History Channel's Kennedy miniseries lands big fish actors despite being branded "vindictive" and "malicious"
The Kennedys can never really rest because another movie or miniseries is always around the corner. So much so that perhaps it's only a matter of time before an "all Kennedys, all the time" cable network is launched.
The latest enterprise, generically titled The Kennedys, is also the History Channel's first scripted miniseries. Produced by former 24 maestro Joel Surnow, it's already been branded a salacious right-wing hatchet job based on an early leaked script that History Channel says is only in its "evolutionary" stage.
One scene has President Kennedy making love in a pool to someone other than Jackie O while a Secret Service Agent strives to get his attention. JFK also defends his sexual liaisons with a variety of women by telling his father, "If I don't have someone new, I have migraines that wreck me."
Despite the controversy at hand, History Channel has landed a pair of high wattage stars to play JFK and Jackie. Namely Greg Kinnear and Katie Holmes, equally known as the wife of Tom Cruise. Also joining the cast are Barry Pepper (who played baseball star Roger Maris in the HBO film 61*) as Bobby Kennedy and two-time Oscar nominee and Emmy winner Tom Wilkinson as Joseph Kennedy Sr.
"We could not be more pleased that these incredibly talented actors have agreed to sign onto the miniseries," History Channel president Nancy Dubuc said in a statement Wednesday.
However it turns out, The Kennedys will have a hard time out-cheesing USA network's 1993 movie Marilyn & Bobby: Her Final Affair, which had Bobby Kennedy secretly leaving Marilyn Monroe's bungalow on the same night she later was found dead of a pill overdose. The Kennedy family took the rare step of publicly condemning the film before it aired. TV critics reviled it as well, but TV networks aren't about to call a halt to their ongoing parade of Kennedy-themed attractions.
One of the earliest and most respectable treatments, 1974's The Missiles of October, starred William Devane as JFK and Martin Sheen as RFK. Sheen later graduated to the role of President Kennedy in NBC's critically acclaimed 1983 miniseries Kennedy, in which Blair Brown played Jackie.
Many have since been called on to impersonate Jack and Jackie in various TV projects.
JFK's brothers likewise have come in for their fair share of TV depictions. In arguably the oddest one, Craig T. Nelson of Coach fame made little if any effort to sound or look like Edward M. Kennedy in 1986's The Ted Kennedy Jr. Story, which focused on his son's battle with cancer.
Over the years, TV's Kennedy productions gradually have detoured from semi-reverential to his sexcapades. 1993's JFK: Reckless Youth, which starred a pre-Dr. McDreamy Dempsey, didn't exactly focus on policy matters. And in HBO's 1998 The Rat Pack, Petersen's JFK was mostly interested in hooking up with girls passed along by Frank, Dino and the boys.
History Channel's The Kennedys is still marinating, but obviously won't be taking a Jack and Jill approach. Those fairy tale days of Camelot are long ago, far away and decidedly out of favor.