‘Hidden Lives’ Special Begs Question: Is TV Exploiting Children?

by | June 19, 2010 at 8:43 AM | TV News

Michael Jackson's kids are featured in a one-hour TLC special.  (TLC)

Michael Jackson's kids are featured in a one-hour TLC special. (TLC)


The one year anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death is coming up June 25, and surprise, so are Jackson-related TV shows – the first of which is of questionable taste.

This Sunday – Father’s Day – TLC focuses on Michael Jackson’s children, Prince, Paris and Blanket in ‘Michael Jackson’s Kids: Hidden Lives.’

Promoted as “an intimate look at the family life of Michael Jackson and his three children,” the special delivers what they purport as “a portrait of surprisingly grounded household.”

Really?

Do grounded households put their children on TV?

Apparently this one does.

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“From reading lessons integrated into meals, play dates with neighbors and child-proofing the home,” says the network’s press release, “it is extraordinary to see how much of a hands-on, caring father Jackson really was.”

Let’s buy into that premise, if only to wonder if Jackson would have approved of this special. Would he have wanted his children presented on a TV? Didn’t he fear the effect of fame on his children? Didn’t he try to protect them from paparazzi? Wasn’t his notion to give them the normal life he didn’t have?

Yet they’re now on TV?

The special’s executive producer Wendy Jackson told the NY Post that she was “shocked we had this intimate footage.”

Were the children interviewed?

No. The family thought it was “inappropriate.”

Questions about the appropriateness of putting childrne on camera have been asked about Kate Gosselin and her brood – as well as the Duggars. Both families have turned multiple births and packs of kids into successful TV series, plus related businesses that bring in big bucks.

But with the recent death of child actors Gary Coleman and Corey Haim, as well as numerous other tragedies involving former child stars, maybe the question should be asked, is this exploitation passing as entertainment? Is reality TV going too far?

Actually, the question has been asked.

Kate Gosselin’s brother and sister-in-law brother and sister-in-law, Kevin and Jodi Kreider, have accused both Kate and her ex, Jon, of exploiting their children.

Watch the latest news about Kate Gosselin.

“They’re being viewed as a commodity,” Kevin Kreider said on CBS News’ ‘The Early Show.’

And last year, as the Gosselin’s marriage unraveled in public and drew a record 10 million viewers for the season premiere, a Headline New Showbiz Tonight poll asked viewers if they thought Jon and Kate were exploiting their children.

The answer? 84% said yes and 16% said no.

“Children go through enough pressures as it is,” wrote Dawn Hawkins on the parenting website, Helium.com. “It isn’t really necessary to put them through the trials and tribulations of it being seen by an entire nation.” She added, “Reality television has its place. It shouldn’t be used to reveal the intimate details of a child’s life though.”

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After 16-year-old sailor Abby Sunderland had to be rescued two weeks ago from her attempt to sail around the world, there were reports her father was in talks with a TV production company about a reality show. (Those plans were reportedly scrapped, and yet, according to The Week, there are fans clamoring for a show with Abby.)

And remember Balloon Boy?

Well, this week we have Michael Jackson’s children – and the ratings will likely be big.

True confession: I’m going to watch. I’m curious.

But I feel a little icky about it. How about you?

Are these shows wrong? Do you watch them? Do the parents know best? Or should there be an age limit where children can’t be filmed so they can grow without being followed 24/7 by a camera?

‘Michael Jackson’s Kids: Hidden Lives’ airs this Sunday, June 20th at 9pm on TLC.