The all-Michael-Jackson, all-the-time TV programming mandate continues. ABC already upstaged NBC’s upcoming ”Dateline” special on Jackson with its airing of the two-hour ”Living With Michael Jackson” last week. Now, even though ”Living” will be rebroadcast three times this weekend on VH1, ABC has arranged to air it again on Monday, Feb. 17, opposite the ”Dateline” special, called ”Unmasking Michael Jackson.” Variety reports that NBC is responding by expanding ”Unmasking” to two hours. ”We’ve always had 90 minutes of material that we were condensing into an hour; it’s just as easy to go the other way,” NBC Entertainment president Jeff Zucker said.
In any case, Zucker said, the scheduling of the dueling Jackson documentaries has less to do with NBC-ABC rivalry than the desire to counter Fox’s show about another bachelor with a shocking secret: Evan Marriott, who will purportedly open his heart (and his empty wallet) to one of the two remaining bachelorettes on the ”Joe Millionaire” finale..”Both these [specials] are going to get killed [by ‘Joe Millionaire’],” Zucker told Variety. ”I’d be totally wasting a ‘Third Watch,’ so the choice was a ‘Fear Factor’ repeat or to expand this Michael Jackson ridiculousness.” He added, ”This is clearly one of the most ridiculous sweeps in modern American TV history.”
Fox, of course, has its own Jackson show, featuring the singer’s rebuttal to ”Living,” airing on Feb. 20. CBS is the only one of the big four without any Jackson programming, though ”60 Minutes” is still reportedly angling to reschedule last weekend’s aborted sit-down between the King of Pop and correspondent Ed Bradley.