Earlier this week, we got our first look at Sky Arts' Urban Myths, an upcoming British anthology series which dramatizes notable urban legends. The show looks pretty fun - weird and silly and more than a little surreal - but one particular episode garnered more attention than the others: Ben Palmer's "Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon,” which stars Brian Cox (as Marlon Brando), Stockard Channing (as Elizabeth Taylor) and, regrettably, Joseph Fiennes ... as Michael Jackson.
As you might expect, the sight of Joseph Fiennes doing a funny voice in full Michael Jackson regalia did not go over well with the masses. It went over even less well with Jackson's daughter, Paris Jackson, who Tweeted out that she was "incredibly offended" by the portrayal (she added: "It angers me to see how obviously intentional it was for them to be this insulting, not just towards my father, but my godmother Liz as well").
In the wake of the outcry, Sky Arts has opted not to air the episode. Here's their statement on the matter (via THR):
"We have taken the decision not to broadcast Elizabeth, Michael and Marlon, a half-hour episode from the Sky Arts Urban Myths series, in light of the concerns expressed by Michael Jackson's immediate family. We set out to take a lighthearted look at reportedly true events and never intended to cause any offense."
"Joseph Fiennes fully supports our decision."
And so it goes: one TV network and a small group of professionals - all of whom are well aware that they are living in the year 2017 - just learned the hard way that casting a white actor to play Michael Jackson was probably not the best idea. Who among us could have seen this coming?
At present, there's no word on whether or not Urban Myths' "Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon" will ever see the light of day, and I'll be curious to see what becomes of it. Will it be included on the eventual Blu-ray release? Does it get leaked, eventually becoming a bootlegged thing traded amongst collectors (and, in a fitting twist, an urban legend of its own)? Only time will tell.