‘Celebrity Expose: Michael Jackson’ Good but not Great – Bullet#326

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The "MyNetworkTV" network aired its Michael Jackson edition of their Celebrity Expose series Feb 11. The verdict: pretty good but with a few ridiculous moments.

There is already early word from SonyBMG that Thriller25 is over-performing in sales; a contention shored-up by fans posting on Jackson-related sites all over the internet about having trouble finding a store where the special edition isn’t already sold out. The ‘{tag Celebrity Expose}’ program seemed to come right on time and focused a great deal on Jackson’s music (SHOCK!) with the landmark album Thriller being the center piece. There were great shots of Jackson in the studio with will.i.am back when Billy Bush interviewed the pair for Access Hollywood.

The program was hosted by what I normally call ‘a human bobblehead’, {tag Tony Potts}. Potts is no stranger to making insulting comments about the superstar.  With that said, the Celebrity Expose special was no where near as one-sided and gossip-filled as I initially assumed it would be.
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As an aside, from early reports through mediapost.com, MyNetworkTV’s Jackson special was one of the most watched programs on the network with about 805,000 viewers in their key 18-49 demographic (see MyNetworkTV Beefs Up 18-49 Ratings (Mentions Celebrity Expose) ).

What I think the public learned – those who didn’t already know – was that Jackson’s musical influence runs incredibly deep and many of the stars they like both love and respect Michael Jackson’s musical acumen.

We got to see a little of what happened behind the scenes of Thriller (both the video and the album) through the eyes of people like Thriller video director {tag John Landis} and Thriller album producer Quincy Jones.

Landis spoke about talking to Jackson record executives concerning the massive amount of money, at that time, they would need to create the mini-movie.

Landis recalls:

"Michael said we’ll get… CBS to pay for it. He called Walter Yetnikoff and said, ‘Hi Walt. Here, talk to John Landis’. (Laughs) And I take the phone: ‘Hello’. And over the phone came like the foulest language, like screaming at me!"

{tag Will.i.am} spoke about the impact of the original Thriller saying, “25 years later, there hasn’t been a more impactful artist than Michael Jackson…It impacted to the magnitude where the people that were influenced by Thriller are now mimicking Thriller.”

He also admitted to the difficulty of remaking something as big as Thriller “because you don’t want to hear a remix.”

“It’s like, uh, just me, I don’t really wanna hear a remix of a Thriller song, you know. I like Thriller. I know Thriller inside and out. I know what it meant when it came out and I know what it still means today,” the producer surprisingly admits.

Also making an appearance is the new “it” girl {tag Fergie}.  She talks about the influential nature of Jackson saying, “I remember having my Michael Jackson button, this purple little button that I used to wear with his face on it. I had a huge crush on Michael Jackson in 4th grade.”

She says she’s a huge fan of Jackson’s “Beat it” and wanted to be involved in the remake of it. Of the track, she says, “You can’t beat ‘Beat it’. I figured why not just try to emulate him and really honor his sound.”

“He liked it. He told me he liked the gritty sound in my voice,” Fergie said.

Hip-hop groundbreaker {tag Missy Elliot} was interviewed as well. She says,  “I’ll always love Michael Jackson. I love hm. He’s a major factor in my career because I feel like I always watched a lot of videos and stuff that he did ”

An interview with the Queen of Hip-hop soul Mary J. Blige was included in the program.  Blige pays homage to Jackson’s ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’ in her recent hit song ‘Just Fine’.

She says:

 “When I first heard Thriller, I think I was all the way in love with Michael Jackson. (laughs) And I just wanna say, Michael I don’t care what anybody says about you, you will always be Michael Jackson in my heart. I mean, Thriller, the actual song, was like – I mean, I ran, I cut school to see that video.”

Both P. Diddy and Wyclef Jean spoke highly of the landmark album with the former saying that Thriller blew people away and the latter joking about still having his red Thriller jacket in his closet.

Keisha Cole and Usher also had words of praise for Jackson. Usher saying:

“To be able to influence people like myself and other up and coming artists, you know, I hope that maybe in 25 years I could do the same. But definitely Michael Jackson is an amazing icon and will always be known as The King of Pop.

Rapper/Actress {tag Eve} says, “I think my favorite video of all time would have to be Thriller. That’s my favorite of all time. I remember when I was younger and it came out, I was scared.”

{tag Naomi Campbell}, seen recently dancing it up in Sobe’s Life Water commercial featuring Thriller, comments about how everybody wanted to learn the dances in that video. She adds, “It was brilliant.”

Producer {tag Pharrell Williams} told Access Hollywood (as evidence by the microphone in front of him in the video), “Michael changed the world, man. He changed the world. He let everybody know it’s okay to be a kid, and even if you’re not going to be a kid, to be imaginative, you know what I mean?”

Not only was Jackson’s musical influence covered, but his effect on inspiring a new generation of hip-hop dancers/choreographers.

An interview with {tag Wade Robson} was also included in the program. Robson says he doesn’t think he would have started dancing had it not been for the Thriller mini-movie.

He says:

“That was the first thing I ever saw of dance when I was 2. By 4 years old, I had the whole thing down. That’s all I did everyday. So Thriller was the beginning of everything for me.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a better dance video or more monumental change in… creating the modern format of music videos.”

Even one of the original dancers in Thriller got to have his say about being part of history. “Sugapop” (Steven) is seen showing off some of the elaborate costuming he wore for the shoot, and a few of those dance moves.

__A tale of two…programs__

Where it fell short on facts and relied heavily on unsubstantiated speculation was when they tried to delve into the matter of Jackson’s finances and future "comeback".

Paul McCartney makes an appearance on the program talking about discussing music publishing with Jackson in the early days.

McCartney missed his chance to gain control of the ATV catalog, which contained songs he and John Lennon had written, when it initially went up for sale.

Despite estimates suggesting McCartney was worth at least two or three times as much as Jackson was at the time of the auction, Jackson purchased the ATV catalog. There have been conflicting reports throughout the years as to whether Jackson outbid McCartney, whether McCartney didn’t want to have to pay a large sum of money for his own music, or even whether McCartney could raise enough funs to bid on the catalog during that time.

Also making appearances on the show were irrelevant, alleged "experts" like Brett Pulley, former senior editor of Forbes magazine. Pulley claimed Jackson would probably have to sell his stake in the Sony/ATV catalog to remain financially secure.

How long have we been hearing that exact speculation? It’s been closer to a decade now that these alleged Jackson financial “experts” have been proclaiming he’d have to sell his 50% ownership in Sony/ATV or face financial destruction. It still hasn’t happened.  

Further, in order to even make this type of speculation, Jackson would have to release some type of financial information to people like the former Forbes talking-head in order for them to get a full view of his finances. This is highly unlikely.

One thing is clear: Pulley apparently felt comfortable enough to be interviewed about the topic and not to be challenged on his Jackson assumptions, possibly because he was telling his interviewers what they already wanted to hear.

As far as we can tell, Jackson has not released his financial documents to Forbes, and Forbes may have been relying on 3rd – and possibly 4th –hand unconfirmed/incomplete information to guesstimate Jackson’s worth.  

All this speculation is seemingly without taking into consideration what looks to be Jackson’s shift from heavily relying on record deals and tours, to relying on investment, music publishing and asset management for financial security.

At some point, these people will have to let go of the story unless it actually happens instead of doing bad imitations of "Ms. Cleo" trying to predict Jackson’s future.

Making it past the cutting room floor was Fox News’s resident Wacko Journo himself, the wannabe know-it-all Roger Friedman.

Friedman is the guy who always forecasts Jackson’s financial doom then magically comes up with a ‘savior’ who always rushes in — just in the nick of time, mind you — to “save” Jackson from alleged absolute financial ruin.

During the special, the speculative “savior” this time was supposedly Al Malnick who, Friedman says, completely "fell in love" with Jackson.

As I snicker while writing this line, there are those who think Friedman may be the one who has ‘fallen in love’ with Jackson, as evidenced by his repeated and incessant (sometimes totally inaccurate) speculation concerning everything from Jackson’s finances and family, to his emotional/mental psyche and physical well-being.

It would have been even better with the absence of rank speculation as to Jackson’s finances and the then-vs-now view of Neverland at the end of the program.

At the end of the show, somebody thought it would be a nice idea to compare and contrast the Neverland before and during the allegations, to the Neverland after the allegations.

Back during the famous 60 Minutes interview Jackson participated in when Mark Geragos was still his lead attorney, Jackson said Neverland turned into a “house”. He told CBS’s Ed Bradley, “I won’t live there ever again… It’s a house now. It’s not a home anymore” (see  Jackson 60 Minutes Interview Transcript ).

So when Neverland turns into just another property owned by Jackson, it suddenly transforms from a “creepy” place, into an alleged illustration of Jackson’s alleged financial problems, according to the media’s collective attitudes.

During the show, Tony Potts is seen in a helicopter circling the property and contrasting the way Neverland used to be.  What he fails to mention is that many of his media colleagues (and possibly Potts himself) were highly vocal in criticizing Neverland’s very existence; it’s very purpose.

To them, it was supposedly a sinister place full of inappropriate behavior and shrouded in questions: “Why does he need an amusement park in his backyard?”, “Why does he always have children there?”, “What’s with all those animals? Are they being taken care of?”

Now all the amusement rides are shut down, there are no kids in sight and all the animals have been moved to other safe places. And STILL Jackson’s Neverland is being used to try to prove unconfirmed, unsubstantiated rumors; this time about his finances.

Potts said during the flyover, “It’s very eerie to be here now as opposed to when I was here a couple  of years ago when Michael was actually here.”

The fact he actually got to go to Neverland was almost a shock to me. However, it spoke more to Jackson’s open door policy – i.e., not having a thing to hide – than anything else.

He continues later on, “The amusement rides are all shut down. In fact, some look to be missing. There is a tent that is in disrepair as well.”

At the end, Potts is given just enough time to throw in some unconfirmed mess (ie rumor) about the property allegedly being bought by some unnamed company. Again, members of the media get away with throwing out speculation they would never be able to use if their subject was someone other than Jackson.

My question to the media is: Isn’t that what you wanted? Isn’t this exactly the state which was supposed to make them most comfortable about Neverland?

First, whatever condition Jackson chooses to keep his property in is completely his business. Secondly, and most importantly, wasn’t the problem, according to the media, always the fact that he had amusement park rides and kids at Neverland? So, why the whining? Why was a ‘then-and-now’ section warranted as part of this special?

Why the cheesy, overly dramatic music when showing shots of Neverland after it has been raped of it’s innocence and childlike meaning?

The beautiful sentiments for which Neverland stood have been overshadowed by the envy and greed of those who wanted to wrestle it from Jackson’s ownership by any means necessary; even if it meant the destruction of its ideals; even if it’s “safe place” status had to be killed in Jackson’s heart.

What Neverland meant to Jackson and to literally thousands upon thousands of people may not ever be the same. And thus, I say, the figurative “they” got what “they” wanted just short of actually owning it “themselves”.

So spare those of us who have an exceedingly low tolerance for bull$hit all of the overly dramatic comparisons of then-vs-now versions of Neverland. It was a shining example of all the things which were good about childhood, innocence and wonder. Why would it be the same after it’s molestation by 70 Santa Barbara sheriff’s deputies and flying media helicopters?

I think it got under the media’s skin to see such a lush, well maintained and huge piece of land under Jackson’s care; a piece of property making Graceland and thousands of other well-known properties look like glorified trailer parks. It got under the skin of the usurpers, vultures and thieves who sat on their a$ses and tried (and finally failed) to purposely keep Jackson reliant on them for the rest of his life.

To see it in “disrepair”, as Potts says, or not being used is sad for the thousands of kids and families who aren’t crooks, shysters or grifters; those who would have appreciated having a safe place to bring their sick or underprivileged children for fun and relaxation. It’ll never be the same again.

The Celebrity Expose program exceeded my expectations, but like much of the media’s coverage of Jackson, it greatly fell short on subjects unrelated to his music.

MJEOL subscription members can download it here:

Non-members can watch it being streamed at in the Streaming Vids area.


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