Kennedy miniseries fails History Channel test

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 7, 2011; 11:00 PM


It's always such a pity when a media company spends a small fortune to present three of its TV networks' upcoming programs to TV critics at the Winter Press Tour, and then the whole investment gets blown out of the water - in this case, when word got out that the company had pulled its wildly controversial John F. Kennedy miniseries, which features an all-star cast including Greg Kinnear and Tom Cruise's Wife.

So, sadly, critics will quickly forget Heidi Klum's riveting story about putting fake boogers up her nose for her new Lifetime show, "Seriously Funny Kids." Also lost in the shuffle: the thoughts of Hayden Panetierre, star of Lifetime's "The Amanda Knox Story," regarding whether she thinks Knox really did kill her college roommate in 2007. And forget about ever hearing details of how very different "Prison Break" is from A&E's "Breakout Kings," even though both are from some of the same behind-the-camera guys.

That's because word spread about two hours after those presentations concluded that parent company A&E Television Networks had pulled the plug on "The Kennedys" miniseries, having discovered it was "not a fit" for its History Channel, where it was slated to air in the spring.

"Upon completion of the production of 'The Kennedys,' History has decided not to air the eight-part miniseries," the network said in a statement, adding that "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."

News of the cancellation was first reported in the trade paper Hollywood Reporter.

This miniseries had been a boil on A&E's backside since it was first announced just more than a year ago. Sure, it had an incredible cast: Kinnear had agreed to play President John F. Kennedy, Katie Holmes would take on Jackie O., Barry Pepper was signed to play RFK and Tom Wilkinson would play dad Joe Kennedy.

The project hailed from "24's" conservative creator, Joel Surnow, and was much lambasted by Kennedy historians, including former John F. Kennedy adviser Theodore Sorenson, who called the script he'd seen "vindictive" and "malicious." That script was revised, according to the network.

"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," the company said in its statement.

The miniseries is still scheduled to air internationally, THR reported. But, it now has no home domestically.

On the bright side, when CBS yanked its controversial miniseries about President Ronald Reagan in 2003 - that time, complaints from conservatives did it in - it finally ran on CBS's premium cable network Showtime.

'Girls' and gamesmanship

Those sly foxes at HBO. At virtually the exact moment Veena Sud was waxing enthusiastic to TV critics at Winter Press Tour 2011 about AMC - home of her new whodunit "The Killing" (based on the popular Danish TV series "Forbrydelsen") - being a network "for every writer in this town, pretty much where you want to be," HBO was e-mailing to the TV critics in the room the news that it had just picked up a new comedy series called "Girls," created by and starring "Tiny Furniture" filmmaker Lena Dunham.

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