Controversial 'Kennedys' To Premiere April 3

2011 has been something of a goldmine for John F. Kennedy '40 fans. In January, the Kennedy Presidential Library honored the 50th anniversary of its namesake's inauguration by releasing a digitized collection of JFK's documents to the public. These included such items of historical interest as the President’s Harvard application and records relating how a young JFK hired a female secretary to work out of his room typing his thesis, somewhat to the consternation of the administration.

This April, ReelzChannel will be offering Kennedy buffs still more to chew on, in the form of an eight-part miniseries entitled "The Kennedys." There has been much drama about this particular drama, which stars Greg Kinnear as John F. Kennedy '40, Katie Holmes as Jackie Kennedy, Barry Pepper as Robert F. Kennedy '48, and Tom Wilkinson as Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. '12. The ambitious series was originally developed by the History Channel—its most expensive program to date—only to be canceled after completion due to outcry from friends, relatives, and former aides of the late president. Theodore Sorenson dubbed its script "one-sided," "vindictive," and "malicious," while Caroline B. Kennedy '80 was reported to have appealed personally to a top executive of Walt Disney Co.—a partial owner of the History Channel—in the successful effort to quash production.

After a period of artistic limbo during which time "The Kennedys" was turned down by Starz, FX, and Showtime, the miniseries was finally picked up by ReelzChannel, where it will begin airing on April 3. Looking at the show's promotional material, it's not hard to see what so offended the Kennedy clan. If the series's trailer is any indication, "The Kennedys" is far from friendly hagiography. The preview opens with Joe Kennedy, patriarch of the family, instructing his sons that "If you boys don't remember anything else I say, remember this: It's not what you are, it's what people think you are—and with the right money, you can make them think whatever you want." But while liberal groups cry foul and organize petitions against "Kennedy smears," the show's executive producer insists that the series is "meticulously researched," noting that the final script was vetted by the History Channel's own historians and that the "Shakespearian" Kennedys were a great but nonetheless flawed family.

For now, curious prospective viewers can check out The Daily Beast's recap of eight controversial incidents culled from a leaked early draft of the show’s script. Come April, they can tune in and judge for themselves.


Harvard Today

The latest in your inbox.

Sign Up

Follow Flyby online.