DAR TV: The 5 Best And Worst TV Music Biopics

By @TrueGodImmortal 

Once upon a time, music biopics were seen as a rarity. They were positioned to be films that highlighted only the legends of music, film, television, and tried to bring to life their stories. Surprisingly enough, music biopics in the 80's and 90's were rarely produced for the big screen (there were a few non musical biopics). In the 2000s, we saw an influx of music biopics hit the big screen, but there have been plenty of music biopics on television and that's why we are here today. With all the music biopics that have graced our screens via BET, HBO, VH1, ABC, Lifetime, and more, we wanted to take a look at the 5 best and worst TV music biopics. Let's get into it.

The Worst
There's so many that could have made this list, from the Whitney Lifetime biopic to the Karen Carpenter story (which is loved by many, but I hate it), the 2005 CBS Elvis miniseries biopic, and more, but they just missed the cut. There have been more lackluster TV music biopics than quality ones, so narrowing thus list down was pretty tough, however here goes nothing. These are the 5 worst TV music biopics.

5. Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story (2001)

-First things first, I'm not really the biggest fan of Def Leppard, but that's not entirely a shock I'm sure. However, I am very aware of their legacy as rock legends and I think they really deserved much better from a biopic about their career. This just felt weirdly paced, like a number of biopics, rushed, and while the actors themselves didn't do a terrible job, it just all felt cringe worthy. Even the scenes were the band work on music feel forced and slightly boring, which is the exact opposite of how their music feels. Def Leppard deserved much better than this. Simple.

4. Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B (2014)

-Of all the recent biopics that were released via Lifetime and VH1, this was the worst of them honestly. Now, don't get me wrong: Alexandra Shipp is very beautiful and if you turn to the side and squint, she has a resemblance to Aaliyah. However, this movie was doomed from the start. The casting was awful, as those selected to play Missy, Timbaland, R. Kelly, and all surrounding characters (that's the best they could do for Dame Dash) were just horribly casted. The movie itself was just terribly written, terribly acted, and the lack of proper music and video sequences (none of her actual original music was really included), just made this tough to watch. It was clear why the family didn't want anything to really do with this movie. Also.... Elise Neal.... as Gladys Knight.... WHAT?

3. Too Legit: The MC Hammer Story (2001)

-Romany Malco is a great actor and he possesses great comedic timing. The issue with that here is this is supposed to be a more serious role for him playing the big star from the early 90's. However, something about this film just feels off. Perhaps it was the fact that VH1 wasn't really aware of how to make a good music biopic yet, but this movie just doesn't do it for me. Speed once referenced this film as being slightly underrated, but it's absolutely terrible and it doesn't get replayed much for this reason. Tangi Miller is decent in her role as Stephenie, Hammer's love interest, and Lamont Bentley (RIP) was interesting as 2Pac in this film, but overall, this film is just poorly paced and not a fun watch.

2. Britney Ever After (2017)

-I've yet to sit through this entire film and the truth is, I only attempted to for the sake of this article. Lifetime came out with this movie earlier in the year, shortly after the New Edition biopic debuted and apparently, this was successful. I had heard very little on it, but apparently Lifetime decided the world needed a Britney Spears biopic for some apparent reason. Whatever the case, the film stars Natasha Bassett as Britney and while she's not exactly horrible, the film itself is cringe worthy at every turn. The choices to play Paris Hilton, Joey Fatone, Lance Bass, and more hilariously, Justin Timberlake and Kevin Federline are just downright awful.

1. Man In The Mirror: The Michael Jackson Story (2004)

-The absolute worst biopic in the history of biopics is here. This might be the worst movie ever in the history of film honestly. I mean... I could rant for hours on this and why it was horrible, but let me just paint this picture: Flex Alexander stars as Michael Jackson throughout his life. His ENTIRE life up until the release of the movie. That's right. The movie has no music really from Michael and it attempts to focus on the two accusations of him molesting children, showcasing that in reality, the children were probably lying due to their parents' greed. However, while those rumors were mostly dispelled here, I'd like to take the time to thank Claudia Salter for writing such a terrible movie, Michael Frislov and Chad Oakes for producing this abomination, Allan Moyle for directing this piece of shit, and last but not least, Flex Alexander for actually doing the worst portrayal ever of Michael Jackson, this side of Joseph Fiennes. The dance sequences in the cut scenes are hilariously bad, and it just pisses me off watching Flex move awkward in an attempt to do the MJ dance moves. How anyone thought this was a good idea or some form of spiritual sequel to The Jacksons biopic, I'll never know. This is the worst and despite the portrayals of Aaliyah and MC Hammer being lackluster, there is NOTHING and I mean NOTHING that compares to this horrible piece of work.

The Best 
For me, I think the only reason why the Toni Braxton and TLC stories aren't here is because they lacked the proper storytelling. While the roles of the singers themselves were casted very well, those films just missed the mark. The same could be said for the Leon portrayal of Little Richard, which was a solid role, but the movie itself lacked something. These 5 choices were thought of based on quality and overall performance. Let's take a look.

5. The Rat Pack (1998)

-While I know this doesn't 100% sit as a music biopic, the fact remains, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and Sammy Davis Jr. were three of the most accomplished entertainers in the world. They were popular musicians, actors, and all around pure entertainment. So, when this movie came out via HBO, much was to be said about it. While this film didn't focus enough on the music for me, it delves deep into the relationship between Sinatra and JFK, as well as the racism that Sammy Davis had to deal with. There's a lot of depth within this film, and it features a nice bit of music, with some joint performances from the pack and an interesting song and dance routine from Sammy to scare off racists (it was a daydream sequence). The performances from Don Cheadle (as Sammy Davis), Ray Liotta (as Frank Sinatra), and Joe Mantegna (as Dean Martin) are superb, and it's a shock that this wasn't made into a biopic for the theaters.

4. The Josephine Baker Story (1991)

-One of the more underrated stories of our time, The Josephine Baker Story is largely forgotten when we talk the greatest music biopics. With Lynn Whitfield playing the role of Josephine, this HBO biopic showcased the ups and downs of her life as a singer, entertainer, and a controversial figure to an extent. Though truthfully this isn't JUST a music biopic, there's more than enough music involved, and with her history as an international talented exotic dancer and cabaret singer, the story is more than intriguing enough to warrant being ranked here. Josephine was universally loved and showcased her talents the best way she knew how, and Lynn Whitfield did an amazing job portraying that. The movie is paced well, the performances are all enjoyable, and the nominations for awards were aplenty for this one. Lynn Whitfield ended up winning an Emmy for her outstanding role in this, while Louis Gossett walked away with a Golden Globe for his role. Though not solely a music biopic, the story was definitely rooted in music and entertainment, making it worthy of a spot on this list.

3. The Temptations (1998)

-This was honestly the measuring stick for the newer biopics to compete against. It was so well executed, with an in depth look on how one of the greatest groups of all time, their issues amongst each other, some very tough deaths, and a lot of overall success. With 2 episodes (it was essentially a miniseries) spaced out over 2 nights, we got to witness their formation, their rise with David Ruffin at the lead singer position (ain't nobody coming to see you, Otis!!), the reunion they eventually had, and their great hits. The best performance in this came from Leon as David Ruffin, as he stole every scene he was in. Everyone else had solid performances as well, making this one of the best acted biopics period and a really great look at the heyday of Motown and beyond.

2. The New Edition Story (2017)

-This was almost no. 1 on the list and it could end up as no. 1 on the list down the line. It's that great honestly. I have watched this 3 part miniseries a number of times since it debuted in January of this year, and I've yet to get tired of seeing it. That's a rarity for most films in general with me, let alone a TV biopic. The casting was the most perfect casting out of any biopic that I've witnessed, and it helps that every one of the guys casted as members of New Edition can actually sing themselves (and possibly better than the original members). For fans of New Edition (myself included), you could see how much pride they took into making this as accurate as possible, from their issues with Bobby on tour to their solo endeavors and tension between the group, they made sure to pinpoint every single moment that mattered just about. The younger days showcased a group of young actors who played their roles very well, and once we got to the later teenage and adult years, we saw the portrayals of Bobby (by Woody Mcclain), Ralph (by Algee Smith, the true star of this film honestly), Ronnie (by Keith Powers), Mike (by Bryshere Gray), Ricky (by Elijah Kelley), and Johnny (by Luke James). The music performances, the videos, the facial expressions, and more,   everything was just perfect in this movie. In a year or two, I could honestly see this taking the top spot. It's that great.

1. The Jacksons: An American Dream (1992)

-This is the absolute best of them all. I was really young when this came on television, but I remember it vividly and anytime it comes on, I watch it. It's my personal favorite all time biopic period, as it showcases the long, strenuous journey of the Jackson family and the meteoric rise of Michael once he got on his own as well. There's so much to enjoy here, and the movie makes sure to pinpoint each of the individual struggles of the actual group, as based on the Katherine Jackson autobiography "My Family". We see the level of strain it put on the family when Jermaine stayed with Hazel Gordy, and did his own thing. The actors playing the well known iconic names are superb here, as I still think about two things when I see Lawrence Hilton Jacobs (Cooley High and his role here as Joe Jackson). Angela Bassett is beyond words in this miniseries as well as Katherine, and the way she allows her emotion to show while holding it together for the family is one of the best things about this movie. Jason Weaver steals the show as the young Michael Jackson, and we see a young Terrence Howard in this one as well as Bumper Robinson in the role of Jackie Jackson, but one thing I think that gets slept on is Wylie Draper and his portrayal of Michael. While it wasn't necessarily what I thought it would be, Wylie owned the role and his depiction of the Motown 25 performance was very well done. Everything about this biopic, aside from a few small historical inaccuracies was perfect and hands down, this is the best... for now. Regardless, it remains one of the greatest music biopics I've ever witnessed and my personal favorite. It's no. 1 for a reason.



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