I have a confession to make. I never cared much for 3T, Michael Jackson’s singing nephews. Not that I had any particular reason. 3T was just another twinkling star circling the periphery of a supernova called Uncle Michael. But I also have another confession to make. I started watching 3T in the Lifetime docuseries ‘The Jacksons Next Generation’. Now I’m hooked. Here’s seven reasons why.
1. The crossroads
Taj, Taryll and TJ – hence 3T – are at a crossroads in their lives. Approaching the age of forty, life hasn’t always brought what they hoped for. They struggle with their careers, their relationships, and their weight. Where is 3T going, if anywhere at all? Should they reboot their band once more, or should they go their separate ways? Dilemmas that – in one way or another – make you think.
2. Poppa T
Tito ‘Poppa T’ Jackson is part of the older Jackson generation. As he was never really one to claim the spotlight, it’s a treat to see him provide his sons with some down-to-earth advice. “Life’s gonna be beautiful if you work hard at it. It’s not gonna fall in our lap. Just work it out, because I spent too much of my young life nurturing you guys, working on your career, and doing all the things that a good father is supposed to do, than to see you not do it.”
3. The family thing
Cameras or no cameras, the brothers squabble, disagree, and argue with each other like any other family. But The Jacksons Next Generation also shows their unmistakable brotherhood, genuine care, and family loyalty. For 3T, family comes first, with all the dynamics that it takes to keep a big family together. It’s the age-old adage: can’t live with them, can’t live without them.
3T lost their mother Delores ‘Dee Dee’ when they were teens. Twenty years later, the pain of her death followed by the passing of uncle Michael, is still raw. “I haven’t really dealt with my mother’s death”, Taryll says. “I don’t know how to. I was nineteen and the person she was seeing at the time murdered her. He wanted my mom to ask my uncle Michael for money, which she wouldn’t do. And when our mother passed, my uncle Michael stepped in and saved us – (starts crying) – I keep things of him around. It’s like, you go and you look up here and I have this hat, over there, because he’s just… was such an amazing person and meant so much to me. When I’m going through bad things there are two people I talk to, my mom and my uncle. And they’re both gone.”
5. The truth
In one of the episodes, 3T decide to reach out to Tanay Jackson, who for a few years has claimed to be their half-sister. With all parties agreeing to take a DNA test, the results show that Tanay is not related to the family. Although Poppa T is disappointed that his sons didn’t take his word for it, Taj Jackson explains why that is just not enough: “We don’t comment on things, so people just assume ‘hey look at that, it’s in the Wikipedia right now, it’s true’ … The older generation of Jacksons had more of an attitude of just ‘let it go, leave it alone, don’t acknowledge it’. It doesn’t work like that in today’s world… you have to kind of nip it in the bud.”
6. The music
3T sold three million albums in their heyday. If you don’t remember their songs, YouTube can help out. But in The Jacksons Next Generation, the music takes center stage as well. ‘Anything’, ‘I Need You’, and ‘Why’ were all massive hits in Europe – hits which the brothers performed in the Netherlands in March 2015, as documented by the series. The boys may have gotten a little older, but they still know how to get the crowd going.
7. The small moments
Sometimes reality television has its spontaneous golden moments. One of these moments occurs when Taryll takes his two young sons to play baseball. While Taryll is talking to the camera, his seven-year old son Bryce suddenly starts crying when he is accidentally hit by his baby brother’s bat. Taryll takes his four-year old son Adren aside and the following scene unfolds:
Adren (starts crying): I don’t want to get in trouble!
Taryll: Wait, wait, wait. What happened? (kneels down)
Adren: I hit him with a bat.
Taryll: Was that an accident? (turning to Bryce) Bryce, come here. Was that an accident?
Bryce: He swinged a bat and hit me.
Taryll: But he didn’t mean to hit you. (turning to Adren) You just have to tell him you’re sorry because you didn’t mean to do it. Say you’re sorry…
Adren (still crying): I’m sorry.
Taryll: Give him a hug, hugs… (takes the boys in his arms) Squeeze, shake, and tickles! (everyone laughs)
© Annemarie Latour