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Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Kennedys — The Miniseries

“Men are so simple and so much inclined to obey immediate needs that a deceiver will never lack victims for his deceptions”. — Niccolo Machiavelli

For years my wife and I have had a disagreement regarding movie critics. She never paid any attention to them while thought they might offer a service to the public by telling which movies not to waste our money on. Over the years I have come to take the view of my wife. Movie critics are useless. The films the rave about are usually dogs that the public won’t spend their money on while the films they pan are box office hits. Mel Gibson’s “the Passion of Christ” is one example, the critics hated it while the public flocked to see it.

Most film critics are frustrated people who could not make it in the production side of the movie business so they spend their time in dark theaters watching films and figuring out how they can get even with the creative people in Hollywood. The recently aired series on the Kennedys is the latest example of their bitterness.

The Kennedys is a television miniseries chronicling the lives of the Kennedy family and the tragedies it has suffered. It stars Greg Kinnear, Katie Holmes, Barry Pepper and Tom Wilkinson among others and is directed by Jon Cassar.

The Kennedys was originally set to be broadcast on History (Formerly knownThe-kennedys-serie-sera-diffusee-sur-reelzcha-L-mVzrfG as the History Channel) in the United States. In January 2011, bowing to political pressure from the American left, History announced that it would not show the series. After various other broadcasters declined to pick up the miniseries (for similar reasons as the History channel), the U.S. rights were purchased by ReelzChannel, which premiered the first two episodes on April 3, 2011. The miniseries is set to premiere in the United Kingdom on April 7, and in Canada on April 19, 2011, both on the country's respective History networks.


Parts one and two interweave a series of flashbacks that follow the Kennedy family from Joseph Kennedy's appointment as Ambassador to the Court of St. James's in 1938, his resignation in 1940, Jack's service aboard PT-109, Joe Jr's death in Operation Aphrodite, Jack's successful run for Congress in 1946 and for Senate in 1952, his meeting and marriage to Jacqueline Bouvier and election to the United States Presidency in 1960. Along the way the personal relationships between various members of the Kennedy clan are explored, including the strain between Joe Sr and Bobby and Jack's infidelities.

Part three: The birth of John Jr. and Bobby's reluctance to be appointed Attorney General open part three. Joe prevails on Bobby to accept the post, where he clashes with FBI Chief J. Edgar Hoover. Jack faces the first test of his presidency with the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion, leading Joe to impress upon Bobby the importance of his role as his brother's advisor. Rose Kennedy commiserates with and offers advice to Jackie on the burdens of marriage to a powerful man. Hoover confronts the Kennedy brothers with photographs of Jack's dalliance with Judy Campbell, a woman with known ties to organized crime.

Part four opens in Chicago in pre-election 1960, with Joe seeking an alliance with Sam Giancana to secure Illinois for Jack. In the White House, the President faces increasing trouble from his Addison's disease, turning to Doctor Max Jacobson for amphetamine shots. Jackie struggles to balance her family with her role as First Lady and she too turns to Jacobson. Bobby gears up for his war on organized crime. Jack integrates the Secret Service Presidential Protective Division with the appointment of Abraham Bolden. Frank Sinatra tries to intercede with Joe on Giancana's behalf; Joe rebuffs him but still cautions Bobby. The administration monitors Soviet buildup on the border of East Berlin leading to the sealing of the border. After Hoover plays Bobby a wiretap of Giancana and Johnny Roselli implicating Joe in election fraud, the brothers cut Joe out of Jack's presidency.

Part five Escalating racial tensions in the summer of 1961 form the backdrop of episode five, which sees Jack turn to Vice-President Lyndon Johnson for help in handling the Southern Congressional delegation. Segregation presents further challenges to the Kennedy presidency when James Meredith tries to enroll in the whites-only University of Mississippi. An intransigent Governor Ross R. Barnett inflames the gathered mob, leading Jack to order out the Mississippi National Guard, culminating in the Ole Miss riot of 1962. Jackie grows more dependent on amphetamines, leading Jack to confront her and Jackie to confess her fears to him. Joe suffers a massive debilitating stroke. Caring for him leads Rose to recall her daughter Rosemary and her emotional problems, which led to Joe's decision to have Rosemary lobotomized in 1941.

Part six finds the Kennedy brothers facing the gravest threat to the world with the discovery of Soviet missile bases under construction in Cuba. The ensuing international crisis tests Jack to his limits. Even as he deals with the Soviets, Jack faces the possible loss of his marriage after Jackie is humiliated by his tryst with Mary Meyer.

Part seven of the miniseries shows the Jack and Jackie's loss of their newborn son, Patrick; the assassination of President Kennedy is dramatized.

Part eight — the final part of the mini-series depicts Bobby Kennedy blaming himself for the President's death; Bobby Kennedy's 1968 assassination is dramatized.

The Critics and the Censorship

The Kennedys has been the subject of negative responses from historians based on early scripts, including charges of historical inaccuracy and presenting an unflattering depiction of the titular family. On 16 February 2010 the website was registered by filmmaker Robert Greenwald as part of the critical and historian outcry against The Kennedys. On 24 February 2010 Dave Itzroff of The New York Times reported that historian David Talbot, whose recent book had been used as source material for the miniseries, had joined those preemptively criticizing The Kennedys. Ted Sorensen, former speech writer for JFK, described the script as a "character assassination". At the time of all of this criticism the miniseries had not even been cast. Of course Sorenson a life-long Kennedy loyalist would say this; after all he was one of David Halberstam’s “The Best and The Brightest”. The title refered to President John F. Kennedy's "whiz kids" – leaders of industry and academia brought into the Kennedy administration – whom Halberstam characterized as arrogantly insisting on "brilliant policies that defied common sense" in Vietnam, often against the advice of career US Department of State employees.

In an interview for The Los Angeles Times on 17 June 2010, Joel Surnow (Producer of 24) addressed the complaints, saying, "They looked at early drafts of script that don't even resemble the final draft. It was way too early for them to comment on it."

On 7 January 2011, History announced that it would not show The Kennedys in the United States, stating "this dramatic interpretation is not a fit for the History brand."

Michael Prupas, president of Muse Entertainment and executive producer of the miniseries, issued a statement on 10 January in which he addressed the claims of inaccuracies.

The decision of the History Channel not to broadcast the show was made long after the executives of the Channel as well as the Channel's resident historian (who is a Kennedy expert) had read and approved all of the scripts and viewed and approved all of the final cuts of all of the episodes. Furthermore, our Errors and Omissions Insurer's attorneys reviewed all the scripts and edited episodes — and they have cleared all of the episodes for broadcast.

Director Jon Cassar said at the January 2011 Television Critics Association gathering in Los Angeles that he believes that the reason why it is not to be shown by History and other U.S. broadcasters is because powerful people within the United States connected to the Kennedy family took exception to it and used their political and other influence to prevent it being shown.

Joel Surnow, the executive producer, attributed the cancellation to pressure exerted by the Kennedys on the board of History's owners, A&E Television Networks and The Walt Disney Company. Surnow stated: "It happened at the board level. I don’t want to mention anyone by name. It’s very simple to say that certain board members are friends with the Kennedys." Other reports pinpointed Kennedy family members Maria Shriver and Caroline Kennedy as the leaders of the campaign to ax the show, targeting Disney executive Anne Sweeney.

On 12 January Showtime passed on the U.S. broadcasting rights for The Kennedys. Two days later it was reported that DirecTV's The 101 Network was considering acquiring the miniseries. Ten days later, on 24 January 2011, it was announced that The 101 Network also passed on airing the show. On 1 February 2011 ReelzChannel acquired U.S. broadcast rights to The Kennedys and announced that they intend to show the miniseries between 3 and 10 April 2011.Other U.S. cable channels reported to have declined to acquire the miniseries are FX and Starz.

In the UK, History UK is scheduled to screen the miniseries beginning 7 April 2011. Tom Davidson, managing director of AETN-UK stated on the History website: "Securing the UK premiere of The Kennedys is a major coup for the History channel. Bringing to life the story of America’s most iconic family, the drama is a bold and epic account of the Kennedy dynasty and we are delighted that viewers in the UK will get to see it on History first."[23] Writing in The Daily Telegraph, TV director Sebastian Doggart commented:

This is an amazing example of double standards. How can AETN call the series “not a fit” for the US History Channel, but describe this “bold and epic account” as “a major coup” for the UK’s History channel? AETN has suggested that the reason is that the US History Channel is especially concerned about its historically truthful brand. So what is the channel broadcasting this Sunday night, in the same time-slot as The Kennedys over on Reelz? The answer: Ax Men, a reality show about loggers; and Swamp People, another reality show about alligator hunters.”

The Kennedy miniseries is just another example of how the left-wing media and politicians will go at any lengths to protect the image of their icons, especially when the portrayal is produced by a so called conservative producer. The Path to 9/11 is another example.

ABC advertised the involvement of the 9/11 Commission Chairman Thomas Kean as both a consultant and as a co-executive producer.

On August 21, 2008 Jeffery Ressner wrote in Politico; “Over the past few years, perhaps no film controversy has inspired more outrage from conservatives than the Walt Disney Company’s handling of the ambitious 2006 miniseries “The Path to 9/11.” In the wake of Michael Moore’s 2004 anti-Bush documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11” and the 2003 CBS biopic “The Reagans,” the Disney censorship fiasco has been a frequent bone of contention on right-wing blogs, AM talk radio and other media outlets. In addition to making cuts in its ABC-TV telefilm after complaints from political forces, the company also shelved plans for a subsequent DVD release.”

“The miniseries, a $40 million dramatization of events leading up to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, was set for its network debut when several members of President Bill Clinton’s administration, including former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, insisted that several scenes were inaccurate or fictitious, and Clinton himself demanded the program be corrected or pulled. Five Democratic senators even sent a letter to Disney CEO Bob Iger that appeared to threaten the company’s broadcast license over the issue. Edits were made, a disclaimer was added and the two-parter ran as originally scheduled, but there has never been a repeat showing and a DVD has never been released.”

“Now the imbroglio has been revived for a direct-to-video documentary called "Blocking 'The Path to 9/11'," produced by right-wing rabble-rouser David Bossie and directed by former radio host John Ziegler. On its surface, the new video is a fascinating piece of behind-the-scenes investigative work. But, like the original telefilm and its quashing by the Clinton camp, it is not without its own political intrigue. Indeed, "Blocking 'The Path to 9/11'" raises even more questions and adds its own set of disconnected dots to this broadcasting dilemma.”

“Adding to the complexities: “The Path to 9/11” filmmakers' backgrounds provided plenty of fodder for critics. The director, David Cunningham, is the son of a controversial Christian missionary leader whose organization had shown an interest in media and movies. The screenwriter, Cyrus Nowrasteh, had friends and associates, including Rush Limbaugh, who hate Bill Clinton with a passion. (Both Cunningham and Nowrasteh insist “Path to 9/11” had no political tilt, explaining its chronological narrative meant the first section included Clinton’s faults in stopping Al Qaeda while the second part held the Bush administration up for scrutiny.)”

I checked on Amazon and the DVD is yet to be released. This is how the Clintons and the Democrats protect their legacy — they use their political power to censor anything they do not like. As long as Hillary Clinton as presidential aspirations this DVD will never be released. I saw the Path to 9/11 and based on other information I had researched I found it to be factually correct, yet politically incorrect.

All the above is an aggregation of material from outside sources. I needed this to set the background for my comments on the Kennedy miniseries. Without this material I was fearful that the reader would not context for my following comments.

I viewed parts 1-6 of the miniseries twice and the final 2 chapters once. I found the performance by Barry Pepper (Bobby Kennedy), Katie Holmes (Jacqueline Kennedy) and Tom Wilkinson (Joe Kennedy Sr.) to be outstanding. Also Diana Hardcastle’s portrayal of Rose Kennedy as the devout Roman Catholic matriarch of the Kennedys was riveting. Her religious fanaticism and vengeful character reminded me of a relative I have with the same traits.

On November 8, 1960 I voted in my first presidential election and I cast my vote for John F. Kennedy. At the time I was 24 year-old living in Ohio and the product of the upbringing in family loyal to the Democratic Party. For the next 51 years I have followed the events surrounding the Kennedy family from the Cuban Missile Crisis to the death of Teddy Kennedy. I have lived through the Camelot myth, sexual misconduct, political machinations and criminal activities of the Kennedys. I have seen how their political power and money has propagated this myth for the past half century even to this day with the building of a $25 million dollar library in honor of Ted Kennedy.

While this miniseries does not delve into every detail of the Kennedy clan it does, however, present the viewer with a fairly accurate picture of the beginnings of their political power up to the assassination of John Kennedy.

The series opens with Joe Kennedy as the ambassador to the United Kingdom and his pro Hitler stand, something that has been known for years. It also shows the friction between Joe Jr. and John, Joe being more like his father while John was more the Roosevelt Democrat.

All through the series you can see the unusual relationship between Joe and Rose. It was Rose, the daughter of the powerful Boston Mayor John F. "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald who advanced Joe’s political career and elevated him from a prohibition rum runner to the Ambassador to England.

Throughout the series the play between Jack and Bobby is shown. Bobby, constantly intimidated by his father, was loyal to his brother and would do almost anything to protect his image.

What also was portrayed in some detail was the Kennedy connection to the mafia in Chicago. The Joe Kennedy-Robert Daly-Sam Giancana connection. It is no secret that Daly brought in the Cook County vote for Kennedy — even to the extent of using dead people to vote. Honest researchers have proven that if Richard Nikon had pulled an Al Gore and demanded a recount of the Cook County vote he would have won the contest and Kennedy would have lost Illinois and the election. Instead Nixon declined to challenge the vote for fear of causing doubt in our electoral process.

After Kennedy’s assassination Mark Lane, in his conspiracy book Rush to Judgment posed a theory that the mafia was behind the assassination. His premise was that Bobby Kennedy, as Attorney General, was mounting a campaign against organized crime and striking fear into the hearts of the likes of Sam Giancana and Carlos Marcello, the crime boss of New Orleans. Lane’s theory (and the theories of others) goes; the mafia bosses wanted to get Bobby Kennedy out of the way by their tried and proven means of assassination, but believed this would only bring the wrath of John Kennedy so they decides to cut off the head of the snake thusly making Bobby Kennedy impotent in the Johnson administration, which did happen. Thankfully and prudently none of these theories were put forth in the miniseries. But, the tension between Bobby Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson was touched upon once again tarnishing the image of Camelot.

Both the Bay of Pigs and Cuban Missile Crisis were coved in the miniseries.BayofPigs Both were done factually and with as much detail as time would allow. Both crises have been dealt with in other dramatic presentations with the Cuban Missile Crisis (something I lived through) being portrayed in the film Thirteen Days. While the Bay of Pigs was planned by the CIA during the Eisenhower administration it was given final approval by Kennedy after being in office for three months.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was probably the best performance by President Kennedy beside of his massive tax cuts. It was a time when this nation came within minutes of going to war with the Soviet Union. At the time I was working for the California Division of Highways and ordered to keep my state vehicle filled with gasoline each night and be prepared to provide emergency services under orders from the governor.

A few of the sexual dalliances of John are shown and there is scene where Bobby goes to Los Angeles to tell Marlin Monroe that the affair with Jack is over. These sexual dalliances are known to Jacqueline and are the cause of several threatened actions for divorce. These are no doubt the things the Kennedy family does not with the public to see as they tarnish the Camelot image. Yet, they are well known to most serious Kennedy researchers.

Mark A. Perigard of the Boston Herald noted that there is no mention of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr.'s children: the future Senator Ted Kennedy or Kathleen Cavendish, Marchioness of Hartington and that it feels as though you are watching "through the prism of the Fringe universe". Perigard found it to be "an absorbing, addictive drama, with some authentic performances" but not history.

I think Perigard is off the mark. While this eight hour portrayal of the Kennedy family is not a complete documentary on the family in my view it shows that these were people, as flawed as any family. One of the critics, Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times wrote a joint review of The Kennedys and of The Borgias which premiered the same day. In addressing the circumstances of the premiere she wrote, "There is something wonderfully Kennedyesque about a backroom campaign to discredit a series that claims the Kennedy White House had more than its share of backroom shenanigans." Stanley found the miniseries to be well made though at times cheesy but that its strongest point is Tom Wilkinson as Joseph Kennedy, whom she describes in tandem with Rodrigo Borgia as, "A ruthless, tyrannical striver [who] grasps for power, promoting his sons to establish his rule and cement his legacy “

If you followed the shenanigans and dalliances of the Kennedy’s for as long as I have you would find Stanley’s remarks to be to the point. After the assassination the books began coming exposing the Kennedy legacy. Some were thoughtful works while other were “tell-all” books that focused on the behind the scenes battles and jealousies. This is when the public, who were open minded and not worshipers of the Kennedys, began the see that Camelot was more like the Borgia Palace.

Authors like Ted Sorenson, who was a Kennedy speech writer, has been one of the leading apologists for the Kennedy administration. Others like William Manchester began opening the door to the Kennedy White House after the assassination.

I don’t know how many people will watch this miniseries, but if you like politics and history I recommend you view the eight-hour series and decide whether it is more fact than fiction.

You can view trailers of the Kennedy miniseries and get viewing schedules by clicking here. You can see the cast of characters with photos of the actors and the real people to see what a fine job the casting directors did by clicking here.

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