JFK Miniseries isn't really character assassination





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For the past week, liberals everywhere have been up in arms over the horrifying prospect of a new History Channel miniseries about John F. Kennedy hatched from the brain of Joel Surnow, a creator of Fox's hit TV series "24" and an ardent political conservative who smokes cigars with Rush Limbaugh and whose political point of view is best expressed by his favorite bumper sticker, which reads "Except for Ending Slavery, Fascism, Nazism and Communism, War Has Never Solved Anything." The furor was fueled by a front-page story in the New York Times last week that cited criticism of the proposed miniseries, titled "The Kennedys," by a variety of historians who'd read an early version of the four-part series' scripts....

I took the time over the weekend to read the scripts for the proposed four-part "Kennedys" series (set to air in January 2011), and even though I'm a liberal, I have to say that Surnow and his writing team have been unfairly demonized as political hatchet men largely because of Surnow's well-known reputation as a political conservative. In fact, if you didn't know Surnow was involved with the project, you'd be hard-pressed, after reading the script, to say it had any serious political agenda at all.

Nevertheless, the miniseries has created quite a hubbub, not to mention yet another example of how the hyper-partisanship that has paralyzed Washington has invaded the world of entertainment, where liberals gleefully mock Glenn Beck and conservatives regularly bash any movie that questions the excesses of the war on terrorism. After reading the various complaints about the series' particulars -- it depicts Kennedy as an unrepentant sex hound while having the Kennedys doing exit polling during the 1960 presidential election (which was long before exit polling had been invented) -- I was overcome by a powerful sense of deja vu. It sounded exactly like the uproar in conservative circles when it was first announced that the wild-eyed, Fidel Castro admiring, peyote popping Oliver Stone would be filming "W.," a biopic about George W. Bush....

Surnow's take on JFK certainly qualifies as revisionist history, but when it comes to the Kennedys, the days of Camelot are long gone -- we've been treated to revisionist takes on the family for nearly two decades. JFK is portrayed as a skirt chaser supreme, but is this really news in 2010, especially for anyone who read "JFK: Reckless Youth," Nigel Hamilton's superb biographical portrait of Kennedy's early years? (Or who saw the 1993 ABC miniseries based on the book, which showed JFK visiting a whorehouse and, after being hospitalized for an exotic ailment, having spirited sex with a pretty young lass in the hospital morgue?)...

If the writers take liberties, it seems most likely that they've stretched the truth with Joe Sr., who if we are to believe their script, is a crass, Archie Bunker-style bigot who regularly fondles his secretary's breasts and calls Jews "kikes," Italians "wops" and refers to Sammy Davis Jr. as a "one-eyed spook." Joe Sr. also offers Jackie a $1-million trust fund in return for keeping quiet about her husband's obvious infidelities and cuts a deal with mobster Sam Giancana, assuring him that if he helps deliver the Italian Catholic vote in the 1960 election he won't ever have to worry about any Justice Department or IRS scrutiny from a Kennedy administration....

I'm not saying that "The Kennedy's" is a great work of art. But it doesn't feel like a hit job either. And after seeing dozens upon dozens of recent films and documentaries that have dissected the war in Iraq, exposed secret CIA torture and delved into other political causes, all made by filmmakers with impeccable liberal credentials, I don't think think it would be the end of the world to be subjected to one lone miniseries made by someone from the right side of the political dial....


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