Urban Myths: Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon
Urban Myths: Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon

UPDATE: After much criticism from audiences and members of the Jackson family, Sky Arts (UK) has decided not to air the episode of its upcoming comedy series “Urban Myths” that stars Joseph Fiennes playing Michael Jackson.

You’ll recall, almost exactly a year ago, when it was announced that Fiennes would be playing Michael Jackson, and the backlash that followed immediately after. Fiennes and the producers of the project found themselves on the receiving end of much criticism for casting a white actor to play Michael Jackson. But Fiennes, seemingly not bothered by any of it, defended the project at the time, stating: “It’s a challenge. It’s a comedy. It doesn’t poke mean fun but it’s a story, possibly urban legend… It’s a lovely thing about Michael’s relationship with Liz Taylor and Marlon Brando. It’s a fun, light-hearted tongue-in-cheek road trip of what celebrity of that kind is like. But also it’s rather beautiful and poignant about their relationships as well.”

Needless to say, that didn’t do much to calm concerns, and one wonders why Sky Arts decided to still move forward with the episode.

After the first trailer premiered earlier this week, audiences were reminded of the project and, as expected, previous criticism was renewed and even stronger than before, with firm rejection of the jarring sight of Fiennes as Michael Jackson. The series was set to premiere in the UK later this month, but the Michael Jackson episode will be left out entirely.

In a statement, a SKY Arts spokesperson said: “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 light-hearted look at reportedly true events and never intended to cause any offence. Joseph Fiennes fully supports our decision.”

Per the press release from the network, each of the eight (now 7) original titles in the series has its own unique take on an Urban Myth; some well-known and some that will delight viewers with their obscurity. Using a generous dose of artistic license, the comedies are designed to mischievously spark viewers’ imaginations and answer the question: If these events really did happen, how might they have played out?

With the Michael Jackson episode now out of the lineup, the one other episode of the series of note (given this blog’s interests) is:

— “Urban Myths: Muhammad Ali”

In the early 1980s, after his recent and high profile defeat to Larry Holmes, boxing legend Muhammad Ali takes it upon himself to talk a suicidal stranger down from a ledge. Using his unique brand of wit and wisdom, he succeeds in persuading the man that life is worth living, and learns a huge amount about himself in the process.

This offering has been written and produced by Neil Webster, and features Noel Clarke as Muhammad Ali.

The remaining 5 include “Urban Myths” about Bob Dylan; Samuel Beckett And Andre The Giant’ Hitler The Artist; Cary Grant And Timothy Leary; The Sex Pistols; Salvador Dali and Alice Cooper.

No word on whether these will travel west to the USA for American audiences to watch.

A trailer has premiered for the entire series which is embedded below: