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The Jacksons: An American Dream

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Image credit  The Jacksons: An American Dream, 1992

Image credit The Jacksons: An American Dream, 1992

There are certain temptations in life that I am powerless to resist- a margarita with my Mexican dinner; a clearance sale; that bag of shredded cheese lurking in the refrigerator. The list goes on. In the realm of entertainment, the one thing I can’t resist watching if it happens to be on television is this week’s made-for-TV movie, The Jacksons: An American Dream (DVD). It’s not just that I’m such a big fan of J5’s music, or of the solo work by Michael Jackson. If it were just the music, I’d put on the albums and save myself 4 hours on the sofa. No, there’s something more at play here. It’s the afros, the polyester, the mental work it takes to keep track of which young actor is playing which Jackson brother in a certain era of time (it’s like keeping track of character names in a Russian novel), the melodramatic acting, and all that synchronized dancing. If I turn on VH1 and catch a few seconds of Lawrence Hilton Jacobs yelling at a roomful of kids, forget it- my afternoon is gone.

The Jacksons originally aired on ABC in 1992, and since then it has been replayed on VH1 many, many times (particularly after Michael Jackson’s death in 2009). The first part of the movie was based on Katherine Jackson’s autobiography My Family, The Jacksons, chronicling how she and Joe Jackson raised their ever-growing family in Gary, Indiana. By some miracle they managed to churn out 5 vocally talented, sharp dancers (plus Janet!), and the rest is history. Welcome Back Kotter’s Freddie Boom-Boom Washington plays the evil Joe Jackson, and Angela Bassett is absolutely wonderful as Katherine. Plus, Terrence Howard makes his acting debut buried under an afro, and even Billie Dee Williams pops up as Berry Gordy.

Despite the fact that the Jacksons are devout Jehovah’s Witnesses and don’t drink, I believe that a little alcohol can only improve a TV movie. My drink this week is inspired by my favorite Jackson brother, Tito. Why is he my favorite, you ask? Well, because it’s just fun to say Tito. Conveniently, he shares a name with one of my favorite brands of vodka, so while watching The Jacksons, I recommend drinking a Tito’s Fizz.

Tito’s Fizz

1.5 oz Tito’s Vodka

.5 oz lime juice

3 oz lime sparkling water (such as Perrier with Lime)

Fresh Orange wedge

Fresh Lime wedge

Build drink over ice in a glass. Garnish with orange and lime.


I have to admit, in the grand pantheon/toilet bowl of made-for-TV movies, the production value on this one ranks pretty high. You can practically taste the cold dirty air of Gary, Indiana as Jackie Jackson is forced to move a pile of cinder blocks from one spot in the yard to another, and taste the chlorine in Diana Ross’s sparkling blue swimming pool. I don’t know if there has ever been, or will ever be again, a family as talented or entertaining as the Jacksons, which is perhaps why I can’t look away if this movie is on. Its bloated 4-hour length somehow seems too short. I find myself wanting more Bubbles, more Neverland, and more Janet. Isn’t it about time this movie gets a sequel? Now that’s my American dream. Cheers!

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