By Michelle Tauber Pamela Warrick Paul Chi
December 21, 2009 12:00 PM

The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty

A&E, Dec. 13, 9 p.m. ET |


Viewers curious about how the Jackson family is coping won’t get answers in this stilted series. Filmed before Michael’s death in June (tellingly, neither he nor sister Janet participated), the show follows the other Jackson Five brothers—Jackie, Jermaine, Marlon and Tito—as they attempt to record an anniversary album. Seasoned reality-TV watchers—aren’t we all by now?—will smell the set-ups immediately. (Mom Katherine “suggests” that the brothers visit their old hometown of Gary, Ind.) And Jackson fans will be left wanting more in the way of honest intimacy. The Jacksons are a fascinating family, but this series is as guarded as their inner lives.

Find My Family

ABC, Mondays, 9:30 p.m. ET/PT |


If you’re a crier (guilty), make sure to have plenty of tissues nearby before watching this series, which helps adopted children find their birth parents, and vice versa. Cohosted by Tim Green and Lisa Joyner—themselves both adopted—the show sensitively handles its delicate material, though the presence of cameras in such emotionally raw moments feels slightly exploitative. Uplifting in the tear-jerking vein of Extreme Home Makeover, the show leaves a lot of questions unanswered but offers a warm view on the gravitational pull of family.

BBQ Pitmasters

TLC, Thursdays, 10 p.m. ET/PT |


Set me up with a plate of sauce-slathered ribs and a glass of sweet tea and I’m happier than Paula Deen in a butter factory. For those with similar hankerings, this new eight-part series offers a tantalizing look into competitive barbecue, a slice of Americana in which “pitmasters” at various cook-offs attempt to outdo each other for cash and bragging rights. There’s not quite enough meat on the bone to fill the hour-long episodes, but they’re sure to leave your mouth watering.