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J.J. Abrams and Tavis Smiley are making a show about Michael Jackson's 'last days'

J.J. Abrams and Tavis Smiley are making a show about Michael Jackson's 'last days'


It's based on Smiley's new book about Jackson's death

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J.J. Abrams is helping Tavis Smiley turn his new book about Michael Jackson's last days and death into a limited TV series. Abrams and Smiley are coming together under the Warner Bros. Television banner to produce Before You Judge Me: The Triumph and Tragedy of Michael Jackson's Last Days, a "taut novelistic rendering" of Jackson's fight for privacy and complicated life before his death in 2009. (Smiley co-wrote the book with David Ritz; it's being released tomorrow, June 21st.) This isn't the first time Abrams and Smiley have worked together on an adaptation: they're also currently turning Smiley's 2014 book Death of a King: The Real Story of Martin Luther King Jr.'s Final Year into a similarly formatted series. Neither project is attached to a network or streaming service as of yet.

Before You Judge Me was tapped as fodder for some kind of adaptation long before it was ready for publishing. Smiley signed a development deal with Warner Bros. last October, and the studio optioned both Before You Judge Me and My Journey With Maya — Smiley's account of his decades-spanning relationship with the poet Maya Angelou — for development as series.

Abrams has a lot on his plate

Abrams' involvement is a mild surprise, if only because it's such a huge departure from his other recent work. Leaving his minor film work aside, Abrams has his hands full producing the Hulu alternate history show 11.22.63, Cameron Crowe's Roadies, and HBO's long-gestating blockbuster drama Westworld. Before You Judge Me sticks out like a sore thumb in that group of shows, but that doesn't mean it's doomed; it's hard to imagine a more compelling subject, and it's being built from a solid base in Smiley's book. In any case, it'll probably be a while before we hear more about it.