Picks and Pans Review: Tabloid Truth: the Michael Jackson Scandal

updated 02/14/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/14/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

PBS (Tues., Feb. 15, 9 p.m. ET)

B +

This Frontline documentary uses the pop superstar's recent sex scandal to examine the ways that tabloids are influencing and altering mainstream American journalism. As correspondent Richard Ben Cramer observes, "The carnival sideshows have become the main event."

The film lakes us inside the unsavory and intensely competitive world of the tabloids, both print and broadcast, and examines the debasing impact of checkbook journalism. One grizzled British veteran likens anyone who isn't willing to pay—and pay lavishly—for sources to "cavalry riding into machine-gun fire."

While timely and provocative, this glimpse into the peep show of scandalmongering celebrity journalism is visually bland. Frontline should have hired a producer from Hard Copy to inject some flash. And Cramer's uninflecled voice sounds disconcertingly like that of tabloid staple Rafael Abromowitz of A Current Affair.

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