Joel Surnow, the creator of the hit TV series ‘24′ and a rare Hollywood conservative, is developing a Kennedy family miniseries for the History Channel. A group of Kennedy acolytes, led by Kennedy advisor Ted Sorenson, are aghast.
The Joel Surnow miniseries is purported to be a “warts and all” examination of the Kennedy family, which is to say there will be a lot of sex in it. The Kennedy defenders are so appalled that they have created a short documentary, Stop the Kennedy Smears, and a petition to try to prevent the miniseries from ever being aired.
The documentary, produced by left-wing documentary film maker Robert Greenwald, consists of a number of talking heads, historians as well as Ted Sorenson, attacking the miniseries on the basis of having read a version of the script. There are charges of historical inaccuracy, as there are will most dramatic retellings of history, some serious, some trivial. One of the historians wonders why the sex scenes, which he admits happened, are being portrayed.
Some of the talking heads speak darkly of a right-wing plot to smear the Kennedys, suggesting that Joel Surnow is a good friend of Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul who created Fox News. The short ends with Ted Sorenson darkly suggesting that there will be law suits aplenty if the Joel Surnow Kennedys miniseries ever sees air.
The production team behind the Kennedys miniseries resply that they are adhering to historical accuracy:
“Mr. Kronish, the ‘Kennedys’ screenwriter, said that the History channel’s standards for producing its mini-series are more rigorous than the broadcast networks’, and that his finished scripts will require bibliographic annotations and legal vetting before filming proceeds. He also said that he was drawing upon nonfiction works, including books by Seymour Hersh, Robert Dallek, David Talbot and others. ‘If I’m wrong,’ he said, ‘I guess all of them are wrong.’”
Not having read the script, but knowing liberal Democrats, one can only surmise what the real reason for the disquiet is. Democrats are used to having their heroes as being portrayed as virtually God-like in TV and in film. ‘13 Days’ and ‘PT 109′ are examples of Kennedy movies that have ignored President Kennedy’s more sordid characteristics. To have a TV series that examines some of the more human aspects of the Kennedy family may be too much to bear.
Of course Republicans do not get the fawning treatment on the small or big screen. An infamous series about Reagan made up out of whole cloth a scene in which the former president expressed great disdain for people suffering from AIDS. In fact Reagan was probably the most gay friendly president to that point, owing in large part of his work as an actor in Hollywood.
The least say about Oliver Stone’s films on Republican presidents, ‘Nixon’ and ‘W’ the better.
The complaints of the Kennedy supporters ring kind of hollow when one remembers the lack of complaints from that quarter about the Oliver Stone conspiracy movie, ‘JFK’, which suggested that just about everybody was in on a plot to murder President Kennedy. The complaints about the historical accuracy came from the Right.
Harry Turtledove, the famous author of alternate history novels, once said that if one really wanted to read alternate history, read the memoirs of various participants in an event of that same event. The keepers of the Kennedy flame have had their version written, depicted, and expounded for decades. Now, with the death of Ted Kennedy, it may be time to put Camelot to sleep and to reexamine the Kennedy legacy. If the Kennedy brothers were great, that greatness will survive a revelation of the not so great side of their lives. If they were not great, then all of the complaints and threats in the world will not add one iota of greatness where it is not.