FYI: The Kennedys is now available on DVD, The Reelz Channel will be re-running it starting November 6th (check your cable listings for more details) and it is now available through Netflix or Showbox (DVD and Blu-ray)
Quite a few Mad Men fans either grew up in the 1960s or enjoy watching things that take place in the ’60s, or both. For my part, I was not alive during the Camelot era, but I have often been interested in hearing about it. Certainly that time seems to have a mystique about it, as well as a sense of dread—just as in today’s time, the threat of nuclear war was imminent, and no one could be certain that another country (in this case, Cuba) wouldn’t attack them.
The Kennedys, which aired on the Reelz Channel after the History Channel rejected it, is a miniseries that runs in several parts for around 8 hours total. The early 1960s are covered in depth (up to and including Bobby’s assassination), and there are also some flashback scenes for the 1950s and earlier.
Greg Kinnear and Katie Holmes star as JFK and Jackie. Barry Pepper plays Bobby Kennedy, and Joe and Rose Kennedy are played by Tom Wilkinson and Diana Hardcastle. The entire cast is phenomenal and the resemblance to some of the people they are playing is truly remarkable, especially in the case of of Kinnear and Holmes. I never would have thought that Greg Kinnear resembled John F. Kennedy, but with his hair styled just so, and his careful facial expressions (I wouldn’t be surprised if Kinnear studied old footage to mimic the way that JFK held his mouth when he was talking), the likeness is quite striking at times.
I don’t know if Barry Pepper resembles the real Bobby quite as much (it appears they may have given him a prosthetic nose and fake teeth to try and make the resemblance stronger), but his performance is perhaps the best in the series (and almost all of the actors are excellent). I also liked the actress who played Bobby’s wife Ethel—Kristin Booth.
Tom Wilkinson is another standout as Joe Kennedy, Sr., portrayed in this miniseries as an extremely manipulative and formidable character. He plays a pivotal role throughout most of the series.
Mad Men viewers will no doubt remember the party that Ken, Paul, and other Sterling Cooper employees held in the offices during Season 1, when they watch scenes in The Kennedys where it looks as if Nixon has the election in the bag. MM fans will also think of Pete, Trudy, Don, and Betty when they watch the Kennedys scenes that deal with the Cuban Missile Crisis. I know for my part, I thought of Betty Draper during an intense scene where Jackie gets mad at her husband and tells him he humiliated her. (In the scene as written, JFK escaped from a classical music performance to watch a movie in a downstairs room, and while he is there,a woman who has flirted with him in the past comes and sits with him)
Fans of early ’60s fashions will also relish in many of Holmes’ outfits, as the costume designers for the miniseries seem to have expertly duplicated several of Jackie’s most famous dresses, skirts, and hats.
Overall, I think everyone involved with the production did a great job with what must have been an extremely challenging undertaking. Almost every scene is riveting, and it seems they covered just about all of the important events in that time period and in the Kennedys’ personal history.