(New to the countdown? Catch up here.)
“He’s been bad!” says MTV Voiceover Guy, as we watch Jackson dancing in black leather and buckles. “He’s been smooth!”–a quick cut of him from “Smooth Criminal,” white fedora rakishly tilted over one eye. “Now he takes his own image on!”–tabloids with names like the Intruder are piled onto each other, with headlines such as “MICHAEL AND DIANA SAME PERSON,” “JACKSON’S 3RD EYE STARTS SUNGLASS FAD,” “MICHAEL WEDS ALIEN.” (I note that in the grainy black-and-white image of the alien, it looks like a young boy with a hat, sunglasses, and a funky collar.)
As we see an array of stop-action animation, MTV Voiceover Guy continues, “Witness the world premiere of an animated fantasy, the latest video from Michael Jackson, ‘Leave Me Alone,’ debuting on MTV 5, 8, 9, and 10 pm eastern.” Jackson was never so happy as when he was starring in a movie fantasy: one of the things I remember best from viewing the contents of Neverland when it was put up for viewing before an aborted auction was the vitrines he had commissioned from Disney craftsmen that contained classic scenes of their movies, in some cases with Jackson himself now incorporated. (For example, Pinocchio meets the Blue Fairy while just outside the window a Jackson marionette does a little dance.)
We see a huge stadium filled with a crowd, presumably Michael Jackson fans: somewhere between fifty and ninety thousand people, I’d say. “And cap off the week with MTV’s Michael Jackson Sunday,” MTV Voiceover Guy says. “Including scenes from his brand-new home video, Moonwalker. Only on MTV.”
For many years after Jackson’s commercial peak, MTV was still trying to curry favor with him–in 1988, he was still a big star, but as the years went by, it was mostly out of habit. This clip played three hours ago if you were watching the countdown live in 1988, and years have passed since I wrote about it last in this sporadic web project. Jackson has died since I started recapping the countdown, which makes it play somewhat differently: where once “Leave Me Alone” seemed like a contradictory come-hither from the star of countless attention-seeking videos, now it feels like a sincere, if confused, plea.
A new commercial! A team of five people with black jumpsuits and severe haircuts stride through what appears to be a hallway in a spaceship. “What will the future bring from Nintendo?” the announcer asks. We actually know the answer to this: the GameBoy, and later, the Wii, but what he was looking for was “More hits like The Legend of Zelda!” The walls puff steam and eject Nintendo controllers into the jumpsuit crew’s hands, and then we see some blocktastic computer-game graphics. Whatever important intergalactic mission the jumpsuiters was on is abandoned as they play videogames. The tagline: “Now you’re playing with power.”
Another new commercial! This one is for the VHS release of The Presidio, which I have never seen. Judging from this short ad, I feel confident saying that it stars Sean Connery, Mark Harmon, and an upside-down car on fire.
We wrap up our commercial break with spots from our local cable provider, UA-Columbia Cablevision: a Season’s Greetings message and the commercial for the pay-per-view Royal Rumble. Then an animated bumper: a squiggly line interacts with various bits of public-domain clip art, in an updated version of Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python cartoons. We see a scientist, an alarmed maiden, a woman with a butterfly net, a stomping foot, an miner with a pickaxe, a milkmaid swinging on a rope, and a family watching TV. The squiggle briefly turns into an MTV logo, and then gets sucked up by a vacuum cleaner.