Friday, June 9, 2023


April 1, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

So what was all the fuss over The Kennedys all about? That’s what the critics of the eight-part miniseries debuting Sunday on ReelzChannel appear to be asking. Certainly, they say, the series has its faults — many of them, according to most — but nothing really to get all that riled up about. Why the series was axed by the History Channel seems to be a mystery to most, since, they say, it is far from being a hatchet job, and there is virtually nothing in it that hasn’t already been published in slick magazines like Vanity Fair, Vogue, Playboy and Esquire, not to mention Time and Newsweek. “An argument could be made that a channel called ‘History’ might want to avoid docudramas, which rely on artistic interpretation,” writes Mary McNamara in the Los Angeles Times, “but if it was the intention of producer [Joel] Surnow, a political conservative, to sully the Kennedy name, he certainly went about it in a strange manner. Jack and Bobby emerge splendid, smart and heroic despite their flaws.” Frasier Moore of the Associated Press, who is critical of the performances of some of the stars — particularly Greg Kinnear as JFK — reaches a similar conclusion. “The Kennedys is a flattering, even affectionate portrayal,” he remarks. “Whatever creative license the film has taken in its storytelling, its subjects seem to be the beneficiaries as, even when it dwells on the family’s deficits, it does so with a sympathetic touch.” Hank Steuver in the Washington Post suggests that the producers devoted an undue amount of effort to making the cast resemble and sound like the actual Kennedys. “It all ends up being as harmless as a game of Kennedy paper dolls — and it is fully within anyone’s First Amendment rights to pose them however they wish,” he writes, adding: “As far as this particular telling of the story goes, you could get more controversy and upsetting imagery by simply Googling the Kennedys.” The real problem with the miniseries, says Robert Bianco in USA Today, is that it “has nothing much new to tell, and tells it over and over again.” And Alessandra Stanley in the New York Times praises and pans the miniseries often in the same paragraph, indeed the same sentence, e.g.: “It is not the imagined conversations or small historical distortions that make The Kennedys both unsettling to watch and addictive. This is a portrait of the Kennedy White House that is recognizable and respectful, and also prurient, giving equal weight to historic turning points and personal weaknesses. It’s well made and also at times unnecessarily cheesy.”