pierce” remake was done in mostly hour-long episodes.  Do that with “War and Remembrance” day by day and it would take weeks and weeks. 

That I can think of, writing this in 2011, there are only two Golden Age American miniseries that are still shown on television.  Lifetime’s gaggle of networks air the movies about Betty Broderick at least once a week.  And MTV’s various channels delight in showing “The Jacksons: An American Dream” every time a Jackson burps. 

Is it because we are endlessly fascinated by America’s first family of foolishness?  Let’s be realistic, as much as we’re obsessed as a culture by the Kennedys, we still have a glowing respect for them.  Respect for the Jacksons?  Not really.  Full of talent, they are also full of bad parenting and bad hairdos, a train wreck on an endless loop and we keep driving past it, over and over again, craning our necks to watch.

Let’s keep Michael’s death aside (merely out of respect, because it was certainly a wowser in itself), this never-shuts circus celebrates a family that is plain old nuts (looking more and more like freaks with every passing surgical year).  Watch LaToya talk to Bubbles the Chimp on Animal Planet.  Watch Jermaine cry endlessly on Larry King.  After all that the kids went through with Joe Jackson, does he remain quiet?  Hell no, he’s constantly suing this one or yapping about that one.  His family may wish he would shut up, but the public doesn’t.  We love every juicy completely wrong word that comes out of his mouth.  It’s gotten to the point where when someone famous is interviewed about the Jacksons, there are only two allowable mantras: they were musically astounding and if it hadn’t been for some early pushing by Papa Joe, we may have been bereft of the whole damn clan.  Talk about anything else, and you are in danger of being associated with them!

So, it’s no wonder that “The Jacksons: An American Dream” is rerun plenty.  We just love the Jacksons.  What is odd is that “The Jacksons: An American Dream” is pretty devoid of any scandal.  This is a Motown-produced love-fest about one of its biggest cash cows.  This celebrates the early years, the music, the success, before crazy marriages and baby dangling and infomercials.  Is it the Jacksons we are celebrating or their up-from-poverty pull?  Take a look at the title and I think the answer is clear. 

No, not clear?  Well, how about this?  It’s based on Katherine Jackson’s autobiography.  Now you get it.

The opening montage is the kids at their best, drawing huge crowds and unleashing incomprehensible energy on staid popular music. At a wartime dance, Joe Jackson (Lawrence Hilton Jacobs) asks poor polio-stricken Katherine (Angela Bassett) to dance with him, despite her physical issues, and she tells him that she would never get divorced, and definitely not if there were kids.  Keep that one in the back of your mind, my friends.  Furthermore, Katherine has secret dreams of a country music career and Joe can’t be trusted to hang around long enough for anything to happen.  However, when he is around, he’s a charmer, giving Katherine  an expensive necklace.  At a drive-in restaurant, he says, “you’d be a lot more comfortable over here” next to him. 

So, “The Dream” is really his.  She’s content to go through life as it is, but Joe needs more.  After a date, when Katherine’s mother warns her that a kids will lead to babies (yes, the script is that trite here), it’s revealed that she too has dreams, but they are insignificant.  She only wants to be a Nurse.  I say insignificant because the title of the movie leads us to believe that The Dream has to be big.  Being a Nurse is a perfectly respectable dream and an easily achieved one compared to pie-in-the-sky dreams. 

The next time Joe shows up, the movie gives Katherine a really awkward moment when it has her limp quickly over to him, as he stands by his car waiting for her to make it.  Geez, not very chivalrous , is he?  He takes her out and clearly wants more than just a peck in the car, but Katherine remains chaste.

Katherine does actually have a Dream.  “I’ve always dreamed of a big house,” she says, but Joe all but puts a pin in that one saying merely that it’s possible.  Why do we get the feeling that this boy just wants to get laid?  Because he does, with Motown accompaniment.  Not just laid, but he gets a whole walking through the park montage. 

A montage like that always gets a girl pregnant.  She doesn’t want to tell Joe and destroy his Dream.  “I don’t wanna mess things up for you,” she blathers.  “I was going to marry you anyway,” he says, with the excitement of a sponge.  “We’ll get to California, I know we will,” he tells her, not comforting her when she says she doesn’t “want to ruin your dreams.” 

The Dream can take a while.  Joe works in a Gary, Indiana factory, but not for long.  It’s 1958 and all of the kids are born except for little Michael.  Joe and his friends form a band, but perfectionist Joe isn’t liking their lack of musical ability.  “At this rate, I’m gonna have to put my kids to work.  Wait, you wanna see some real talent? he asks and then wakes up Jackie and Rebbie specifically.  Jermaine commands the floor and show precocious talent.

With band gigs drying up, Katherine is pregnant again.  “We should be using birth control,” she says, but Joe doesn’t allow it.  He’s even willing to put The Dream on hold until the world is ready.  But, things are pretty bad.  Joe and his friend have to go picking potatoes from an abandoned field just to eat.  The last baby boy born is the only birth we see and the only time we get to name one, courtesy of Katherine’s mother: Michael.

The kids grow up fast.  When Katherine is out, everyone has a tendency to break into perfectly harmonized song, much to the dismay of Rebbie, who runs the household while Katherine works.  Tito seems the most musical, using Joe’s guitar until Katherine reminds him, “it’s not a toy.”  “Ma, how I sounded?” Tito asks.  “You sounded goooooood,” loving Katherine coos. 

Okay, so things aren’t perfect.  There is an incident at the dinner table where Michael throws a show at Joe, who chases him under a bed to beat him, but Katherine soothes Joe, leaving Michael and his fears alone under the bed.  Yet, even that bit of badness is turned into television cheese when hungry Michael invades the refrigerator and shares his food with…you guessed it…a mouse.  “I won’t hurt you, I never would,” foreshadowing so much in his life.  As the mouse gnaws at beans, Michael every-so-sweetly tells it, “you’re my friend Mr Rat.  I could use one.  Truth be, it’s so hard.  When somebody hits you, it takes something out of you.  It hurts way inside.  See?  You can trust me, Mr. Rat.”  Only on TV could a line like that actually exist.

Joe is furious when a guitar string is broken and Tito gets whipped with a belt as all of the other kids and Katherine cry in the shadows.  It’s treacly, for sure, but no one ever accused Joe Jackson of being a nice man.  However, since this is very much a pro-Jackson piece, Joe beats Tito off-screen so we only hear the lashes.  Somehow, that makes it better? 

This Bad Joe moment is, of course, balanced by something so good, it’s forgotten.  In the middle of the night, Joe amasses the entire family and forces Tito to play, saying, “I wanna know what’s been going on around here.”  The boys launch into song, complete with a dance routine.  Joe is transfixed, but not enough to tell Michael he’s “too young” to be a part of it.  A plan begins to formulate in Joe’s  mind that involves the kids hauling cinder blocks to toughen them up.  Now that’s the Joe Jackson we know!

When Good Joe comes home with a brand new guitar for Tito, he says, “who knows?  We may get a band together.  Maybe the Jackson Boys…the Jackson Brothers…the Jackson Four.”  “What about me?” Michael asks.  Oh, just tussle the kid’s head and everyone will laugh.  Yup, it’s starting to get sugary sweet in here. 

This movie tends to use the sledgehammer approach.  “Dreams,” the friendliest teacher in the whole world says to her class before asking everyone’s dreams.  Marlon wants a motorcycle.  Michael wants to be “a great singer” and he can do that in the school pageant.  The only one who takes that request seriously is Mr. Rat, with whom Michael has apparently bonded.  “I may be short, but I am THE MAN,” he says, pouring out his trouble to a rodent eating beans. 

Just try to avoid getting queasy when Michael takes the stage and sells “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” Motown-style as every face in the crowd beams with a smile and nods in time.  Wait, not every voice.  Joe is sour, at least until Michael hits key change after key change and still manages to belt the hell out of the song.  “I guess the Jackson Four just became the Jackson Five,” Katherine says over the applause to a mute and utterly stupefied Joe. 

Joe buys a van full of instruments on time, much to the glee of the boys (but not the girls, who don’t get to participate).  Now it’s Katherine’s turn to bring in a dose of reality.  “Jackie’s shoes are worn clear down to the feet…the roof needs fixing…I stretch the pennies as far as I can and you throw it all away,” she builds and builds, but Joe isn’t listening.  He has figured out his Dream.  “I just plain give up,” Katherine finally says.

But, Joe is off in his head and he drills the boys in a routine, song and dance, yowling at every mistake, especially poor Marlon, who can’t remember a move or sing on key.  He is sent outside to get his own switch so Joe can hit him.  Now that’s discipline!  But, in this gooey world, a beating makes even Marlon work harder and he perfects the steps on his own time.  But, Joe wants to “cut him from the group.”  Katherine, who says she doesn’t usually speak up (her tirade at the van doesn’t count), insists that Marlon stay.  Joe won’t listen, using the argument that they will “sell dope” on the street corner if he doesn’t push them.  Katherine doesn’t like the whippings.  “That’s the only way I know how!” Joe rages.  “I want to get them out of Gary, out of those steel mills.  I’m gonna make that happen!” he continues, back on the Dream. 

All of the work has been leading up to a talent show, there the boys to The Temptations’ “My Girl,” with Michael mugging and the crowd going wild for all the moves, especially the girls.  Katherine enjoys herself, but Joe is too busy watching a) for mistakes and b) the crowd reaction, which overwhelms him.  Despite a good show from a girl group, the Jackson boys win the talent show.  Michael can’t wait to tell Mr. Rat, which has already gone beyond strange, but in the context of Michael Jackson’s life, still pretty normal.  But, there’s a hitch.  The rat is dead in a trap.  Michael, of course, freaks out.  Katherine uses this to teach Michael a lesson that “everyone has something that they have to overcome.”  It’s a long speech with musical underscoring that earns her Mother of the Year points.  It also reminds us whose book was the basis for this movie.

Not up for any parenting awards is Joe.  After the boys come in second at another talent show, not only does he refuse the gift of a color television, he tells the boys, “second place IS losing…The Jacksons doesn’t lose contests!”  He has particular problems with Michael, who chafes under Joe’s control (and is no financial genius, buying and selling candy at the same price).  Need another example?  How about when Jackie is teased by neighborhood bullies, so Joe has Jackie and their leader put on boxing gloves to fight it out.  When Jackie knocks out the other kid, it’s clear he’s drinking the Kool-Aid.  “He told me not to be afraid, and it worked!” he crows to Katherine, extremely unhappy that anyone is fighting. 

Katherine isn’t thrilled that Joe gets all sorts of gigs, especially one in a strip club (which the boys enjoy), but he comes home randy and she can’t say no!  She has a right to worry because after a set one night, Joe is beaten as the thugs steal their equipment.  Not to worry, Michael can call the police and since the guitar is okay, it’s not so bad.  Bloody and hurt, Joe has a “win one for the Gipper” speech that is totally out of character, and with the underscoring, sounds like he’s sending them off to battle in the Pacific.

In 1966, the boys are in the recording studio doing “Kansas City.”  The producers keep telling Michael to give it “more attitude,” but he doesn’t know what that means.  Joe is no help, telling him to listen to what they say and just do it. 

Bad Joe kicks it up a few notches when he’s angered that Jackie is getting calls from girls, that Katherine has changed around the furniture and that Rebbie speaks up for her brother and mother.  The family will “stay together!” no matter what comes in life.  Well, that’s bound to just make them all want to leave that much faster, eh?  Jackie makes the mistake of saying he wants freedom, so Joe tells him to leave.  “You go away, you stay away,” he coldly tells his son.  A night away teaches Jackie the lesson and punishment comes in the form of hauling those cinder blocks again. 

This all happens right before a “big gig in Chicago” where they will be sharing the bill with stars.  Hell, Jackie Wilson (Grady Harrell) is there and the boys watch him off-stage aping his moves and style.  The crowd is so entranced by Jackie that even Joe smiles. 

Rebbie is getting married and Joe doesn’t approve, so not only does he refuse to attend the wedding, he has a gig booked that day and won’t let anyone go.  Katherine tries talking to him, but he won’t listen, standing against a window in the dark with a rainstorm being outside.  Again, there is nothing subtle here. 

Let’s take a time out for a history lesson.  Joe has the boys booked at the Apollo Theater and when they arrive, they look at the wall of past performers and rattle off the names.  Michael sees James Brown’s shoes and says he’ll have patent leather shoes someday (we know, we know).  But, suddenly Professor Joe Jackson gets serious.  “We’re talking about more than shoes here guys.  Talking about a whole history of black performers,” he says, in an uncharacteristic moment of pride.  When Michael sees the inside of the theater, Joe wraps his arms around his son and says, “this contest makes stars,” now apparently going for Father of the Year.  Yeah, now that the boys are on the verge of success and his meal ticket, it’s time to change his tune a bit. 

After piling their hands together and touching the lucky log, they launch into “Twist and Shout” and the famously fickle Apollo crowd is on its feet roaring in approval.  It’s pandemonium and they win amateur night!  Things brings them an audition for…cue the music…Motown Records!

But, it’s not a done deal because Berry Gordy (Billy Dee Williams) “hates kid acts,” though Suzanne de Passe (Vanessa Williams) does her best to convince him of how good they are.  “What about Stevie Wonder, isn’t he a kid?” she asks, knowing he’s a Motown star.  She begs for just five minutes.  He agrees, if she also finds him “some talented adults.”  Berry is impressed, but of course doesn’t let on too much while they are in his presence, but tells Suzanne “to pull out all of the stops…I love it!”

Joe is there when Rebbie gets married, but he doesn’t walk her down the aisle.  “Joseph’s here!” she says to her husband excitedly, using the preferred first name that he has requested from his kids.  “Your brothers had a gig.  Ain’t nothing more important than that,” he nastily tells Rebbie as she thanks him for attending. 

The Jacksons are summoned to Berry Gordy’s mansion to perform at a pool party with all the Motown execs, and perhaps even some of the talent.  Jermaine has the hots for Berry’s daughter.  Berry tells his whole staff to put “your brilliant minds to work because we’re taking the Jackson Five all the way to the top and beyond.” 

When Katherine scoffs at the boys being pulled in so many directions, Joe tells her, “this is our dream and we’re going to stay a family” in hushed tones so sweet she actually believes it.  The boys are booked for an episode of “Hollywood Palace” where the hosts are Diane Ross (Holly Robinson Peete) and The Supremes (two women who don’t matter in context, of course).  Back in Gary, the whole family is so excited to see the kids on TV, but Joe is upset because Diana Ross introduces them as “Michael Jackson and The Jackson Five.”  Suzanne has them trained to answer every possible question, which shows Joe losing serious control.

Jackie (now Terrence Howard) and Tito (Angel Vargus) enjoy the attention from the girls, but Joe rules his roost with an iron fist and doesn’t want them mixed up with girls.  Joe, now sporting an Afro, keeps his promise to bring everyone to California, where Katherine quips, “me havin’ all those babies is what got us to California.”  And she isn’t wrong at that!  Katherine arrives just in time for a Diana Ross pool party, only she and the younger kids aren’t invited. 

Berry Gordy is a lot better with the boys than Joe.  When Michael sings a word incorrectly, Berry shouts, “I love mistakes!” from the sound booth.  One day, the boys don’t want to go to rehearsal, and Joe snaps, “The Osmonds don’t always feel good, but it don’t let them stop them.  That’s why they are always on the radio, day and night!”  Okay, to be fair, no one ever knew how many Osmonds there were, so perhaps when one was ailing, another simply filled in. 

Problems are bound to arise when Suzanne and Berry start rechoreographing the routines, moving Michael in front of the others to best execute the steps.  And what did Joe say to Michael?  Give the microphone to Jackie.  No, no, according to Berry.  “Never let go of your microphone!”  Berry and the rest have already realized that Michael is the real talent.  Friction will ensue.  Oh, it will! 

And it gets more tense.  During a Diana Ross concert, she introduces the boys, but pulls only Michael up to sing with her.  Over forty years later, it’s still tough to imagine Diana Ross relinquishing the stage to anyone for even a moment, but I suppose the lure of being the one to have discovered Michael was just too strong for her. 

And more tense.  Joe won’t let Michael so much as ask a question in the recording studio, but Berry is downright fatherly, indulging Michael.  That anger gets pushed to poor Tito, who is in the alley talking with his girlfriend.  He argues that Jermaine is allowed to have Hazel around all the time.  “I don’t have a say over Berry Gordy’s daughter, but I still have a say over my sons!” says the nasty Mr. Jackson.  When he gets home, it’s time for a familiar conference with Katherine.  We knew it would be coming, but of course the miniseries format makes it even more urgent.  “Yeah, I got everything I want, except you,” Katherine says when Joe comes home late one night.  “I cook dinner and don’t nobody show up” and she can’t leave because she can’t drive and “the streets are so confusing.”  Oh, and “all the neighbors are white people.”  “You better get used to this…this is our life, the good life,” is all Joe can say, which causes Katherine’s eyes to pop out in horror. 

After the first half of the movie, let’s tally it up: Bad Joe Jackson pushes his boys into a career that makes no one happy.  Saintly Katherine Jackson is the backbone of the family, trying to keep a sense of normalcy.  Michael’s only friends are rodents.

There is soooooooo much opportunity for it all to go wrong. 

By 1970, The Jackson Five is huge.  Diana who?  When the boys perform, people go wild, especially the girls.  In fact, in the very first scene, the fans storm the stage and the group has to escape from rabid fans pulling at their clothing.  “I don’t know how many times I can go through this,” poor scared Michael says.  “It could be worse…like not getting recognized at all!” Joe says.  Okay, the character of Joe has become so villainous, it’s annoying to watch.  I would understand hard to watch, with such gritty realism, but the script is so weighed against him, every scene has to contain a quota of Joe Jackson hatred.  By all accounts, Joe Jackson was a bastard of his man to his children, but it’s 1970 now, can we switch our focus to something else?

I should be careful what I ask for.  The older boys missing their girlfriends and the younger ones throwing water balloons from hotel windows at passers-by isn’t particularly thrilling, though it does hint at why the Jacksons, as men, all seemed so infantile, having had to wait to get out from under Papa Joe’s thumb to grow up.  There are pillow fights, screaming crowds and groupies.  Jermaine has one who even gets into his hotel room, a fast moving girl with lines like, “oh, Jermaine, you are so cute, it’s hard for me to stop touching you.”  What she doesn’t know is that Michael and Marlon are under the bed ruining the moment. 

Poor put-upon Katherine has to learn where her boys are from a fan club newsletter.  And how does she get that newsletter?  Because she invites fans to dinner.  Really?  Are we supposed to believe that?  There’s only LaToya to help her get through it, and she’s getting pissier with age. 

Also inevitable is the Mama Rose speech where Joe howls at his kids about the group being more important than anything.  It comes with Tito gets married.  Joe refuses to accept it because he thinks it will break up the group.  Joe’s anger explodes when he finds towels left in the pool.  This gives Katherine the perfect opening for another round of “I can’t take this anymore” ranting. 

There is an amusing scene on a flight taking the boys to perform at a stadium where Suzanne finds no one knows the words to our national anthem.  Not just the boys, not the flight attendant and not anyone on the plane!  In these pre-Internet days, that’s a problem.  But, not only do they get the words, they learn them and deliver it in perfect harmony. 

Talk about freaky scenes, how about the one where Michael throws an all-out spastic fit because he doesn’t want to get on a plane.  The obvious end to the scene would be to find out the plane he did not want to board ultimately had a problem, but that doesn’t happen.  Instead, Michael is carried onto the plane by an incensed Joe and performs as expected, which Joe tossing him onto the stage telling him to “be a man.”  So why the dramatics?  Is it because they are trying to show a bit of rebellion?  That would be interesting, but there is no follow-through.

Then we remember that there are other Jacksons and Jermaine wants to marry Hazel Gordy.  “He won’t be satisfied until he has one of my sons,” Joe angrily notes, but Jermaine has to ask Berry’s permission first.  Berry reminds Jermaine of what he’s giving up, the groupies, all of “the temptations,” but that’s only a stall tactic.  Of course he gives his consent.  Berry Gordy is set up to be the hero father that Joe clearly is not.  Because that isn’t perfectly obvious on his own.  So, wedding #3 happens with a scowling Joe forced to go and moping miserably. 

Wylie Draper is the last actor to play Michael Jackson and now the dancing kicks in, but everyone is on edge.  The hits have dried up and Jermaine will not use his influence with Berry to help them out.  Worst of all, Michael has acne!  This causes a full-on identity crisis, with Katherine’s only pearl of wisdom, “you just gotta be who you are,” which is not helpful.  It also naturally leads to a line of dialogue where Michael of course claims he doesn’t know who he is.  You set him up Mom, he knocks ’em down, although this one has a twist because he feels he’s not a person, that he’s only the music he sings.  Ah, a cliche with a difference.  Three hours too late.  “You can’t live your life trying to fit into other people’s fantasies.  Just be who you are.  You are beautiful,” Katherine tells him, repeating her unhelpful streak by just moving the words around.  Right at the end of this abysmal scene, Michael connects the feelings to songs he has in his head and wants to write, but naturally, it’s cut off before it can go anywhere meaningful.

Puzzling then, is the following scene, where Joe tries to get the boys to break from Motown and move to CBS.  Michael is initially the only holdout, refusing to turn his back and the company that nurtured them from the beginning, except Jermaine was not at the family meeting. Joe calls him over in the middle of the night to sign and Jermaine has the cheek to tell his father “I’m gonna get my own attorney.  I’m gonna have him check things out” he nervously tells his father.  “It’s my blood flowing through your veins, not Berry Gordy’s,” Joe reminds him.  Jermaine doesn’t know what to do.  He’s part of both families.  “Berry is my idol…but how am I gonna stay if my brothers leave?” he asks his wife.  Her response?  “You gotta do what you gotta do.”  Ah, so she went to the Katherine school of advice.  On the other hand, lip-glossed Michael says he can’t feel the full love without Jermaine. 

The night of the big concert comes and Joe has slipped Randy (Nicholas Philips) in as Jermaine hasn’t shown, though Michael is pouting and doesn’t believe he can do it without Jermaine “at my left.”  They start with “I Never Can Say Goodbye,” which is no doubt perplexing to the fans, and as the brothers perform it, Jermaine walks tearfully on the beach.  Someone call the Cheese Police! 

Now it’s 1983 and we know what that means!  Gloves, pants that are too short, Moonwalking, the whole deal.  Michael is recording solo and he’s bought a giraffe, a lion and other animals to live at the family home (which must violate some sort of code).  The boys are going out on tour, but Michael is refusing to go, saying the stuff he wants to do now can only be done solo.  Joe isn’t going either, and flashy Randy is the only one happy to be touring. 

The phone keeps ringing and no one is there when Katherine picks up, but when Joe sends her out to get him ice cream, she’s suspicious and listens in to find out Joe is indeed having an affair.  Angela Bassett goes for Emmy gold when she wrecks the place and confronts him.  The packs a few articles of clothing and a Bible and dashes out.  Michael, in a wacky Chinese vest, tries to chase after her.  If you’ve been wondering where Katherine gets her dippy doses of fortune cookie wisdom, look no further than her mother.  Katherine goes to stay with her when she leaves Joe.  Granny says it’s too quiet where she lives, and Katherine says to her, Alabama will always be her home.  “No, home is where your heart is,” her mother tells her.  Cliches don’t get older than that!  She makes sure we get the cliche be repeating it in various forms a few times.

Katherine does return, just in time to find out the boys are firing their father as manager.  It took long enough!  Suddenly, we’re supposed to feel sorry for Joe as he cries to his spouse and fingers his wedding ring?  “They are stealing my boys away!” he blubbers, then going in for some good old-fashioned guilt about how he worked in a steel mill to support them.  Katherine?  “They have to go their own way…part of growing up.”  Someone spent too much time at Mama’s learning to read the cliche dictionary. 

Suzanne has planned a lavish TV tribute to Berry and Motown, but Michael will not perform.  He won’t push Michael, but Suzanne pleads with him to “beg.”  So, he goes to the studio where Michael is mixing “Beat It.”  Berry is level-headed when he approaches Michael: some history, some guilt, so “magic,” a whole cornucopia of corniness.  “You may think you’re big now, but doing a show like this, the right way, could really put you in orbit.  Don’t do it for me, do it for yourself,” he says on the way out.  I can’t say I fully understand what that means, but Berry is talking to a man wearing more make-up than his loyal Suzanne, so obviously Berry knows how to handle the oddball.  Michael agrees to do it, because he’s always wanted Berry to be his father anyway.  There is one condition, that he gets a solo too. 

That solo spot is the infamous “Billy Jean” Moonwalk routine that truly did launch Michael into the stratosphere of the one-and-onlys.  Though he looks like he invaded Liza Minnelli’s closet for sequins and watched one of her husbands having sex with his boyfriend for moves, the effect created an indelible imagine that has never been equalled.  “Seeing you boys together, it’s like my old dream,” Joe says backstage to nothing but a wall of doubtful faces.  He suggests they do commercials, which of course leads to the Pepsi commercial that literally lit Michael on fire. 

The child in Michael can’t stay hidden any longer.  At the hospital, he tells his mother it was “wild” to ride in the ambulance and he enjoyed it.  Uh huh.  And so you are fine with a crispy scalp?  Poor Michael has no choice but to listen to his father’s big apology monologue.  “Believe it or not, I did it for you too,” he says after admitting he did a lot of it for himself.  Michael simply turns his head and ignores Joe. 

Michael recovers at home with Bubbles, some other animals, women’s costumes and Diana Ross singing “The Wiz.”  This gives the viewers a chance to suffer through a montage of the past, Michael-style, so it includes Mr. Rat.  I know, you’ve been missing him.  Bubbles is no substitute. 

When Jermaine leaves Motown, Katherine comes to ask Michael to do a tour with his brothers, dropping the word “dream” AGAIN, but this time emphasizing that it’s not just Joe’s, but hers too.  Michael ruminates on a lost childhood and wonders why his mother doesn’t leave Joe (she never officially did, but remember, this is her book).  She rips into a courage monologue (with music building by the bar) that is a continuation of what her mother started.  This one ends with “The Jacksons are a family.”  Biologically, undeniable. 

But, the Victory Tour did go out (six Jackson boys in total), with Joe and Katherine watching from the wings crying proudly.  The dancing is first rate (somehow history is retouched just a bit in showing that all the brothers could dance like Michael).  Michael stops the show to acknowledge his parents and their “dream.”  It’s an “American Dream” and he goes all the way back to the slave ships with the audience listening patiently.  “Our family wasn’t beaten down by poverty and we’re not going to be beaten down by fame either.  This tour is a celebration.  It’s a victory,” he says before they tear into a “thank you” song looking like the wax figures they would all become over the next decade. 

Categories: Historical Miniseries

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