"Kennedys" mini-series dubbed "strange" effort

Greg Kinnear and Katie Holmes as JFK and Jackie in the mini-series 'The Kennedys.' The Kennedys

"The Kennedys," the much-discussed new mini-series starring Greg Kinnear as JFK and Katie Holmes as Jacquie Kennedy begins airing next weekend.

The eight-part drama will be shown on the little-known network ReelzChannel, after the History Channel tossed it and several others passed on it.

Some reports say members of the Kennedy family, particularly Caroline Kennedy and Maria Shriver, pressured the History Channel not to air it, while others say historians had too many issues with the accuracy of the series. But at least one pundit says its quality - or lack thereof - may have played a role.

The ReelzChannel paid $7 million to air the $25 million production, Newsweek Senior Writer Ramin Setoodeh told "Early Show on Saturday Morning" co-anchor Russ Mitchell.

"The History Channel," Setoodeh said, "kills it because they say, suddenly, out of the blue, they say it's not part of their brand, having watched it. They didn't really criticize the acting or the production or the directing. But you know, kind of implied that there's something wrong with the movie, and it goes from network-to-network-to-network, and everyone (rejected) it."

Setoodeh says he doesn't think "we're gonna really know" whether the reports of pressure from the Kennedy family are true, "and even the producer of the mini-series says he's not gonna really know what led them not to air it. But I think if the quality was great, I think if it was well-done, well-acted, and they thought they could make money off of it, I don't think they would have pulled it."

Casting Holmes, whom Mitchell called a Jackie lookalike, "sort of added this tabloid element to the entire production," Setoodeh observed. "Every time Katie Holmes would come out in a Jackie Kennedy outfit, all the tabloids would run pictures of it. And then, it sort of became a little bit of a punch line. It looked like she was playing dress-up. And on-screen, she doesn't really have -- it's a very difficult thing to play a real person, a real, living person that we all know. But she doesn't really have the gravitas to pull off the role. And the accent, it's a little silly -- for eight hours, it's a long time to be, you know, watching her play this character in the way that she does."

Setoodeh confirmed that historians looked at the script, adding that producers have "toned down the more controversial elements when you watch it now. But, you know, it's still -- Joe Kennedy kind of comes off as a caricature. Sort of like a Karl Rove figure. And you know, I don't -- I mean, I only watched the first five hours. I have three hours left to go. But I don't really think people are going to tune in until the very end."

The first five hours, Setoodeh said, were "not very good. It's not very, you know, it's sort of -- it's a strange production. The characters are kind of over-the-top. There's not a lot of characters. It's not very believable. And you kind of roll your eyes at some parts, because it's really cheesy."

So many channels passed on "The Kennedys" there was some thought, Setoodeh noted, it would go straight to DVD. But, he said, "It's a lot of free advertising for (ReelzChannel). I don't think most people were watching the ReelzChannel. They say their viewership went up from about 3 million to about 5-and-a-half million just since they acquired the movie in January. And they're hoping about 12 million people will watch it."

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