The Jacksons: An American Dream

The Jacksons: An American Dream is a five-hour American miniseries broadcast in two halves on ABC and originally broadcast on November 15 through November 18, 1992.[1] It is based upon the history of the Jackson family, one of the most successful musical families in show business, and the early and successful years of the popular Motown group The Jackson 5.

The Jacksons: An American Dream
DVD cover
Written byJoyce Eliason
Directed byKaren Arthur
StarringLawrence Hilton-Jacobs
Angela Bassett
Holly Robinson Peete
Margaret Avery
Alex Burrall
Jermaine Jackson, Jr.
Bumper Robinson
Floyd Meyers Jr.
Monica Calhoun
Jason Weaver
Angel Vargas
Terrence Howard
Vanessa Williams
Billy Dee Williams
Wylie Draper
Colin Steele
Theme music composerHarold Wheeler
Original language(s)English
No. of episodes2
Producer(s)Suzanne de Passe
Joyce Eliason
Jermaine Jackson
Margaret Maldonado
Stan Marguiles
Running time300 min.
DistributorThe Stan Marguiles Company
KJ Films
de Passe Entertainment
Motown Productions
PolyGram Filmed Entertainment
Original networkABC
Original releaseNovember 15 
November 18, 1992

The miniseries was executive produced by Suzanne de Passe and Stan Marguiles, produced by Joyce Eliason, Jermaine Jackson and Margaret Maldonado and directed by Karen Arthur. The movie was filmed in Los Angeles and Pittsburgh, where director Arthur had previously filmed her feature film Lady Beware.

The Jacksons: An American Dream is based on Katherine Jackson's My Family autobiography. A critical and commercial success, the program won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Choreography. The title alludes to the iconic concept of the 'American Dream'.


The miniseries stars Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs as the Jacksons' patriarch Joseph Jackson, Angela Bassett as the family matriarch Katherine Jackson. Alex Burrall, Jason Weaver and Wylie Draper played Michael Jackson in different eras, while Bumper Robinson and Terrence Howard played Jackie Jackson in different eras, Shakiem Jamar Evans and Angel Vargas played Tito Jackson, Margaret Avery played Katherine's mother, Martha Scruse, Holly Robinson Peete played Diana Ross, Billy Dee Williams played Berry Gordy and Vanessa Williams played Suzanne de Passe. The opening sequence of the film features footage of the real Jacksons rehearsing, performing on stage, a few clips from the "Can You Feel It" music video, album covers, magazine covers, and pictures of the family. The film is mostly based on the autobiography written by Katherine Jackson, and issued in 1990, entitled My Family. Part one of the film is based on how Joseph and Katherine managed to start out raising their children in Gary, Indiana, then later deals with The Jackson 5's early fame and its consequences. Part two of the film deals with the struggles of young Michael Jackson as he faces his brothers marrying early into The Jackson 5 success, his problems with acne as a teenager, his eventual solo superstardom based on the success of his albums Off the Wall and Thriller, and his legendary Motown 25 performance of "Billie Jean" as well as his difficult relationship with his father.

Michael Jackson’s voice is heard on: "Beat It," "Human Nature," "Billie Jean," "I Want You Back," "I Wanna Be Where You Are," "I'll Be There," "Rockin' Robin," "ABC," and "Dancing Machine." On all other songs, the Michael Jackson vocal part is performed by Anthony Harrell, Jason Weaver or Kipp Lennon.


Historical inaccuracies

  • In part 1 of the miniseries, they showed the year 1945 as the year Joseph and Katherine Jackson met as teenagers in East Chicago. They actually met two years later, in 1947, when Joseph was 19 and Katherine 17.
  • The film lists 1959 as the date of Michael's birth. Michael was actually born in 1958.
  • In the scene where Joseph catches son Tito playing his guitar after the string broke, he is shown whipping him with a belt. However, family members and friends differ on what happened; while early Jackson 5 band members such as Milford Hite claimed Tito was whipped, both Tito and Jermaine denied that the whipping took place that night and that Joseph just threatened to "whip Tito" if he played wrong after Joseph fixed the string.
  • In the scene after the alleged discipline by Joseph, the four eldest Jackson brothers began singing for Joseph, while Michael is rebuffed by his father. In reality, only Jackie, Tito and Jermaine sang for Joseph. In Katherine's book, she claimed that Michael was the fourth member and that Marlon almost did not join because Joseph felt Marlon "wasn't talented enough". Katherine eventually convinced Joseph to put Marlon in the group, though he reportedly did not sing for the group until the group signed with Motown. In the early years, he played tambourine with them while Michael played congas.
  • When five-year-old Michael Jackson is shown singing Climb Ev'ry Mountain at a school performance, each Jackson family member, including Joseph, is in attendance. The real life Joseph was actually working overtime in U.S. Steel while Michael performed. Joseph's father Samuel instead viewed the performance with the family. Joseph would not see his son perform until he began singing with Jermaine during a group rehearsal.
  • The group is shown making a record of Wilbert Harrison's Kansas City. Kansas City was never covered by the Jackson 5, although the band did multiple covers of early hits.
  • The Jacksons are shown getting an audition for Motown due to winning a talent show at the Apollo Theater, and Joseph is touting it as their first signing. In actuality, the group's first recording contract was offered by Steeltown Records, a smaller agency based in their native Gary, Indiana, in 1967. The group had done one audition for Motown and was rejected. Following their moderate success with a couple of single tracks in Steeltown, the Jackson 5 felt confident enough to audition a second time for Motown, after which they were signed. In the film, prior to the Motown debut, the group is seen in a small recording studio, which may have been reference to their early career with Steeltown Records.
  • In the Motown audition scene, the founder and executive Berry Gordy was not actually in attendance. Instead, the audition was videotaped and shown to Gordy at a later time.[2]
  • When the group performs on the Diana Ross special, Michael announces that the song I Want You Back is out on sale everywhere after they perform the song. In reality, Michael made this statement before the group performed the song.
  • In the bedroom scene with Jermaine and a groupie, Michael and Marlon are seen hiding in the bed and playing a prank on Jermaine by touching the groupie's leg only to run out of the bedroom when Jermaine catches them. In reality, according to Michael, Jermaine had Michael and Marlon sleeping in the next bed and told them to "pretend" they were sleeping while he and the groupies had sex.
  • In the scene where the group performed the Star Spangled Banner at the baseball game, they sang it acapella and took place at a regular baseball game with unknown teams. In reality, a marching band accompanied the brothers when they sang the national anthem at Game 1 of the 1970 World Series, which pitted the Cincinnati Reds against the Baltimore Orioles. In the film, the brothers performed the song in the key of F. In reality, they performed in A flat major.
  • The film's depiction of Michael performing "Billie Jean" at the Motown 25 television special has Jackson wearing his trademark white glove on his right hand. In reality, Michael wore it on his left hand that night. The style of the film's glove is also notably different compared to the factual one.
  • In the scene where Michael is seen shooting for the Pepsi commercial which caused his scalp to catch fire, it shows his body rolling down the stairs. In fact, he actually walked down the stairs with his hair on fire and later realized and did a one rotation spin (not the usual spin move he did) and shaking his head wildly due to the pain. However, the realistic display of Michael's burning was not seen until video leaked after Michael's 2009 death.
  • In the scene where Katherine convinces Michael to partake on the Victory Tour, she gives Michael an emotional speech about family; however, in biographies on the family, Katherine practically begs Michael to take part in the tour, which he agrees to. Following the tour, Michael left the group in December 1984 to continue his solo career, with Marlon leaving the following month, also pursuing a solo career.
  • In part 2, the film indicates that Michael was recording "Human Nature" in the year 1983; however, in reality, the album "Thriller" with the song initially on it was released on the 30th of November in 1982, which makes it impossible for Michael to have recorded it in the year 1983.


The Jacksons: An American Dream became one of the most popular and successful music-biography miniseries of the 1990s. Part 1 of the miniseries was the third highest-rated program broadcast during the week of November 9–15 with a 21.1 rating.[3] Part 2 of the miniseries was watched by 38.4 million viewers[4] in 22.3 million households[5] becoming the highest-rated program broadcast during the week of November 16–22[5] posting a 23.9 rating, and 36 share.[4] Overall, the miniseries was watched in 38.3 million households and posted a 22.3 rating and 33 share.[6]

The series won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Choreography, and was also nominated for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Hairstyling for a Miniseries or a Special, Outstanding Miniseries, and Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Drama Miniseries or a Special.

Bumper Robinson won a Young Artist Award for Best Young Actor in a Television Movie, and Alex Burrall and Jason Weaver both won a special award for Outstanding Young Performers Starring in a Mini-Series. The miniseries was later rebroadcast on VH1 and released to VHS and DVD.[7] The DVD version of the miniseries was released as a two-disc set. The first disc was named "The Early Years" and the second disc was named "The Success Years".

The miniseries aired frequently after the death of Michael Jackson. It has been shown on TV One, BET, Centric and VH1.


The Jacksons: An American Dream
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedSeptember 29, 1992
GenreSoul, Funk
The Jackson 5 chronology
2300 Jackson Street
The Jacksons: An American Dream
Singles from The Jacksons: An American Dream

Track listing

All songs performed by the Jackson 5 except where noted

  1. "Who's Lovin' You" [Live] - 5:39
    • Recorded live in Gary, Indiana, May 29, 1971
  2. "Kansas City" (Jason Weaver) - 2:19
  3. "I'll Be There" (Originally on Third Album)- 3:56
  4. "In the Still of the Night" (Boyz II Men) - 2:51
  5. "Walk on/The Love You Save" [Live] - 6:05
    • Recorded live in Gary, Indiana, May 29, 1971
  6. "I Wanna Be Where You Are" (Jason Weaver) - 4:21
  7. "Dancing Machine" (Originally on G.I.T.: Get It Together) - 3:17
  8. "The Dream Goes On" (Jermaine Jackson) - 3:50
  9. "I Want You Back/ABC" [Live] - 3:23
    • Recorded live at the Forum, Los Angeles. August 26, 1972 (Later issued in its entirety on Live at the Forum in 2010)
  10. "Stay With Love" (Jermaine Jackson and Syreeta) - 4:19
  11. "Never Can Say Goodbye" (Originally on Maybe Tomorrow)- 2:59
  12. "You Are the Ones (Interlude)" (3T) - 1:51
  13. "Dancing Machine [Remix]" - 3:43

Other songs done in the film but not put on the track:

See also


  1. Zuckerman, Faye B. (November 14, 1992). "Highlights". The Tuscaloosa News. p. 6A. Retrieved 2010-03-01.
  2. "Motown's Gordy On Discovering Jackson". CBS News.
  3. "ABC posts third straight ratings win". The Modesto Bee. November 19, 1992. p. F5. Retrieved 2010-03-01.
  4. Carmody, John (November 20, 1992). "THE TV COLUMN". The Washington Post. p. c.06. Retrieved 2010-03-01.
  5. "ABC's 'The Jacksons' finales holds top spot". Daily News. November 27, 1992. p. 3. Retrieved 2010-03-01.
  6. Grahnke, Lon (November 27, 1992). "Highlights". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 6A. Retrieved 2010-03-01.
  7. "The Jacksons: An American Dream Miniseries Reissued In DVD Double-Disc Package". PR Newswire. Cision. December 4, 2001. Archived from the original on January 24, 2002. Retrieved June 21, 2019 via
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