Saturday, April 02, 2011

The Kennedys vs. the Machine

Following the antics of Uncle Teddy, RFK Jr., Patrick, etc. over the years has taught the lesson that anything the Kennedy family is for, you’d be wise to get on the other side of. Likewise, anything the Kennedy family is against probably has something good going for it.

Based on this logic, the following is all I need to know about whether the upcoming mini-series, The Kennedys, is worth watching:

Pressure from the Kennedy family played a key role in the History channel's decision to pull the plug on its controversial miniseries The Kennedys.

As The Hollywood Reporter first reported, the eight-part miniseries, starring Greg Kinnear and Katie Holmes and masterminded by conservative 24 co-creator Joel Surnow, was abruptly yanked from the History schedule Jan. 7 before a planned airdate in the spring.

None of History's advertisers or sponsors complained about the miniseries. But behind the scenes, members of the Kennedy family strongly lobbied AETN to kill the project since it was announced in December 2009, according to a source close to the situation.

Beyond the attempted Kennedy assassination of this project, the credits are very impressive. Produced by the guy who created “24”, starring very impressive actors like Greg Kinnear (As Good As It Gets, We Were Soldiers), Barry Pepper (Saving Private Ryan, 25th Hour), and Tom Wilkinson (In the Bedroom, Michael Clayton), not to mention Mrs. Tom Cruise. And the scope, 8 hours over 7 consecutive nights. $30 million budget. Better yet, the historical accuracy is reportedly impeccable. Sounds like great TV to me.

And this story already has a happy ending. Although The History Channel apparently buckled to the political pressure, the Kennedys will not be censored. Our free market in broadcasting provides another option.

REELZCHANNEL today announced the highly anticipated drama series The Kennedys will make its world premiere on the network beginning Sunday, April 3, 2011. The drama relives the public and private joys and tragedies of the most influential family in the world including fraternal rivalries, mob associations, the drugs and the women. The series recreates the political crisis that John F. Kennedy dealt with in the early days of his presidency including the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war and the Civil Rights Movement. Viewers will see every twist and turn of this clan’s extraordinary story up to and including the assassinations of JFK and RFK.

There’s a local angle here as well. The Reelz channel is owned by Minneapolis based Hubbard Broadcasting.

ReelzChannel CEO Stan Hubbard would not reveal the pricetag, but he said he hopes the attention surrounding the project will bring new viewers to his network and help it win carriage from such cable systems as Cablevision and Cox, which currently do not carry the channel.

“One of the benefits of being an independent network is that you can be an independent voice and you don’t have to worry about corporate pressure or political pressure,” Hubbard said. “This is a project that deserves to be seen.”

Amen brother. More good news, I just confirmed, my Comcast package actually has Reelz. It’s stuck in a no man’s land up by some preimium soccer channels, but there she is at channel 260. I’ll be watching starting tomorrow night (Sunday) at 7PM central. Looking forward to watching some quality historical programming and to see just what the modern Kennedy family is trying to hide.

Plus the accents. It's always amusing to hear non-chowder heads attempt to do a Bahstin accent. For example, Kevin Costner doing a particularly bad job, from the kind of hagiographic movie the Kennedy family loves, Thirteen Days.

The link to the Reelz channel Kennedy preview site is here and the trailer for part 1 is below.

The Kennedys | Barry Pepper | Greg Kinnear | Katie Holmes | Tom Wilkinson | Movie Trailer | Review

The Elder Adds--Based on this review in today's WSJ by Dorothy Rabinowitz, while the series may not be flawless it definitely sounds like must-see TV:

The sense of a physically larger Kennedy after the missile-crisis scene is telling—a departure from the earlier parts of this series that focused heavily on his disabilities: The Addison's disease, and above all the back pain that made it impossible for him to sit or stand for any length of time, and that caused him to seek the services of Dr. Max Jacobson—aka Dr. Feelgood—who regularly injected him with a cocktail of uppers. Without this pharmacological aid, he would not be able to function, Mr. Kinnear's JFK informs Jackie (Katie Holmes), who is also a Feelgood patient—though only for a time—thanks to the exhausting stresses of life as a busy first lady and wife of a chronic philanderer.

It's in the philandering department that Mr. Kinnear's performance as JFK falls seriously short. Not because only a few of the better known of the president's women show up here—among them Judith Campbell, also, and most dangerously, mistress of the notorious Sam Giancana, mafia boss of Chicago. A fuller list of this president's dalliances would have required a much longer series.

The problem is Mr. Kinnear's chronically stricken look in the early episodes—one it's difficult to associate with John Kennedy, and particularly hard to fathom when Mr. Kinnear's JFK wears that look even when embarking on a sexual escapade. One scene shows him turning to a night with Ms. Campbell because he's had a bad day with the Russians, he can't sleep, his back hurts. All the president's sexual liaisons emerge as similarly joyless—medicinal treatments of sorts. Somehow, one has the feeling that John Kennedy had a much better time pursuing women than depicted here. One would certainly hope so.

Mr. Kinnear is in most other regards impressive in the role. The same can't quite be said for Katie Holmes as first lady. She gets Jackie's whispery tone down all right, but not her class. There's everything to say for Barry Pepper, who delivers a steadfastly affecting performance as Bobby Kennedy—and for Diana Hardcastle, whose portrayal of the indomitable Rose Kennedy is wonderfully blood-freezing in its grasp of the impenetrable. Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., whose notoriety as political pariah (the Nazis had no more useful a friend than this devotee of appeasement) and election fixer needs no describing, has never been portrayed with anything like the searing intelligence and delicacy Mr. Wilkinson brings to this portrait. If an argument were needed for this series to reach a far larger audience than the one available now, that portrayal alone would be enough.