‘The Kennedys’ Gets Snubbed By History Channel, Might Head For Showtime [UPDATED]

Published 4 years ago by , Updated January 13th, 2011 at 6:04 pm,

kennedys poster The Kennedys Gets Snubbed By History Channel, Might Head For Showtime [UPDATED]

[Update: FX, Starz and Showtime have all reportedly passed The Kennedys miniseries. While no official statement has been released to explain their decision, many speculate that it was  due to fear of political backlash.]

A&E Television, owners of the The History Channel, have declined to pick up The Kennedys, an eight-part miniseries documenting JFK’s rise to the presidency and subsequent assassination.

The series was scheduled to appear on The History Channel later this year, but the network cited problems with the historical accuracy of the production, echoing critics’ comments on the leaked scripts almost a year ago. A&E released a public statement elaborating their decision:

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.

While this is certainly a blow to the big-budget production, it’s unlikely that the miniseries will be shelved completely. The Kennedys is being offered to Showtime, a premium network that’s unlikely to turn down content with such high production values (and shouldn’t have a problem with the historical accuracy – or lack thereof – in the script). There’s certainly precedent for the switch, as Showtime picked up The Reagans when CBS declined it in 2003. There are some startling similarities: both series have drawn criticism from historians and the surviving family that they depict.

The miniseries is an ambitious project. Produced by Muse and Asylum Entertainment, the estimated budget for The Kennedys is a whopping $25 million. Recognizable stars like Greg Kinnear, Katie Holmes and Tom Wilkinson fill out the cast, and if early previews are any indication, the overall production is impressive.

Some have wondered if A&E’s ties to the real-life Kennedys were a factor in its decision. Caroline Kennedy, daughter of late former first lady Jackie Kennedy Onassis, is currently writing a book on her mother published through Hyperion. The publisher is part of the Disney Empire, which has a partial ownership of A&E Networks and The History Channel by extension. Another member of the Kennedy extended family, Maria Shriver, expressed her displeasure about the series to NBC – which also owns a stake in A&E.

So, did the screenwriters play fast and loose with history or was A&E pushed to abandon the series over its less-than-flattering look at an American icon? Could be a little of both. While any talk of backroom deals between the Kennedy family and network executives is pure speculation, the historical accuracy of the series has been brought into question for almost an entire year. Filmmaker Robert Greenwald created StopKennedySmears.com, a site which chronicles the inadequacies of the show and the critical reaction of historians. One particularly damning quote comes from David Talbot, whose book Brothers: The Hidden History of The Kennedy Years was used as a source for the docu-drama:

It’s soap opera as character assassination and an egregious distortion of the historical record. I’m completely dumbfounded as to how he used my book as one of his sources.

The site has published a victory message on the news of The History Channel declining the series.

It’s also worth considering that a depiction of a presidential family will always carry political implications. Greenwald proudly admits his liberal stance, and while it’s not clear if there’s a conservative bias in The Kennedys depiction, it’s likely that any overtly negative portrayal of a Democratic party hero would rustle feathers in Hollywood. With the current political divide in the United States as vicious as it is, it’s not surprising that a project with so many potential pitfalls has been waylaid.

The show is not the only project focusing on the Kennedy dynasty at the moment. Darren Aronofsky, director of The Wrestler and Black Swan, will direct a biopic focusing on first lady Jackie O. titled Jackie. Aronofsky’s wife Rachel Weisz (of The Mummy and its sequel) is attached to play Onassis.


Meanwhile, we’ll be waiting for news of Showtime’s decision on whether to pick up The Kennedys or not.

Source: Zap2it, TV Line

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  1. Never fear, us Canadians are here… Despite being ‘dropped’ and not yet picked up by any American stations Shaw is still going to air it for us Canucks (either on Global or History Television or one of their affiliates). Don’t worry, we’ll let you know how it is.

  2. Won’t fit the History brand? This is the channel that airs regular specials on evidence that aliens built the pyramids! Not to mention all of their Armageddon theories!

  3. Wrong, the Grey Aliens killed the Kennedys and plotted with the Beatles to take over the world.

  4. Canadians come through. Shaw Media will air the series (either on Global, History Television or one of their other affiliates). I’ll let you know how it is…

  5. I’m not in TV so I don’t know how it works, but it seems like poor business for A&E to invest money in a project of this magnitude without seeing a script or knowing what story would be presented before it was made – not when it’s practically complete. Executive Producer/Director Jon Cassar has been tweeting about this 8-episode series from the earliest stages and, in my opinion, has shown respect and passion for the project.

  6. The Kennedy’s weren’t a perfect family, but John and Robert had more loyalty to Constitution then anyone that came after them,,,
    I’ve read that Leo Decaprio is going to produce/star/direct? in a Kennedy film soon.

  7. I think the movie had too much truth in the writing and everyone knows you arent suppose to tell the truth about the Kennedys. No its better to make up fairy tales about how great they were and how much they cared about America.

    If they could put the trash Howard Zinn wrote about the country they could sure put this series on the channel. Oh thats right the Kennedys have too much influence to let something like that happen.

  8. Contrary to what all you guys are saying… The Kennedys will be aired on The History Channel in the UK 1st April 2011. Its already being advertised on UK TV with dates So I don’t know where you got your info but you’ve been led up the garden path! Think someone is drumming up media frenzy for something that isn’t going to be much cop I’m mean Katie Holmes?? Not exactly an A listing actress!!

    • The dates have been pulled from the UK History Channel also. Do we have a Showtime affiliate over here???

      • Well that’s incorrect as it’s now on history channel starting Thursday 7th April @ 9pm.. Americans love the Kennedys and hate anything bad said against them they were well in with the mafia but every American forgets about that he was as twisted as the rest of the politicians