TV Series/DVD Rental Recommendation: The Kennedys

 Posted by on November 1, 2011 at 6:37 am  Retro, Television
Nov 012011
 

 

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)

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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.

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  12 Responses to “TV Series/DVD Rental Recommendation: The Kennedys”

  1. This is a fabulous series!
    I highly recommend getting comfy and enjoy the show. I was hooked after 5 minutes. I loved the accuracy of the times and the production is top notch. I am from Boston and when they film the old spots and Cape Cod I was really impressed. Also, the performances really, really blew me away. Why an obscure cable outlet ended up with this gem is a wonder.
    Watch it!
    Thanks for the reminder, Lipp Sisters

  2. Sorry, MadChick, thank you for the reminder!

  3. I saw this when it ran the first time. My parents were both first generation Cathloic Americans and my father was a WWII vet, so John Kennedy was a big deal in my household, plus I was born a couple of months before John, Jr., so I grew up with the Kennedy’s.

    I was not expecting great performances from the actors chosen for these roles, but they were much better than I expected, and the series as a whole was well done. I just think there was too much “poetic license” for it to air on the History channel.

    You just have to understand it may not be a completely accurate account of the events portrayed.

  4. I watched this on Netflix streaming, initially thinking it would just be a two hour movie. I must say that the series held my attention, though it did have something of a soap opera element.

  5. There were two scenes that really stood out for me. One was when Jackie first meets Jack at a party in a Georgetown townhouse. The dress she is wearing is a stylish 1954 cupcake dress. The other scene was Joe and Jackie, sitting on the back porch watching Jack’s siblings (including brothers and sisters in law) play “touch” football. It was like seeing one of the still pictures of the siblings playing come to life in color, and Joe and Jackie watching it all was exactly how I pictured it from reading numerous biographies of the Kennedys.

  6. Edited: Under the Bushes Under the Stars, please watch your tone. It’s one thing if you don’t like a show but there is a way to present your opinion respectfully. If you can’t, then don’t post here. – MadChick as Moderator

  7. The series is better than the worst criticism of it, but it isn’t an in depth narrative of the brothers’ public policies. It is as though many things never happened, for instance the NASA moon project, tax reform, the existence of brother Ted, to name a few. It’s more of a soap opera than a treatment of US history.

  8. Tom B, I was visiting my mother when this first aired and we watched it together. We both kept wondering, ‘Where is Ted?’ Definitely thought and expected there would be some coverage of him. I guess they couldn’t fit it in with the time constraints. Still, I admit that the lack of mention of him was very odd.

  9. Mike (#3)

    I was not expecting great performances from the actors chosen for these roles, but they were much better than I expected, and the series as a whole was well done. I just think there was too much “poetic license” for it to air on the History channel.

    You just have to understand it may not be a completely accurate account of the events portrayed.

    Yes, good point. There were several scenes involving private moments between two characters that no one else could have possibly been privy to…..lots of it was obviously left to (a writer’s) imagination.

  10. @9 Mad Chick-I thought History Channel passed on it because it hinted at the possibility of a conspiracy theory.

  11. History channel passed on the show due to pressure from the living Kennedys that didn’t want it aired.

    I saw the miniseries online and it truly is great….all of it, the story, the costumes, the sets – not one thing that I did not like.

  12. @9 Mad Chick-I thought History Channel passed on it because it hinted at the possibility of a conspiracy theory.

    History channel passed on the show due to pressure from the living Kennedys that didn’t want it aired.

    That’s what I heard too, Aurora.

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