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Jon Hein’s TV Picks: Janet Jackson Finally Has Her Say

PLUS: Downton comes stateside, and Kristen Bell returns to TV.
  • (Photo: Lifetime)
    (Photo: Lifetime)

    Jon Hein knows TV. In the late 1990s, he coined the phrase "Jump the Shark" when he founded the site of the same name. Since then, he's written about television everywhere from The New York Times to TV Guide. In his column for Primetimer, he shares his thoughts on what's new and good on TV and the shows on his radar for the coming week.

    Good Times. Rhythm Nation. A certain wardrobe malfunction. It has been one heck of a ride for Janet (Miss Jackson if you're nasty). My most vivid JJ memories have nothing to do her music and everything to do with TV. I’m not talking about the infamous Super Bowl halftime show, but rather her early TV roles as Wilona's adopted daughter and as Willis' girlfriend.

    Janet Jackson, a new two-part documentary reportedly five years in the making, will debut on Lifetime and A&E this Friday night. It is being billed as an intimate, honest unfiltered look at her career, and what a showbiz ride it has been for the rock and roll hall of famer.

    One of the quietest Jackson siblings says she's ready to tell her story. She has taken a variety of stands throughout her career by letting her music do the talking. But now she has decided to step forward in the documentary she produced along with her brother Randy to set the record straight about her life.

    The doc is filled with famous friends speaking on her behalf. Mariah Carey, Paula Abdul and Missy Elliott are close pals who detail the effect Janet had on the music industry. The Jackson family is well represented along with a who's who in entertainment ready to express their love and admiration for the artist. A few exes show up with plenty to say.

    It is nearly impossible to escape the shadow of any infamous sibling. There are constant comparisons, unreasonable standards to live up to, and all the pressure in the world to succeed when many root for you to fail. Janet more than held her own in a world that belonged to her brother, Michael.

    Janet unsurprisingly started performing at a very young age as her brothers made their way through the Motown world. Your perspective on the most famous female Jackson depends upon where you first encountered her. I remember seeing her as Penny on Good Times, and then Charlene on Diff'rent Strokes. Wait a minute… that's Janet from the Jackson family?

    Janet was a talented, funny young TV actress, but she wanted to make her mark in music. We all know the stories of actors who try to cross over and miserably fail if they don't have the goods. This one also happened to have five siblings who were already breaking through and one who would become the most famous performer in the world.

    Janet's first two albums were not huge successes, and she needed to break free from her father. Producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis helped her assume Control, and the rest is history. She became a music superstar, even rivaling brother Michael during his hottest moments.

    She addresses the Super Bowl halftime show controversy head on and the effect it had not just on her career, but also on Justin Timberlake and the entire entertainment industry. What seemed like such a big deal back in the day likely wouldn't register much of a blip on anyone's radar today.

    Janet was destined to be a superstar. She could have made it on TV, but the music world was simply part of who she was. It's refreshing to hear Janet and those close to her recall the moments that made her into the icon that she became. She might be soft spoken, but her voice has always carried one heck of a punch.

    GREATEST HITS
    (Really Good Shows You May Not Have Seen)

    This Week - The Split (AMAZON)
    A British family of divorce lawyers face their past while navigating the future of their law firm. Heartwarming drama with some sharp comedy mixed in.

    Last week - Bordertown (NETFLIX)

    Week of January 10 - Halt and Catch Fire (AMC+)

    FOREIGN AFFAIRS
    (International Hits)

    Gomorrah (HBO MAX) – Fifth season of the excellent Italian mob series shot in Naples - this is the real deal folks. Thursday.

    All Of Us Are Dead (NETFLIX) – South Korean series where students are trapped in a high school as a zombie virus breaks out. Get ready for the Squid Game comparisons. Friday.

    THIS WEEK’S STIHTGT!
    (Shows That I Hope To Get To!)

    Resident Alien (SYFY/USA) – Second season of this comedy where a charming doctor who happens to be an alien sent to destroy the planet. Wednesday at 9pm

    The Afterparty (APPLE TV+) – Comedy murder mystery set at a high school reunion with a killer cast. Friday.

    AFC/NFC Championship Games (CBS/FOX) – Find out who's going to play in the Super Bowl. Sunday at 3:00pm and 6:30pm ET.

    We Need To Talk About Cosby (SHOWTIME) – W. Kamau Bell digs in on the life of pre- and post-prison Cos. Sunday at 10pm.

    THIS WEEK'S PICKS
    Take early Manhattan and keep your eyes open…

    The Gilded Age (HBO)
    Monday, January 24th 9pm

    Wanting to scratch that Downton Abbey itch? Welcome to The Gilded Age. Downton creator Julian Fellowes addresses the rich and the poor making their way in the big city in late 19th century America.

    The series is a long time in the making and very much maintains the Downton vibe. The cast is loaded with recognizable award-winning actors. My eyes will be peeled for a young Cora walking the streets of Manhattan looking for a certain Lord.

    The Woman In The House Across The Street From The Girl In The Window (NETFLIX)
    Sunday, January 30th

    Kristen Bell likes to take chances. You've seen her charming her way through comedies, dramas and everything in between. Now she stars in an eight-part spoof of psychological thrillers that happens to have the longest title you'll ever come across.

    This parody of The Woman In The Window mixes plenty of satire and mystery. Every day is the same, just staring out the window watching life pass by… until it isn't. Whether it's Veronica Mars or Eleanor Shellstrop, there's always an edge to Kristen's characters right below her super smile. The plot is dark and funny… just the way she likes it.

    If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.

    Get vaccinated. Get a booster. Wear a mask. Stay healthy and safe!

    Jon Hein is the creator of "Jump the Shark" and author of three books. Follow him @jonhein on Twitter.

    TOPICS: Janet Jackson., A&E, Lifetime, The Gilded Age, The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window, Janet Jackson