Reality TV is no stranger to irony and hypocrisy, but it’s hard to remember a more glaring demonstration of both than “The Jacksons: Next Generation.” Tito Jackson’s sons – who once formed the group 3T – are now grown, and they use this showcase to plot a comeback, and lament how the media mistreated their uncle Michael, all the while trading off the Jackson name to secure another 15 minutes of fame (and obviously, a payday). Put it this way: When characters play paintball in the premiere of a reality show, you know it’s going to be a long season.
“You know me, I’m more of a private person,” one of the brothers says, which begs the question why he would participate in such an enterprise. At another point, TJ – joined in the show by brothers Taj, Taryll and their families – is asked about having dated Kim Kardashian, the gold standard in reality-TV name-dropping.
The suspense in the show, such as it is, largely revolves around whether the brothers will get back into the studio and record again two decades after their album “Brotherhood” sold roughly 3 million copies – a prospect some within the family are more enthusiastic about than others. Beyond that, there are concerns about Taryll’s weight, and whether he’s in the kind of shape required to go out on stage and perform.
Along the way, there’s a pilgrimage to visit Jackson family matriarch Katherine, while original Jackson 5 member Tito (introduced as “Poppa T”) drops by a couple of times, dispensing what amounts to Yoda-like wisdom.
Simply put, it’s hard to take any of this seriously – starting with listening to a member of the trio say “You can’t live life normally like everyone else” being a Jackson, when that’s the only reason anyone would give them the time of day, much less six weeks in primetime. And Taj’s talk of producing a documentary to support the family’s legacy can’t help but sound a trifle superfluous as he turns this vehicle (on which all three have producer credits) into a soapbox.
Plenty of people have cashed in on Michael Jackson through the years as an object of admiration or curiosity, and it’s hard to blame third parties (including Lifetime) for joining the chorus. Before his nephews sound too indignant about leveraging that legacy, though, in light of “Next Generation,” they might want to start by looking at the men in the mirror.