Last night, Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Greg Kinnear and over one thousand other movie-industry types attended the Hollywood premiere of the “controversial” Kennedy miniseries that will start airing this Sunday on the ReelzChannel. I was also there, though, oddly, Tom and Katie never said hello.
“The Kennedys” has been and will be the subject of much debate because it was scheduled to air on the History Channel before the History Channel caved to backchannel political pressure exerted by the Kennedy family (specifically Caroline Kennedy and Maria Shriver) and claimed that the epic, eight-part miniseries didn’t “fit the History brand.” Keep in mind that topics that regularly “fit the History brand” include Big Foot, UFOs, Nostradamus, and 9/11 conspiracy theories (not to mention Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories).
But the two hours I saw (depicting the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban missile crisis) were among the most historically accurate and pro-Kennedy examples of historical docudrama that I have ever seen.
Before I delve into my actual “review” of what I witnessed, let me first disclose that the executive producer of the film is Joel Surnow (whose “conservative” leanings were used as a weapon against the project even though it was written by a liberal), who is a golfing buddy of mine, and that I produced a feature documentary called “Blocking the Path to 9/11” that told the incredibly similar story of how many of the same studio executives who bailed here also censored the magnificent 2006 ABC docudrama “The Path to 9/11.” But just to be clear, I obviously I had nothing to do with the making of “The Kennedys” and had never even seen any of the film until last night.
What I saw shocked and angered me.
I am not referring to the actual production, which is riveting, entertaining and educational. Instead, I am referencing how, in a rational world, the Kennedy family and the History Channel should have reacted to its content.
Imagine for a moment that you are Caroline Kennedy, who reliable reports indicate effectively blackmailed ABC/Disney (which owns part of the History Channel) into trying to kill this miniseries. You get to stifle legitimate free expression about your incredibly famous family without ever even having to make a public statement. You can still do interviews with NBC Nightly News (as, unbelievably, she did with Brian Williams just days after it was reported that she had blackmailed a media outlet) further romanticizing your father’s inauguration, and NOT EVEN GET ASKED ABOUT THE EPISODE. And you can do all this apparently without ever having watched a frame of the film or without the vast majority of the country even knowing you committed these crimes against justice and rationality.
Most amazingly of all, you inadvertently (because it seems you didn’t bother to even read the script) make it more difficult for the nation to see an extremely cute childhood version of yourself being literally told by your mother that your father “saved the world” at the end of the Cuban missile crisis. I am sure that anyone could understand why free expression should take a backseat to preventing you from experiencing such horrible public humiliation.
As a bit of a side note, it is interesting to surmise why the Kennedy clan was so eager to believe that a project that is abundantly fair to their legacy was actually out to get them.