Thursday, April 18, 2024

Michael Jackson: ABC Cut 30 Minutes from Spike Lee Doc, Including Sensual Dance with Sheryl Crow


Ok, so no one bothered to send the actual full version of Spike Lee’s “Bad 25” documentary. The 90 minute version aired on ABC on Thanksgiving night. On Friday morning, the DVD of the complete movie arrived (thanks to the Critics Choice Awards). It clocks in at 123 minutes, at least 30 minutes longer than the ABC version.

And seeing it, I now understand what ABC did: they chopped this thing up and took out a lot of really great stuff. Among the missing items: all of the interviews with Stevie Wonder, including the legend at the piano and reminiscing about recording with Jackson; a very young Sheryl Crow in 1987 on tour with Michael, performing a sensual dance to “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” and Sheryl’s racy recollection; attorney John Branca insisting that he and Michael did not steal the Beatles catalog out from under Paul McCartney; and many instances of Michael directing his videos or recordings. There’s also one interesting moment at 1:05 in which it’s clear that Michael is healing unselfish-consciously from facial surgery on his cheeks and nose.

Also missing from the ABC version but on the DVD is a fun stretch showcasing a bunch of celebrities who were filmed for Jackson’s “Liberian Girl” video.

Spike Lee also included one five second piece of video of Frank DiLeo right at the beginning of “Bad25,” but he never mentions him again as the guiding force behind “Bad” or the tour that followed. Too bad considering there are a number of people featured who didn’t even know Michael Jackson, including Justin Bieber (I have no idea what he’s doing or what he’s talking about) and someone named Joseph Vogel, who’s credited as author of a book that’s just come out and has sold has badly as the Randall Sullivan book. I would rather have seen Randy Taraborelli, who at least is an expert on this part of Michael’s life.

Also, plenty of people, like Quincy Jones, are only shown in footage from the “Bad” era and not now. The fact that DiLeo died in 2011 wouldn’t have precluded his being in the film. There’s a lot of archival interview footage.

Well, it’s too bad. Who cuts Stevie Wonder out of a documentary, anyway? ABC should have just shown “Bad25” in its entirety. They cheated Michael’s fans and the audience at large.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

Read more

In Other News