11 Jan 2011

A&E Cancels Kennedy Series

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What astonishing news! The Arts & Entertainment Network foolishly dipped a toe in the waters of historical truth and has run shrieking back to the warm comfortable living room of establishment malarkey.

Hollywood Reporter:

In a surprise move, A&E Television Networks has canceled plans to broadcast The Kennedys, the ambitious and much-anticipated miniseries about the American political family that was set to air this spring on the History channel.

“Upon completion of the production of The Kennedys, History has decided not to air the 8-part miniseries on the network,” a rep for the network tells The Hollywood Reporter in a statement. “While the film is produced and acted with the highest quality, after viewing the final product in its totality, we have concluded this dramatic interpretation is not a fit for the History brand.”

The multi-million dollar project—History and Lifetime president and general manager Nancy Dubuc’s first scripted miniseries at the network and its most expensive program ever—has been embroiled in controversy since it was announced in December 2009.

Developed by Joel Surnow, the conservative co-creator of 24, along with production companies Asylum Entertainment and Muse Entertainment and writer Stephen Kronish, the project drew fire from the political left and some Kennedy historians. Even before cameras rolled, a front-page New York Times story last February included a sharp attack from former John F. Kennedy adviser Theodore Sorenson, who called an early version of the script “vindictive” and “malicious.”

History and parent A&E said at the time that the script had been revised and that the final version had been vetted by experts. Indeed, the script used in production had passed muster with History historians for accuracy.

Despite the controversy, History was able to recruit a big-ticket cast to the project, announcing in April that Greg Kinnear (John F. Kennedy), Katie Holmes (Jackie Kennedy), Barry Pepper (Robert F. Kennedy) and Tom Wilkinson (Joe Kennedy) would co-star. The actors and CAA, which reps both Kinnear and Holmes, were told this afternoon of the cancellation. Surnow also was told today.

No advertisers had registered complaints or concerns with the miniseries, confirms an A&E spokesperson, but the content was not considered historically accurate enough for the network’s rigorous standards. So an air date, which had not been announced but was planned for spring, was scrapped.

“We recognize historical fiction is an important medium for storytelling and commend all the hard work and passion that has gone into the making of the series, but ultimately deem this as the right programming decision for our network,” a rep tells THR in the statement.

What facts or well-known scandalous speculations could possibly have provoked such liberal unease in a program depicting the story of America’s leading Irish gangster family?

Was old Joe Kennedy depicted as so dangerous to women that his sons had to caution their dates to lock their doors when visiting the Kennedy mansion to avoid being attacked by their escort’s father?

Did the series show John Kennedy’s senior thesis at Harvard and best-selling history book being ghost-written for him?

I can’t imagine that it actually suggested that it was more than a little unusual for a PT boat to be caught unawares at night by a Japanese destroyer and that, absent very powerful influence, Lieutenant Kennedy would much more likely have been courtmartialed rather than decorated as the result of the affair.

I also doubt that the series actually delved in depth into the fraud by which the election of 1960 was won, or that it remaked on the fraud by which John Kennedy publicly claimed victory in the Cuban missile crisis, while privately trading away US missiles in Turkey and the abandonment of the Monroe Doctrine in return.

Still there was enough truth to make the politically correct suits at A&E squirm. Someone will broadcast it, and that will only highlight A&E’s cowardice, dishonesty, and hypocrisy.

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