Sunday, April 3, 2011

"The Kennedys" -- Hot Property, Hot Potato -- Premieres Tonight on ReelzChannel

After all the controversy and hoopla over the past several months, producer Joel Surnow's The Kennedys eight-hour miniseries premieres tonight at 8pm on ReelzChannel. It was commissioned by History Channel and designed to be its initial foray into scripted entertainment, but they disowned it back in January, claiming it was "not fit for the History brand." Not fit? That's a bit rich, considering the increasingly blatant pandering they're doing for audience, creating a high-testosterone, low-rent image with a schedule full of pawnshops, taxidermists, guys wearing wife-beaters, gun aficionados, chainsaws, swampboats, and so forth.

I don't have a problem with any of these people or places or things, but I do have a problem with History glomming onto some "Real American" mania and exploiting it so shamelessly. (But maybe that's just me, and you can't argue that not it's working in the ratings). Whatever "brand" History is sporting these days, I can't see where anything would be out-of-bounds, but perhaps their new target audience wouldn't cotton to a miniseries about hoity-toity Bostonites; that makes the most sense to me.

The Kennedys wasn't an easy sell to any network as it turned out, as reports swirled around of the mini being shopped around to various cable programmers but ending up as a surprising sell to ReelzChannel. Do most viewers even know the network exists? I thought it was mostly behind-the-scenes material, but they've acquired several series -- Cheers, Brothers and Sisters, Ally McBeal, NewsRadio, and Becker among them -- and seem to be trying to put together an actual network. I'm always cheered to see any channel running actual series that viewers enjoy, and though The Kennedys might not be the super magic charm that puts ReelzChannel on the map, it certainly will help drive sampling, and that's a very good thing.
Some think that Surnow injected a right-wing bias into The Kennedys (he's one of Hollywood's conservatives), but no matter what filter this American dynasty might have been subjected to here, surely we understand that this is not a documentary and therefore different rules apply. Me, I'm looking forward to seeing the talented Greg Kinnear as J.F.K., Barry Pepper as R.F.K., maybe not so much to Katie Holmes as Jacqueline Kennedy, but there's always something intriguing about actors impersonating historical figures and especially these. This family's fates and fortunes are so much a part of America's mythology that we've all got the necessary credentials to act as our own truth cops when we watch this, and we should.

The Kennedys premieres on ReelzChannel tonight at 8pm with the first two hours, and the subsequent chapters preem Tuesday - Friday, and the last two hours debut next Sunday, with various encores over next weekend. Please check the entire The Kennedys online schedule for all the schedule details. Please let us know here what you think of The Kennedys! We'll be posting more on this, so stay tuned to The Flaming Nose!

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