'Kennedys' miniseries to air after all, on ReelzChannel

CAMELOT: Cast of "The Kennedys": Miniseries stars, from left, KristIn Booth, Barry Pepper, Diana Hardcastle, Greg Kinnear, Katie Holmes and Tom Wilkinson.
CAMELOT: Cast of "The Kennedys": Miniseries stars, from left, KristIn Booth, Barry Pepper, Diana Hardcastle, Greg Kinnear, Katie Holmes and Tom Wilkinson.

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 1, 2011; 9:55 PM

History Channel's aborted "The Kennedys" miniseries will be shown on a U.S. television network after all.

ReelzChannel has struck a deal for U.S. telecast rights to the eight-part miniseries. The move comes three weeks after History scrubbed the project from its spring schedule upon discovering that the Kennedys were not pawn stars, UFO hunters, ax men, ice-road truckers or swamp people.

So if you're one of the 56 million-ish TV homes that has access to ReelzChannel, you're in luck: The network plans to air the project in April. The other 60 million-ish TV homes out there: You're outta luck for now.

"The Kennedys" miniseries had been a boil on History parent A&E's backside since it was first announced little more than a year ago. Sure, it had an incredible cast: Greg 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 Joel Surnow - an outspoken conservative who hobnobs with Rush Limbaugh - though you may know him as the creator of the Fox series "24," which made headlines back in the day for all those interesting torture scenes.

"Kennedys" screenwriter Stephen Kronish has called himself a liberal Democrat; you may know him for writing lots of episodes of "24."

Back in History's pre-sadder-but-wiser days - December of '09 - the network promised that "The Kennedys" was going to be a saga about "the most fabled political family in American history told in a manner similar to 'The Godfather': a manipulative, egocentric father determined to live out his own ambitions through his sons, who in turn spent their lives dancing to his tune while at the same time trying to stand on their own."

Faster than you can say Marilyn Monroe, various historians who'd read an early version of the script began to react with varying degrees of knicker-knottedness. A petition made the rounds, asking people to sign on the dotted line and take the pledge not to watch the "right-wing character assassination masquerading as 'history.' " The critics said the script contained factual errors - and, of course, that scene in which POTUS tells his brother Bobby that if he doesn't have sex with unfamiliar women "every couple of days, [he gets] migraines."

History promised the screenplay was being annotated and vetted by History's resident historians.

Then early last month, History, home of "Pawn Stars," "UFO Hunters," "Ax Men," "Ice Road Truckers" and "Swamp People" pulled the miniseries from its spring to-do list and AETN explained in a statement 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."

This is probably a good place to mention that A&E Networks is owned by NBC Universal, Disney and Hearst Communications, because published reports speculated that suits all around had been lobbied by Kennedy clan members to kill the miniseries.

Since the show got eighty-sixed by History, it had been making the rounds, including a pitch to Showtime - whose newish programming chief used to run the production company that made "24," and where CBS's controversial President Ronald Reagan miniseries found a haven after CBS pulled the plug on that project in the face of heated protests by conservatives.

History and the mayor

"I'm sorry the mayor left - I was going to give him a lesson in the development process," History Channel President - and "The Kennedys" developer - Nancy Dubuc said Tuesday morning in Washington as she followed Mayor Vincent C. Gray onstage.


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