If you think there has been too much Michael Jackson on TV, wait until the funeral. Or, how about Matt Lauer and NBC's Today show getting inside Neverland for a Thursday morning tour? And then, Larry King offering the TV tour of Jackson's ranch in prime time at 9 p.m. Thursday. Matt Lauer, Larry King and Neverland -- isn't American TV fabulous?

But for my part, so far, I really do not think the coverage has been excessive. I am pleased, in fact, to see TV serving so effectively as a medium for the ritual of public mourning. (Not bad for a so-called dinosaur, is it?). Furthermore, TV is providing the forum for an illuminating discussion of race in connection with the dead entertainer -- and I think that matters in an important cultural way.

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The latest entry on that front came Tuesday night with Katie Couric interviewing filmmaker Spike Lee for a CBS special on Jackson. The program, which aired under the 48 Hours banner, won the time period with 8.15 million viewers -- one of the largest audiences of the year for 48 Hours. (Pictured Spike Lee at a Michael Jackson tribute. AP)

Lee and Couric focused on the controversial words Jamie Foxx used to open the BET Awards Show Sunday night. I wrote about them in my Sunday post as well, arguing that they instantly contextualized the BET program in part as a discussion of race.

"We want to celebrate this black man -- this black man. He belongs to us. We just shared him with everybody else," Foxx said at the start of the awards telecast.

"Black folks have become very territorial about Michael," Lee said when asked about those remarks. "It's a bad time to badmouth Michael around some black folks. Because, you know, we had issues with him, but that stuff is over now.... Let's make no mistake, Michael never forgot who he was and where he came from in the history of African Americans."

And now, comes word from the Pew Research Center that black viewers are following the Jackson story much more closely than whites. Some 80 percent of blacks say they are tracking coverage closely, while only 22 percent of whites said they were following the coverage intensely. A new TV divide.

Jackson has lessons to teach us about race even in death.

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