The fizzles of October

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Hey, remember that supposedly incendiary JFK miniseries that was coming to the History Channel?

It isn’t.

At the 11th hour, the network has nixed the controversial program, which Robert Greenwald and others had assailed as a smear job guided more by executive producer Joel Surnow’s well-documented right-wing bona fides than by anything resembling historical accuracy.

No one’s saying precisely why the show got the boot, especially as History Channel brass had made a big investment in it and gone to great lengths to defend its content (or at least, the content of later drafts of its script, which the network had huffed weren’t nearly as Satanic as the earlier versions the naysayers saw). The official cancellation statement only says that The Kennedys is a “dramatic interpretation” that is “not a fit for the History brand.”

Nice how they leave it to you to supply the real-world translation: “This thing’s slavering Joe-baiting is so off-the-charts that even we wouldn’t put our name on it. Funny we didn’t notice until we were cutting the trailer.”

Yeah, so why axe it now? Obviously, Robert Greenwald’s sway over the national discussion is righteous and absolute, which is something I think to myself every time I get lost in my local Walmart. But maybe we should also put some stock in the murmurings that the History Channel’s parent, A&E Television Networks, caved to pressure from the Kennedy family. It wouldn’t be all that far-fetched, given that Tim Shriver sits on the board of the Special Olympics with A&E board member Anne Sweeney.

You know what? That ticks me off a little. I’m certainly not down with the neocons’ desperate agenda to sully JFK’s name whenever the opportunity presents itself, but I’m also not crazy about American dynasties of any stripe being able to silence dissent, no matter how mean-spirited and inaccurate such dissent might be. And when a political family with a P.R. connection to special-needs kids can dictate the programming at a major cable network, I get really antsy. Because that’s the Palins’ job.

And what of The Kennedys’ artistic value? The aforementioned trailer is embedded at The Hollywood Reporter, and from the looks of it, we’ll be missing out on some craptastic docufarce. (Greg Kinnear’s Massachusetts dialect makes Leo DiCaprio sound like Darrell Hammond. Hey, Greg: Pahk this in Hahvahd Yahd!) Then again, maybe we won’t be denied after all, as rumors are flying that the miniseries will end up on a net with even less ethics and decency – or, as it’s listed in your satellite guide, Showtime. And Canada will definitely get the The Kennedys in March, which should be a nice way to pay them back for April Wine.

Meanwhile, the History Channel can return its soapbox to the people who really deserve it: overweight Rhode Islanders who swear their house is haunted.

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