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"The Kennedys" Review: It's Not Entirely Katie's Fault

By Dustin Rowles | TV | April 5, 2011 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | April 5, 2011 |

After experiencing the first two hours of the new miniseries, “The Kennedys” — and it really is an “experience,” much like oral surgery or passing a gallstone out of your eyeball is an “experience” — you begin to understand why the History channel passed on the series. It’s not because the History channel was really worried about image or branding — the channel’s highest rated series are “Ice Road Truckers,” “Ax Men” and “UFO Hunters,” so the idea that a miniseries could tarnish their image any further is like saying that Kevin James passed up that third jelly donut because he was watching his figure. It’s not because “The Kennedys” is politically controversial, either — there’s nothing in the series that hasn’t been suggested, insinuated, rumored, or documented a thousand times before. Jack Kennedy liked to bang broads! Whoa! Step back! You’re blowing my mind!

No. The real reason that the History Channel passed on “The Kennedys” is because someone at the History Channel watched “The Kennedys.” Or, more likely, he watched the first two hours of “The Kennedys” and dumped the series so he wouldn’t have to watch anymore lest he be taken out behind the History Channel headquarters in a straitjacket.

Now, I know it’s going to be popular to want to blame Katie Holmes for the disaster that is “The Kennedys.” And there’s something to that. She’s terrible. It’s like, she’s focusing so hard on dropping the Rs that the Rs are all that come through. I’ve heard chainsaws do better Boston accents. In fact, there’s no rhyme or reason to her accent at all. In one scene, it’s a hybrid British/Ugandan accent, in another, it’s some sort of Trekkie language, and in another, she’s yelling “CUNT!” when she’s trying to say “Can’t.” I think at one point, she was speaking in clicks. But, it is a testament to Katie Holmes’ true acting ability that she can deliver the lines in that awful, wince-inducing accent without grimacing at her own voice. It’s unbelievable, really. If I were delivering her lines in that way that she is delivering them, there’s no way I could keep a straight face. That’s real actressin’.

But the truth is, at least in the first 2 hours, Katie Holmes is only in the movie for eight, nine minutes tops. Granted, during those eight or nine minutes, I could actually feel my ear drum pucker, like it’d eaten a sour lemon with a creamy manure center. But given her limited screentime, you could hardly lay all the blame on Holmes.

You could, however, turn your attention to Greg Kinnear’s hideous teeth implants, or even his accent, which fades in and out indiscriminately. Or the fact that 22-year-old Jack Kennedy is played by a younger man, while the 25-year-old Jack Kennedy is played by Kinnear, which suggests that Jack Kennedy had a very awkward, very late puberty that magically transformed him into a much older, smirkier guy that looks like he once hosted “Talk Soup.” Or you could blame Barry Pepper, who plays Robert Kennedy, for actually being in the film, and by virtue of existing, diminishing the quality of the series tenfold. That is the raw power of Barry Pepper.

You could also blame Tom Wilkinson, who plays the elder Joseph Kennedy, but that’d just be silly. Wilkinson is the jewel in this family crown of spit-up and phlegm. It’s not his fault — he needed the money to buy new toys for his sweet grandchildren. He’s actually perfect for the role — you can feel his resentment, embarrassment, and anger at having to deliver each and every one of his lines, and that anger actually plays quite well into the role of Joseph Kennedy.

In fact, it’s that Joseph Kennedy anger that the first two hours revolves around. The film’s premise, at least initially, is that Joe Kennedy wanted to be President himself, but couldn’t because he was Irish Catholic and, also, a terrible person. So, he instead focused all his attention and resentment on making his eldest son, Joe, the president. But Joe was killed in World War II, prompting Joseph to pull a cross off the wall and berate God while his wife stood by weeping buckets. Joe then decides to bully a reluctant Jack Kennedy into becoming president. And I mean, right after. As in, “Jack, Joe is dead. Now you’re going to have to President.” “What, Dad? Me? I just want to bird-dog skirts!” “Shut-up, Jack! You’re going to be President. Because you’re a Kennedy! And Kennedys never come in second!” So, Joseph pulled some strings, threw around a lot of money, cheated a little, and Presto! Jack Kennedy was a Congressman.

But that journey from Congressman to the Presidency wasn’t an easy one. Jack Kennedy had one huge flaw, so posited “The Kennedys.” And that was his dangly bits, which were always cocking him up. He met Jackie Bouvier, and Jackie Bouvier charmed him with incoherent side-mouth garble, and Jack was in love. The problem, of course, was that Jack Kennedy couldn’t keep it in his pants. And later, after they were married, when Jackie threatened to leave Jack because of his wandering penis-hole, Joseph stepped in and offered her $1 million to not file divorce. Jackie refused the offer, saying “You CUNT burrrr meerrr orfff.” So Joseph offered her the role of First Lady instead, and Jackie said, “Arrrrrr Yesss. Arrrrr!”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how Jack Kennedy became the youngest president of the United States. If you can find it on your television dial, tune in to the ReelzChannel tonight for part two of this riveting train wreck, in which Jack Kennedy hires his own assassin to avoid any more pirate lectures from his wife. Arrrrr.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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