LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - A&E is working on a reality project with the Jackson family which could gain newfound viewer interest in the wake of the King of Pop's death.
The network commissioned a one-hour special following Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Randy that was originally intended to serve as a "backdoor pilot" for a potential series. The project was commissioned months ago and producers have finished shooting footage that followed Jackson family members as they readied a new album and reunion tour.
A&E planned to air the result as a special, tentatively titled "The Jackson Family," next year, taking a "wait and see" approach and gauging viewer reaction before deciding whether to order the project as a series.
After Michael's unexpected death last month and subsequent intensive media coverage, the question for A&E becomes: What now?
Producers have not shot any additional footage with the family since Jackson's death, leaving the network with a project that's still attractive -- one that uses footage and interviews capturing the current incarnation of The Jacksons as entertainers, entrepreneurs and family members -- yet also has a glaring narrative omission hanging over its current form.
A&E's special will almost certainly have to change to reflect recent events. But the network has not yet decided the best course of action.
"We have started discussing internally and with the family but have not yet decided what direction to take with the show," said A&E executives, in a statement. "We are respecting the family's wishes right now, and at the appropriate time we will all decide what direction this program to take, so stay tuned."
The situation is not entirely unlike TLC's recent wrangling of "Jon & Kate Plus 8," where the collapse of the Gosselins' marriage disrupted the previously agreed-upon "reality" of the reality show.
(Editing by Dean Goodman)