Published January 07, 2011
PASADENA, Calif. -- The History Channel will not air a controversial miniseries it produced about the Kennedy family, saying the multimillion project that had become the network's most expensive on record did not fit the "History brand."
The eight-part series had already been completed, and starred Greg Kinnear and Katie Holmes as President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jackie. But during its production, critics like former Kennedy administration aide Theodore Sorenson attacked the scripts as inaccurate. The role of producer Joel Surnow, a political conservative, also drew suspicion from fans of the Kennedy family.
"We have concluded this dramatic interpretation is not a fit for the History brand," the network said in a statement late Friday.
The decision was first reported Friday by the Hollywood Reporter.
History, in its statement, said the decision was made after viewing the series in its totality.
"We recognize historical fiction is an important medium for storytelling and commend all the hard work and passion that has gone into the making of the series, but ultimately deem this as the right programming decision for our network," History said in a statement.
Spokesman Michael Feeney said there would be no further comment.
Messages left with Surnow's agent and lawyer were not immediately returned on Friday.
History is owned by the A&E Television Networks, which itself is owned jointly by NBC Universal, the Walt Disney Co. and the Hearst Corp.
It's not clear who made the decision to pull the plug on "The Kennedys," given the joint ownership. A top Disney executive, Disney-ABC Media Networks co-chairwoman Anne Sweeney, is also on the board of directors for the Special Olympics, the organization started by the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, President Kennedy's sister.
Liberal filmmaker Robert Greenwald was behind a petition drive to get the movie shelved. A website, stopkennedysmears.com, was set up with a short film that attacked the miniseries.
The decision was reminiscent of CBS' 2003 decision not to air a miniseries based on the life of President Ronald Reagan, which had also attracted political controversy prior to airing. The series later aired on the Showtime pay cable network.
Greenwald said more than 50,000 people had signed his petition.
"I'll never understand why the History channel let it get as far as it did -- they're intelligent people over there -- but we're pleased that they came to this decision," he said.
His YouTube film quoted Sorenson, a former adviser to Kennedy, calling a script he had seen of "The Kennedys" vindictive and malicious. Sorenson said scenes in the script that depicted him meeting with President Kennedy did not occur.
Greenwald said he had been slipped a copy of the script while the film was casting actors. His film included a "dramatization" of some of the scenes, including one where President Kennedy supposedly tells his brother Robert about why he needed to have sex with different women.
It's not clear whether that scene, or others that he depicted, ever made it into the final film.
Although History is not airing it, "The Kennedys" is expected to be seen elsewhere around the world. History does not control rights to the film outside of the United States and the company that does, Muse Entertainment, has sold rights to various other networks. It is scheduled to air March 6 in Canada, for example.
The film would have aired in this country during the 50th anniversary of the start of the Kennedy presidency.