Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Kennedys

The Kennedys eight part miniseries covers familiar territory, showing scandals and events mostly during John F. Kennedys presidency. Although there is nothing spectacular or revelatory about this program, what does stand out is the acting. Greg Kinnear, an actor who I do not particularly admire, makes a fine JFK nicely embodying the 35th president. Not so great however is Katie Holmes, who resembles Jackie Kennedy but does not have the acting chops to pull off her portrayal. Barry Pepper, a background actor who has came to the forefront recently with really nice turns in True Grit and Casino Jack, is spectacular as Bobby Kennedy. Finally, the great Tom Wilkinson sinks his teeth in the role of Joe Kennedy and hams it up in a fun performance. Here is a breakdown of each of the eight entries:
Episode 1 “A Father's Great Expectations"
As the family prepares for election day, we are shown flashbacks to the days of WWII when Joe Sr. awaited news of Jack's well being after his PT boat was attacked in the Pacific and received word that his oldest son Joe had been killed in a plane crash.
Episode 2 "Shared Victories, Private Struggles"
As the family waits for election returns to come in, we see Jack's 1946 congressional campaign as Joe pulls strings to see him elected. We also see Jack meeting and marrying Jackie, while she deals with his infidelities and considers divorce. Bobby looks forward to giving up politics after the election and gets his father's blessing, which is quickly taken back as soon as Jack becomes president.
Episode 3 "Failed Invasion, Failed Fidelity"
Jack makes his famous inauguration speech, appoints Bobby as the Attorney General, and just a few months into his presidency, makes the decision to surreptitiously invade Cuba which will eventually come to be known as the Bay of Pigs debacle. Also, Jack's indiscretions continue to alarm Jackie and give a slighted FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover the ammunition he needs to gain an upper hand on the Kennedys.  
Episode 4 "Broken Promises and Deadly Barriers"
As the Russians build the Berlin Wall, Jack struggles with mounting health problems and Jackie deals with her rigorous schedule. An ill advised promise made by Frank Sinatra to Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana on the Kennedys behalf comes back to bite the family as Bobby begins to aggressively go after organized crime.
Episode 5 "Moral Issues and Inner Turmoil"
After Joe has a massive stroke, Rosie remembers how they handled their daughter Rosemary's developmental disability. As racial tensions ignite in the south, Jack and Bobby go back and forth with Mississippi governor Ross Barnett over James Meredith's admission to the state's university in an increasingly escalating affair.
Episode 6 "On the Brink of War"
As Jackie contemplates leaving Jack due to his continuing philandering, surveillance photos depicting nuclear missiles in Cuba are taken sparking the intense week and a half that would come to be known as the Cuban Missile Crisis and the crowning achievement of the Kennedy administration.
Episode  7 "The Countdown to Tragedy"
On the morning of November 22, 1963 Jack and Jackie reflect on their recently lost child, Bobby deals with a surfacing scandal involving Jack and the deceased Marilyn Monroe, and Joe and Rosie look forward to seeing their kids for Thanksgiving as Lee Harvey Oswald makes his preparations in the book depository on that fateful day in Dallas.
Episode  8 "The Aftermath: A Family’s Curse of Misfortune and Heartbreak"
Following with JFK's assassination Jackie deals with press bombardment in her personal life and decides to marry Aristotle Onassis to obtain security for her and her children. Bobby blames himself for his brother's fearing it to be the result of the many enemies he had made over the years. After some consolation from his wife Ethel, Bobby decides to carry on for Jack and run for President in 1968 until he is tragically cut down at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.