History Network pulls plug on Kennedy miniseries

January 11th, 2011

by Joe Flint at Los Angeles Times- January 7, 2011

The Kennedys may have no one left serving on Capitol Hill, but the family still has enough clout to keep a miniseries about their political dynasty from airing in the United States.

In a statement, the History Channel said it has decided not air “The Kennedys,” an eight-part miniseries about the family that starred Greg Kinnear as President John F. Kennedy, Katie Holmes as his wife Jacqueline “Jackie” Kennedy and Barry Pepper as his brother Bobby Kennedy.

“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 network said in a statement.

The History Channel had not set a date for the miniseries to air. It was expected to run later this spring, and is scheduled to premiere in March in Canada.

The concern from both the Kennedy family and their associates about this miniseries from Joel Surnow, a creator of the Fox action show “24,” was no secret. Heavy lobbying by the family and friends of the family played a key role in getting the project yanked, people close to the situation said.

People close to the Kennedys got their hands on an early script for the program and immediately blasted it. The late Theodore Sorensen, a senior advisor to President Kennedy, called the draft he saw a “one-sided right-wing script” that was “vindictive” and “malicious” in a short film about the project made by Robert Greenwald, a documentary filmmaker.  Some people even managed to see the first few episodes of the completed program.

Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the late president, also made an effort to get the project stopped in its tracks. She lobbied Anne Sweeney, a top television executive at Walt Disney Co., one of the three companies that co-owns History Channel. The other two companies that own the network are NBC Universal and Hearst Corp.

Kennedy has ties to both Sweeney and Disney. She has a book deal with Disney’s publishing unit Hyperion, which is set to publish a book of previously unreleased interviews with the late Jacqueline Kennedy this fall. Caroline Kennedy is to edit and write the introduction for the book, and is likely to help promote it.

On a more personal level, Sweeney is on the board of the Special Olympics, which was founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the president’s sister.

Maria Shriver, the daughter of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, also has connections to NBC Universal, having had a long relationship with the company as a reporter and anchor for NBC News.

Although History Channel has passed on the project, it will air elsewhere around the world and could find a new home in the United States should another television outlet strike a deal with the producers, Aslyum Entertainment and Muse Entertainment.

In a statement, the two companies said, “We are proud of the work all of our talent put into the making of The Kennedys and the painstaking efforts that went into creating a drama that is compelling while rich in historic detail. Although we regret this does not fit into the History Channel’s plans, we are confident that television viewers in the United States will join viewers from around the world in having an opportunity to watch this series in the near future.”

History Channel also has sister networks it could run the series on including Lifetime and Lifetime Movie Network. However, it seems that the parent companies of all those channels are looking to move on despite all the money invested in the project.

This is not the first time a political family was able to persuade a network to not run a program. Several years ago, the Reagan family and friends of the former president were instrumental in getting CBS to not carry its movie about his life. It did eventually run on Showtime, the pay cable channel that is in far fewer homes.

– Joe Flint

Members of Kennedy Family Strongarmed Contacts to kill “The Kennedys” Miniseries

January 10th, 2011

by Philip Caufield at NY Daily News at January 10, 2011

A&E Television Network’s decision to abruptly pull the plug on the controversial miniseries “The Kennedys” was the result of some behind-the-scenes hardball tactics by members of America’s first family of politics, according to a report.

Both Caroline Kennedy and Maria Shriver put pressure on bigwigs at A&E and other media heavyweights to kill the eight-part series, which was set to air in the spring on The History Channel, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

A&E, The History Channel’s parent company, announced its decision on Friday, saying that it was “not a fit for the History brand,” THR reported.

Kennedy, the daughter of President John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy who briefly considered a run for senator in New York two years ago, was said to have lobbied contacts at Disney/ABC with influence over the project and used her involvement in a forthcoming book about her mother as leverage.

Kennedy had agreed to edit, write an introduction and help promote the still-untitled book, which is to be published by Disney’s Hyperion publishing division and is based on hours of previously unheard audio recordings with Jackie O, but could have proved uncooperative if the project aired.

Shriver, the former first lady of California who is the daughter of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, JFK’s younger sister, was said to have pestered friends at both NBC, where she worked as a news reporter, and Disney/ABC to shelve the project, according to THR.

The miniseries, which starred Greg Kinnear and Katie Holmes, courted controversy from the moment it was announced in December 2009.

A former Kennedy adviser, Theodore Sorensen, attacked the project in The New York Times, calling it “vindictive,” and liberal filmmaker Robert Greenwald called the show “political character assassination.”

The Camelot biopic isn’t completely dead, though.

It will air in Canada and in foreign countries, and its producers are continuing to shop the project around to cable networks, including Showtime, which broadcast another controversial presidential series, “The Reagans,” after CBS killed it in 2003, THR reported.

Kennedys TV drama too hot for History Channel

January 9th, 2011
AN AMERICAN TV network has taken the controversial decision to pull a star-spangled drama featuring the nation’s most famous political clan – the Kennedys.
The History Channel says the multi-million dollar project, which had become their most expensive on record, does not fit the “History brand”.

The eight-part series was already complete, and starred Greg Kinnear and Katie Holmes as President John F Kennedy and his wife, Jackie.

But during production, critics, including former Kennedy administration aide, the late Theodore Sorensen, attacked the scripts as inaccurate. The role of producer Joel Surnow, a political conservative, also drew suspicion from fans of the Kennedy family.

“We have concluded this dramatic interpretation is not fit for the History brand,” the network said in a statement.

Liberal filmmaker Robert Greenwald was behind a petition drive to have the series shelved. A website, stopkennedysmears.com, was set up featuring a short film that attacked the mini-series.

Greenwald said more than 50,000 people had signed his petition.

“I’ll never understand why the History Channel let it get as far as it did – they’re intelligent people over there – but we’re pleased that they came to this decision,” he said.

His YouTube film quoted Sorensen, a former adviser to Kennedy who died last October, calling a script he had seen of The Kennedys vindictive and malicious. Sorensen said some scenes in the script depicting him meeting with President Kennedy did not occur.

Greenwald said he had been slipped a copy of the script while the film was at the casting stage. It included a “dramatisation” of some of the scenes, including one where President Kennedy supposedly told his brother Robert about why he needed to have sex with different women.

It’s not clear whether that scene, or indeed others that were depicted, ever made it into the final film.

Messages left with Surnow’s agent and lawyer were not immediately returned.

Greenwald’s website campaign attracted hundreds of comments from both Kennedy supporters and critics.

One post commented: “The History Channel has? become a false irrelevant bit of low budget entertainment filler. They don’t vet the material they put their names on.

Robert Greenwald Challenges JFK Actors Kinnear, Holmes to Vet Script

April 29th, 2010

by Sharon Waxman at The Wrap | April 29 2010

Left-wing documentary firebrand Robert Greenwald Thursday challenged actors Greg Kinnear and Katie Holmes — who were cast this week to play John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie in a History Channel miniseries about the Kennedys — to “insist on a historically accurate and politically unbiased script.”

Read on

Greg Kinnear Will Play John F. Kennedy in History Channel Miniseries

April 28th, 2010

by Dave Itzkoff at New York Times | April 28 2010

“The Kennedys,” the coming History Channel miniseries, has found its lead actors to play the central members of that Democratic political clan. Greg Kinnear, an Academy Award nominee for “As Good As It Gets,” will play John F. Kennedy; Barry Pepper (“Saving Private Ryan”) will play Robert F. Kennedy; Tom Wilkinson, an Emmy Award winner for “John Adams,” will play the family patriarch, Joseph P. Kennedy; and Katie Holmes (“Batman Begins,” “Dawson’s Creek”) will play Jacqueline Kennedy.

The miniseries, produced by Joel Surnow, a creator of the Fox action series “24,” has been criticized by historians who were provided early drafts of the scripts by the liberal filmmaker Robert Greenwald. They said the scripts contained historical inaccuracies and presented an unflattering depiction of President Kennedy and his family. The History Channel plans to show the eight-hour miniseries next year.

Robert Greenwald discusses Stop the Kennedy Smears on The Ed Show

March 5th, 2010

on MSNBC | March 5 2010

Robert Greenwald discusses Stop the Kennedy Smears on MSNBC

March 4th, 2010

on MSNBC | March 4 2010

Robert Greenwald discusses Stop the Kennedy Smears on CNN’s Reliable Sources

February 28th, 2010

on CNN | February 28 2010

JFK Historian Cited as Source for History Channel’s Maligned Series Speaks Out

February 25th, 2010

by Daniela Perdomo at AlterNet | February 25 2010

Following my article last week on the campaign to quelch the History Channel’s upcoming mini-series on the storied Kennedy family — produced by a FOX News-affiliated right-winger — comes more news on the heated story.

For context, the channel is developing a mini-series called “The Kennedys” that has been called, by historians and people who knew the people that’ll be depicted in the show, sex and sleaze disguised as history. The best way to paint the picture is to quote what Ted Sorensen, JFK’s legendary speechwriter and adviser, told me for my article:

According to Sorensen, “not a single scene” in which he appears took place. “Some of that is simply sloppy invention, but most of it is because the script has been distorted by a hatred for the Kennedys,” he told AlterNet. “Almost everything is invented or slanted in one way or another against the Kennedys.”

Now it appears that David Talbot, a historian whose books the show’s screenwriter, Stephen Kronish, told the New York Times he read as background, is outraged that he is being cited as a source for the maligned script.

Read on

JFK Documentary is Character Assassination

February 25th, 2010

by Mike Farrell at Huffington Post | February 25 2010

My name is Mike Farrell. I’m an actor.

Many years ago, I was lucky enough to realize an ambition to portray John F. Kennedy, the first US President I was old enough to vote for. Made for PBS, the project was JFK, A One-Man Show, produced by David Susskind, written by David and Sidney Carroll and directed by Frank Perry.

This extraordinary team, understanding its responsibility to history, carefully researched 
every word that went into the show. As actors portraying historic figures, we can do no less.

To learn, as we near the 50th anniversary of JFK’s presidency, that a project now in the works is not only grossly inaccurate but clearly intended to assassinate the character of a man who gave his life for this country fills me with contempt for the tone and depth of the political rancor that rages about us today.

Read on