The Kennedys, A Stunning Soap Opera, on DVD/Blu-ray, September 20, 2011
Oh, the excitement! Oh, the hype! Oh, the disappointment! When A&E announced the multimillion dollar series The Kennedys, there was an avalanche of response, but apparently that avalanche was a trickle compared to Caroline Schlossberg and Maria Shriver’s reaction. Kennedy power and influence resulted in A&E’s unconditional surrender, "After viewing the final product in its totality, we have concluded this dramatic interpretation is not a fit for the History brand." That’s understandable—a network that is known for its relentless coverage of Nazis, both Hitler’s and Neo, shouldn’t be associated with a legendary American empire. (It was eventually shown on Reelz).
Set amid turbulent mid-twentieth century politics, the “vindictive…malicious” (according to Theodore Sorenson) series features world-changing events occuring during a socially volatile era. The Kennedys is not about politics, it’s about members of a family—their relationships, their feelings, and their fates. In short, it’s grand soap opera. It combines known information with conjecture, and delivers the story of a family under the iron rule of a ruthlessly ambitious, bullying father who tried to run the country from the shadows. There are secrets, manipulation, mobsters, deceits, affairs, cruelty, drugs, conspiracies, and revenge, all of which are given equal import to civil rights, assassinations, and foreign relations.
Is any of it true? Well…yes…but there are incidents and conversations for which there are no witnesses, that needed to be reconstructed or invented. Instead of expecting an accurate historical account, enjoy The Kennedys for what it is: a lavish, expensively produced soap opera—dramatic, melodramatic, tragic, and schmaltzy. Uniformly well-acted, it is a fascinating tale of what might have been, not what was.