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Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Michael Jackson’s Last Days: What Really Happened, Channel 4

This is the way: step inside; immerse yourself in the world of Jacques Peretti, where the moon is made of cheese because it looks a bit that way, the horizon is the precipitous edge of the world plummeting down into Hell, and the facts behind Michael Jackson’s untimely death can be nailed through a conglomeration of supposition, wishful thinking, subjective interpretation and coiled bitterness.

All of which wouldn’t be so heinous if the programme had been entitled What may have happened, or What didn’t really happen but I need to make my documentary distinct from the effluent avalanche of scabrous speculation. But, we were told by a legend in big black letters in our TV guide, this is what really happened.

Only we didn’t learn anything that hadn’t been disgorged from the flatulent, gushing orifices of a million-and-one ‘showbiz’ reporters who are lingering in LA, casting jealous glances towards the worms in the ground who’ll be able to witness his decomposition.

Like shoals of piranhas digging their fangs in and clinging to a half-rotten sloth that’s tumbled from the overhanging canopy into the Amazon, everyone is scalping their pound of bleached flesh. New books are being rushed out, each with evermore absurd and mendacious claims about Jackson’s lifestyle – he was gay, he didn’t father ‘his’ children, he flayed his skin from an albino pony, his voice was found in a Mexican meteor and brought back to LA in Sammy Davis Junior’s smile – anything to distinguish itself from its forbears and ancestors, each wrought to infuriate his fans, and enable their grief to morph into a more defined corporeal rage against the authors, who don’t care as they are raking in the cash.

And, while not among the worst, Peretti’s documentary had the few grains of truth sieved out of it to leave nothing more than a few nuggets of tabloid hysteria glossed in the fool’s gold of investigative research.

He exhumed the tales of drug addiction, exhaustion and reluctance over the London concerts comeback that have been marching through across airwaves like Napoleon’s retreat from Russia, but feeling he required a novel twist to these banalities, he used his own intuition to interpret them into What Really Happened. This wouldn’t be a problem were Peretti’s instinct for the truth wasn’t less dependable than General Custer’s estimation of his own military worth.

We heard from a Los Angeles doctor who lamented his many celebrity drug addict patients, from whose testimony we meant to swallow that Jackson, too, had a problem just as crippling simply because he was also a superstar who lived in LA. But as the doctor didn’t treat Jackson this was pointless, and no closer to the truth than had Perreti interviewed Jackson’s kitchen sink to see if it could remember any prescription drugs passing through its pipes.

Meanwhile, over at Lou Ferrigno’s gym, the ex-Incredible Hulk and the man who was Jackson’s personal trainer refused to confirm Peretti’s assumption that Jackson was hopelessly unfit for the London concerts. To counteract this obstruction, Peretti employed the presenter’s favourite tool – the overdubbed narration that gave Ferrigno no chance to respond to his speculation.

Perreti was scornful that Jackson could achieve fitness through working with a rubber ball or an elastic skipping/ stretching rope, but was essentially questioning a fitness instructor’s expertise while looking himself like a half-eaten walrus washed up on a polar ice floe that an orca’s given up on after almost choking on the excess guttural blubber, who reacts with the same frothing revulsion to dumbbells as Karl Lagerfeld to non-emaciated women.

Although the most risible, egregious example of Peretti’s wilful misinterpretation was of the last footage of Jackson’s rehearsals. “He held up his hand,” confided Peretti in those mournful tones newsreaders employ for death announcements. “It seemed to be a plea to stop.” When, what really happened was that he performed a routine dance move.

The interview with Terry Harvey, a former confidant of Jackson and the key witness for the prosecution, was bizarrely carried out like some covert assignation in which the pair were arranging an assassination – all hushed tones and rootless talk of conspiracies.

Harvey was such a crude, embittered witness his repudiation of Peretti’s statement that “some people” (i.e. no-one but it would extend the story another two weeks) thought Jackson committed suicide, actually acted as a perverse endorsement to that theory because of Harvey’s unreliability.

But the mention of suicide, and the tiresome hearsay that Jackson was murdered – to perpetuate the trend that nobody famous can ever just die, they have to have been the victim of a conspired homicide – each at the opposite ends of conscious decision, one the choice of the Jackson, the other completely out of his hands, prised apart the established parameters of probable cause of death, an accidental overdose inducing a heart attack or simply a heart attack from heart disease.

Between these newly splayed possibilities, Peretti shamelessly drove his ludicrous, contrived theory like tanks across Red Square that Jackson had succumbed because he stopped taking drugs, but then started again, and his body had lost its resistance to their harmful effects, and with it every last vestige of credibility that this is what really happened.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's as if you took all the disgust I felt at this shambolic effort at broadcast journalism and articulated them on my screen.

Well done, Mr Luke.

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