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An Australian TV special has apologized for a skit in which the contestants donned blackface and afro wigs to imitate the Jackson 5, and whiteface to mimic lead singer Michael Jackson.

The comedy troupe, who called themselves “Jackson Jive,” featured four men who painted their faces black and donned afro wigs as they sang and danced behind a Michael Jackson impersonator wearing white makeup.

Viewers of the show, titled “Hey Hey It’s Saturday,” quickly took to Twitter and accused the program of racism. Also, American singer Harry Connick Jr., who served as a guest judge on the popular show, was visibly shocked by the skit and called for an immediate apology.

“If I knew that was going to be part of the show I definitely wouldn’t have done it,” Connick said after calling a halt to the skit and awarding the six performing members with a zero rating.

The show’s host Daryl Somers apologized to Connick on air during the special reunion program watched by 2.3 million people, acknowledging producers had been briefed on the skit, based on a similar one performed 20 years earlier.

“I know that to your countrymen, that’s an insult to have a blackface routine like that on the show, so I do apologize to you,” Somers said.

Connick responded: “I just want to say, on behalf of my country, I know it was done humorously, but we’ve spent so much time trying to not make black people look like buffoons, that when we see something like that we take it really to heart.”

Anand Deva, the frontman of the “Jackson Jive” act, said it was not meant to cause offense but added he would not have performed it in the United States.

On Twitter, one viewer called the show “embarrassing and distasteful” and questioned “Is it racist for white folks to paint their faces black?”

While the live crowd was largely supportive of the skit, 62 percent of respondents to an online poll by The Courier-Mail newspaper called the segment “tasteless and racist.”

“Hey Hey” ran for 27 years starting in 1971. The “Jackson Jive” group first appeared on the show 20 years ago and were invited back to reprise their roles during the second of two reunion shows for the once-popular program.

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