When noted British actor and confirmed Caucasian male Joseph Fiennes announced last year that he’d play Michael Jackson for an upcoming TV series called Urban Myths, the public had an understandably adverse reaction. Though Fiennes confirmed that he’d portray the King of Pop after he got his controversial skin-whitening procedure, the fact remains that a white man would be playing an African-American man in a confusing sort of blackface without a literal black face. To Fiennes’ credit, he’s confessed to The Hollywood Reporter that he understands “why people are up in arms,” but hopes that audiences will be a little more understanding when they see that the show takes all sorts of liberties with the personal lives of historical figures.

Yesterday brought the first actual look at Urban Myths and at Fiennes’ MJ with a new trailer, and the social-media response has already been decidedly negative. The faux Jackson appears in one part of the anthological TV comedy coming to Sky Arts on January 19, taking a car trip through the country with Marlon Brando (a bored-looking Brian Cox) and the fabulous Elizabeth Taylor (Stockard Channing) in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. In other sketches, a young Adolf Hitler (Game of Thrones’ Iwan Rheon) pals around with a buddy credited only as Hitler’s Friend (Ron Weasley himself, Rupert Grint), folk legend Bob Dylan (Eddie Marsan) goes looking for an unspecified Dave, and psychedelics pioneer Timothy Leary (Aidan Gillen, another Game of Thrones alum) gets high with Cary Grant (Ben Chaplin). The sketches are united by their cockeyed take on history and penchant for playing it fast and loose with facts.

Fiennes’ public profile will take a hit, but this does look like an absurd and agreeably odd project, regrettable casting decisions notwithstanding. A whole lot of Americans are about to search “what is Sky Arts and how do I watch it?”

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