R.F. IS A BUSY man. He's putting the finishing touches on "Conversations With Me - Life in a TV Executive's Office." All these people parade in with all these great ideas - they say "You better sit down, R.F." - but R.F. knows what will work on television.
R.F.'s office overlooks a palm tree and a Taco-Bell.
Ah, to have been there on the afternoon that whoever-it-might-have-been came in with the idea for "Young Joe, the Forgotten Kennedy," the ABC Sunday Night Movie tonight at 9 on Channel 7. And a sleepy load of sludge it is, too. To have hung around when they thought it all up, though, that would have been interesting . . .
"R.F., you better sit down. There. Comfortable, pal? Okay, now I am going to say one word to you, R.F. and this word is like money in the bank.
"KENNEDY, R.F. - the magic name! America's royalty! Right! Everybody loves a story about poor little rich kids, and here's one right under our noses. 'Young Joe, the Forgotten Kennedy.' See, Joseph Kennedy Jr. died in World World War II, while he was testpiloting an explosive new plane. Now here's a guy who might have grown up to be President. No, not of MCA - of the United States, R.F. But he didn't. But that doesn't matter 'cause it's still a helluva story, R.F., helluva story. Combat footage, love stuff, dynasty jazz, tragic hero - you know, real 'Rich Captains, Poor Kings' material. I'm talkin' quality now.
"You still with me, R.F.?
"Sure, Joe Kennedy Jr. was supposed to have been 'overbearing' and subject to fits of 'violent temper.' So we'll soften him up a little bit - take that stuff out. The public doesn't want to see that - some human being with honest fallibilities! We'll get Peter Strauss to play the part - very bankable face. I know he can't act. I know he can't do a Boston accent to save his life. But he's a proven commodity, R.F. He looks the way people want to think Joe Kennedy Jr. looked - you know, very boyish, very '70s. Yeah, the real Joe Kennedy had broad shoulders and was a football star, and this Strauss kid is kind of skinny and wimpy, but he'll get more sympathy that way.
"You know, R.F., this Docudrama Television is very big stuff. NBC's doing the Karen Ann Quinlan story this year. CBS has bought John Dean's book. People like to see the truth stirred up and turned into frozen yogurt. This Kennedy thing has all the elements of a good Universal B-picture of the '50s - you know, tragedy strikes the very rich, money can't buy happiness, the best laid plans of - oh, sure, R.F., I'll get on with it.
"So we change things a little, see, to make it more interesting. Like, Joe Kennedy used to pick on his younger brother Jack, but we'll change that around, because that way Joe becomes more sympathetic. Jack Kennedy? Let him get his own TV movie.
"Then we'll do these heartrending flashbacks to when Kennedy was, oh, about 14, and getting interested in girls, and we'll have a little girl say she can't associate with him because hes Irish and Catholic. Geez, R.F., they'll be weepin' into their Dorito bags all over America!
"Dialogue? Yeah, I got dialogue. This thing practically writes itself. We'll have Joe in bed with this gorgeous chick - I think we can get that beautiful Barbara Parkins for the part - and he'll say something like, 'It's not enough for a Kennedy to do a good job; we're expected to be the best,' and she'll look at him al dewy-eyed and she'll say, 'You are the best, Joe!' See, we get the wealthy clan angle and a little sexual double-entendre, too.
"And uh, let's see, we need some old duffer to play Joe Kennedy Sr. No, he doesn't have to look like him. Wait, I know; we'll get Stephen Elliott. He played Mr. Lassiter, the Irish patriarch loosely based on Joe Kennedy, on 'Beacon Hill.' We'll make Joe Sr. just like Mr. Lassiter! It's perfect.
"Now to protect ourselves, we'll make a real big deal out of the last mission. Build up to it real slowly; scenes of loading the plane, and talking about the flight, and then just before the plane takes off for the fatal explosion, we'll show Joe at an altar saying his prayers.
"About this time we'll bring in the moody cellos and the plaintive distant trumpet. Plaintive. You don't know what means 'plaintive,' R.F.? Uh, well, sad, sort of. Believe me; this thing can't miss. When that big fat B-24 goes BOOM just before 11 o'clock, there won't be a dry eye in the country!
"R.F. - your eyelids! Oh, you're just thinking. Right. Now one more thing. This show has got to have the quality touch. Real respectful. Camera stays back - you know, like in 'Eleanor and Franklin' and all that other junk, I mean, like in those other Emmy-winning classics. I'm telling you, R.F., there's a gold mine in American history, just so long as you know what to change. Why, I bet even some of the TV critics will fall for this one. Heh-heh-heh.
"Well, thanks, R.F., for listening. I know your time is valuable. Just sign this piece of paper. Great. I knew ABC would go for a fresh new concept like this one. Here, R.F. - have a cigar. And say, next time you're in Brentwood, remember, my hot tub is your hot tub.
"Till next week, then? Take care." CAPTION: Picture 1, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr.; Picture 2, Sam Chew plays the young Jack Kennedy, and Peter Strauss is Jr. in "Young Joe, The Forgotten Kennedy."