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Michael Jackson is overrated
An MTV marathon proves the point
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Jackson doesn't belong with the pop immortals.
Jackson doesn't belong with the pop immortals.

For the last month we've been hearing about Michael Jackson's greatness. It's all but settled that he's up there with the pop immortals in terms of musical artistry. With all due respect, I don't think that's true.

I'll grant that Jackson sold a lot of albums, but so did the Backstreet Boys. He riveted our attention, but so does a five-car pileup. He recorded catchy pop songs, but wouldn't there have to be something more to establish him as a great artist?

Jackson wasn't a musical innovator, like Ray Charles, James Brown or Chuck Berry. He didn't set new standards for vocal expression, like Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding or Sam Cooke. He wasn't intellectually probing, like Bob Dylan. He didn't meaningfully capture the spirit of his era, like the Beatles. He didn't write innumerable melodies for the ages, like Stevie Wonder. Okay, he danced well, but I'll take the human quality of Elvis Presley's gyrations over Michael's machine-like movement any day.

You're probably mad at me right now, but I challenge you to find 24 hours' worth of substance in MTV's Michael Jackson marathon on Saturday, Aug 1. If you hear anything more profound than "beat it, just beat it," let me know.

Face the Ace
Saturday, 8 pm (NBC)

Amateur poker players face off against pros in this new reality series. The set features four smoked-glass doors, and the contestants begin by picking one of them. The door opens, a pro emerges, and the game is on-no limit Hold 'Em. If the contestants win, they can either go home with their earnings or elect to play another pro.

I can't think of anything less telegenic than a poker match, as players sit around eyeing their cards. I guess that's why the smoked-glass doors are there-for visual interest. But is smoked glass really a solid basis for a primetime hit?

Megan Wants a Millionaire
Sunday, 8 pm (VH1)

Megan Hauserman was the big-breasted blond on Rock of Love 2 and I Love Money...well, one of the big-breasted blonds. She's back with her own reality show, Megan Wants a Millionaire, in which she seeks to marry one of 17 rich bachelors.

Surely the marriage will be followed by a divorce, then another reality series: Megan Wants a Seven-Figure Settlement.

Defying Gravity
Sunday, 8 pm (ABC)

ABC finds yet another place where beautiful people can hook up: in outer space. In this new series, four men and four women from around the world embark on a six-year space mission covering eight billion miles. Now, I suspect Defying Gravity can probably hold our interest for the first billion miles, but it will need a stunt or two to liven up the last few billion (and, of course, it'll be hard to initiate casting changes once the spaceship has passed Saturn).

Expect cosmic mysteries, international melodrama and some very awkward sex scenes with the bulky spacesuits.

Forensics: You Decide
Monday, 9 pm (Investigation Discovery)

This 13-part series looks at real crimes in which the forensic evidence can be read more than one way. It allows the audience to play jury by presenting the evidence from both the prosecution and defense's point of view.

The pilot covers the case of Greg Maurek, an Oklahoma man who claims he watched his brother kill himself with a shot to the head. But police surmise that Greg actually murdered his brother after scrutinizing the blood-splatter pattern on his T-shirt. To test the hypothesis, an investigator sets up a test in which she shoots a bag full of chicken livers and human blood from close range, causing a similar splatter pattern and apparently proving that Greg was closer to his brother than he'd reported. The defense begs to differ, and the audience is finally asked to make an informed decision.

Forensics: You Decide is fast-moving and absorbing. I plan to put it on my DVR, as well as to take chicken livers permanently off my dinner menu.

The Real Housewives of Atlanta
Thursday, 9 pm (Bravo)

It's clear why America is fascinated with Bravo's Real Housewives series: We get to watch women who mistakenly think their money has bought them class. The season premiere of The Real Housewives of Atlanta is loaded with tacky behavior from women who believe their riches elevate them above the rest of us.

"I'm glad I can inspire the less fashionable," says Sheree. She decides to throw a lavish party for herself in which she'll enter like Cleopatra, borne aloft by hunky men. Women will throw rose petals at her feet, and a handpicked poet will sing her praises. Unfortunately, her arrogance pisses off the party planner, and the two engage in a screaming match that concludes with Sheree hissing "Eat me!"

Is this a good example to set for the less fashionable?

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