Welcome to The GBU, a weekly column where I look at the Good, the Bad and the Ugly on TV.
The eight-part new miniseries The Kennedys
was controversial long
before it aired, as many networks refused to air it, forcing it to be
picked up by the relatively small cable network Reelz Channel. Now that
it's aired, it's easy to see why so many people wouldn't put it on TV.
The biggest problem with The Kennedys
isn't the historical
hatchet-job it does on America's most famous family, it's the fact that
the writing is so painfully simplistic that it makes soap operas look
Instead of attempting to dig deep into the Kennedys and understand their power and influence, the miniseries is content with only the most superficial elements of the story. Patriarch Joe Kennedy failed to secure the presidency, so he forced it onto his sons, first Joe, Jr., who died in the war, and then John. Any sense of nuance or depth is destroyed as The Kennedys paints an incredibly two-dimensional portrait of this fascinating political dynasty.
Here's the Good, the Bad and the Ugly from The Kennedys
miniseries.The Good: Bobby and Ethel
Though he doesn't have a large role in the first two parts, Barry Pepper is the most interesting part as Bobby Kennedy, helping his brother as campaign manager despite objections to their father's involvement. Pepper is aided by Kristin Booth as Bobby's wife Ethel, and together they share an effortlessly entertaining relationship. An early scene shows Bobby suggesting that Ethel take over an interview that was supposed to feature Jackie, and when Joe nixes the idea, Ethel is just happy to get some free makeup. In that single moment, Bobby and Ethel's relationship seems more entertaining and real than anything else in the miniseries, and it makes me wish The Kennedys
wasn't just about JFK's daddy issues. Everyone else is so serious and somber, but these two add a life and energy to all their brief scenes.The Bad: Katie Holmes as Jackie Kennedy
Jackie Kennedy is one of the more interesting and glamorous parts of the Kennedy's story, but you wouldn't know it from this miniseries because Holmes adds absolutely nothing to the role. While most characters in the miniseries are two-dimensional, she barely has one, looking good while giving an empty stare to the camera that provides no insight into one of America's most famous first ladies. In a pivotal scene where she considers divorce but gets talked out of it by John's father, Holmes' performance is so indifferent that her determined stance lacks any sense of reality, as does her later ultimatum to her husband after his election. She also boasts the worst accent of the miniseries which is no easy feat -- like being the douchiest person on Jersey Shore
.The Ugly: The Worst Father on TV
The majority of the premiere centered on the Kennedy patriarch Joe (Tom Wilkinson), and as good as the actor is, the miniseries paints Joe Kennedy as an absolute villain. He's willing to turn a blind eye to Adolf Hitler, he only seems to care about his eldest son, Joe, Jr., and when that son dies at war (causing a monstrous tirade against God), he uses his considerable wealth and power to force all of his hopes and dreams onto JFK, even tampering with elections. The miniseries paints Joe Kennedy as a classic soap opera villain, with a callous indifference towards anything good and a ruthless ambition as his own failed presidential dreams are forced onto his kids like the mothers on Toddlers and Tiaras
It's easy to see why no other network wanted to air this miniseries, because instead of a historically neutral observation on this country's most famous family, The Kennedys
is happy to take a complex story and make it as simple as a freshman psychology course. Thank God most of the people depicted in this miniseries aren't alive to see it.(Image courtesy of ReelzChannel)