The Kennedys Joel Surnow

The Kennedys Joel Surnow
Back in the spring, there was a lot of hoopla when the History Channel cancelled the airing of this eight-hour mini-series. Other networks chickened out also, allegedly because the Kennedy family didn't want their dirty laundry aired across millions of TV sets. So, does The Kennedys dig up the dirt, like the philandering by patriarch Joe Sr. and John F. did in front of their long-suffering wives, or revisit the affair that JFK and Marilyn had, or chronicle Joe's dirty backroom politicking and questionable business deals? Absolutely. Is there anything we the public didn't know already? Nope. In fact, director Surnow and co-writer Stephen Kronish treat the Kennedy clan with a fair bit of admiration. Jack and Bobby support the black civil rights movement. They stood up to the Russians during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, even risking WWIII. Even Joe Sr. comes out sympathetic in his shadowy relationships with the Mafia. However, The Kennedys is really an average TV mini-series drowning in sentimentality and cheese. The first few, as well as final, episodes are especially treacly, as we see Joe Jr. die in WWII and Bobby gunned down in June 1968. These are two pivotal moments in the Kennedy legacy, but are depicted as pure melodrama, lacking depth of character or resonating with a higher theme – more tabloid than Greek tragedy. The middle episodes are better, depicting the JFK presidency when he endured the Cold War, battled rednecks in the South and hurt Jackie with his many infidelities. There's no shortage of high-stakes conflict in and out of the White House. Greg Kinnear delivers a superb performance as JFK; Kinnear fleshes out Jack as noble statesman, adulterer and vulnerable family man. Tom Wilkinson also shines as the tyrannical Joe Sr., pulling the strings of the Kennedy presidency. The same can't be said of Katie Holmes; she looks like the real-life Jackie, but her emotional range is too limited to give life to America's most glamorous, yet troubled, First Lady. I won't delve into the historical accuracy of this mini-series, but the final episode completely ignores Bobby Kennedy's rise to power and transformation into an authentic folk hero. Instead, track down the PBS doc RFK. The saga of the Kennedys is a true American tragedy and a real-life mini-series. Too bad this production is a soap opera. (eOne)