"The Kennedys": what the first episode reveals

Wed Jan 19, 2011 1:45pm EST
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By Matthew Belloni

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - What if The Kennedys miniseries isn't nearly as salacious as some fear?

The Hollywood Reporter has obtained and viewed the completed first episode of executive producer Joel Surnow's controversial 8-part mini-series starring Greg Kinnear and Katie Holmes as John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy.

The expensive and ambitious project was scrapped January 11 by History channel parent A&E Television Networks and is currently being shopped to other buyers (it will air in Canada and other countries starting in March).

The brisk, entertaining hour is certainly melodramatic in parts, and it does contain allusions to John F. Kennedy's pill-popping and womanizing, such as one scene in which a young Joe Kennedy, Jr. tells his father he's headed to lunch with the Foreign Secretary and JFK winks and announces he's "lunching with the Secretary's secretary" instead.

There also is a general sense that JFK was the unremarkable playboy brother of Joe, who should have been president had he not died in World War II. Family patriarch Joe Kennedy, Sr. (Tom Wilkinson) is painted as a manipulative, power-mad Svengali who helps engineer JFK's political career as a rebuke to the former president who fired him as Ambassador and to avenge a favored son who died at war.

But the episode differs significantly from an early, racier script that has recently popped up online and was criticized last year by a former JFK aide as "malicious" and "vindictive."

The final version is less sensationalistic and controversial, less concerned with the embarrassing aspects of the Kennedy lifestyle and more focused on moving along a compelling narrative.

THR only has viewed one of the eight hour-long episodes, so the rest of the miniseries could be far more incendiary. But the final version of the first episode suggests that History executives and the miniseries' creators were telling the truth when they said that the entire project had been vetted by historians before shooting began—which, of course, makes the decision to yank the project all the more puzzling.   Continued...