History Drops “Kennedy” Miniseries

Updated

History channel says that it will not show a $20-milllion miniseries starring Greg Kinnear as JFK and Katie Holmes as Jackie, following an outcry from historians and others, Variety’s Cynthia Littleton reports.

“Upon completion of the production of ‘The Kennedys,’ History has decided not to air the eight-part miniseries on the network,” A&E Television Networks said 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. 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.”

Producer Robert Greenwald waged a campaign against the project after obtaining an early version of the script last year. Historians who reviewed the script took issue with the content, calling salacious and a distortion of history.

Extra scrutiny to the project also came on its executive producer, Joel Surnow, a prominent conservative in the business.

But there apparently was heavy lobbying by Kennedy family members, including Caroline Kennedy, who, reports the Los Angeles Times, made an effort to get the project stopped via Anne Sweeney, a top Disney-ABC executive. Ted Sorenson, the Kennedy speechwriter, also expressed displeasure with the script before his death in October.

The controversy has echoes of CBS’s project “The Reagans,” starring James Brolin and Judy Davis, which was pulled in 2003 shortly before it was to air after complaints from Michael Reagan and others from his administration as a distortion of his tenure. It eventually was shown on Showtime.

It’s expected that “The Kennedys” — which would only be the latest in a long line of miniseries and movies made about the family and the Camelot era — will find a home on another outlet. But History has already branded the project “historical fiction,” so you can only imagine the friction between Surnow & Co. and the channel’s executives.

Greenwald issued this statement: “After reading the original script for Joel Surnow’s ‘The Kennedys’ miniseries, Brave New Films was concerned about historical accuracy and sent the script to respected historians for their opinions. Historians like Ted Sorensen and Thurston Clarke agreed that the script was a salacious work of fiction (stopkennedysmears.com). These experts agreed that it would be dishonest and dangerous to put out this miniseries as ‘history’ for a new generation unfamiliar with the great legacy of the Kennedy family. We are elated to learn that the History Channel chose to pull the plug on this project. This is a great victory for the legacy of President Kennedy and for the entire Kennedy family.”

 

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