ReelzChannel readies world premiere of miniseries

When ReelzChannel presents the “world premiere” of miniseries “The Kennedys” on April 3, it will also be seizing a unique chance to enter the ranks of cablers with signature scripted programming — an opportunity that History dropped in January when it abruptly announced it was yanking the show.

That cancellation followed a yearlong campaign by liberal critics and, reportedly, the Kennedy clan, to scuttle the miniseries, which they allege paints a distorted portrait of them.

Politically conservative producer Joel Surnow (“24″), who is behind the project, declined to comment, but a trio of below-the-liners who read the script and worked in the trenches say “The Kennedys” takes fewer liberties with historical accuracy than, say, Showtime’s period series “The Tudors” or Oscar contender “The Social Network.”

They also give the impression that History decided to drop the show even though it knew exactly what it was getting all along.

“It was shocking when they pulled the plug,” said d.p. David Moxness, who shot the Katie Holmes-Greg Kinnear starrer over nearly three months last summer in and around Toronto on Sony HD cameras. “From day one it was billed to me as a scripted drama, not as some nonfiction news about the Kennedy family.”

Moxness added that History execs visited the set from time to time.

“Presumably they got the dailies as we shot,” he said. So he was taken aback when History issued a statement calling the miniseries an unfit product for its brand (this from the network of “Ice Road Truckers” and “Pawn Stars”).

“My reaction was dismay,” said “Kennedys” production designer Rocco Matteo, who was art director on ABC’s 1993 miniseries “JFK: Reckless Youth” — which generated less debate, despite its name — and spent five months poring through magazines, newsreels and other material to create the look for Surnow’s miniseries.

“History should have known better,” he said. “The controversy existed from the very beginning and I had doubts along the way about their resolve. … I think they’re gutless.”

“?’The Kennedys’ is not at all anti-Kennedy,” said costume designer Christopher Hargadon, who drew from abundant resources to recreate the outfits worn by “the most documented family in America. There was a focus at first on (Surnow) being rightwing … but it’s a respectful portrayal of the family. Even Joe Kennedy Sr. with his wheeling and dealing was all about family. In the end I felt like I understood them better.”

“We made a serious adult drama that embraces all the realities and pressures of political life,” said Matteo. “In my opinion, it’s still quite reverential to the legacy of the family (whose) patriarch makes decisions that reverberate throughout the story.”

The production budget on “The Kennedys” has been reported as about $30 million, and History was said to be ready to plunk down $20 million to market the miniseries.

ReelzChannel, which now offers a mix of repeats and entertainment-themed talk, has already splashed “Kennedys” promos across its website.

Bookings & Signings

Dattner Dispoto d.p. bookings: Paul Cameron on Len Wiseman’s “Total Recall,” Declan Quinn on Paul Weitz’s “Another Bullshit Night in Suck City,” Wyatt Troll on Christopher Neil’s “Goats,” Giles Nuttgens on Deepa Mehta’s “Winds of Change,” Russell Lee Fine on HBO’s “Luck” and David Stockton on Fox’s “Alcatraz.” Agency has signed commercial production designers Ken Averill and Jesse Benson; both worked on spots nommed for ADG awards, with Benson winning for Dos Equis.

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