The eight-part mini-series "The Kennedys," starring Greg Kinnear and Katie Holmes as President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jackie, is set to debut tomorrow on the Reelz Channel.
After the History Channel dropped the series, saying it didn't fit the channel's brand, speculation about the series' historical accuracy grew, as did talk some members of the Kennedy family had sought to squash it.
But, according to TV Guide Business Editor Steve Battaglio, a prominent conservative and TV producer may have had a hand in the series' fate.
Battaglio told "Early Show on Saturday Morning" co-anchor Russ Mitchell "The Kennedys" is "the kind of old-school mini-series that the broadcast networks, ABC, CBS and NBC used to do. And it has very good production design. Some good performances. Costumes and hair, very authentic. But it's not groundbreaking, really, in any way, and certainly doesn't provide any revelations. Everything in the film has been published elsewhere. Or reported.
"I think the issue with the film is that there's a lot of conjecture in it, that's presented on a film that appears on the History Channel, which has staked itself as a place that is telling people about fact-based information."
How accurate was the portrayal in the series of the JFK/Jackie marriage?
"There are a couple of scenes that probably didn't happen at all," Battaglio replied. "They have Jackie and the children leaving the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Kennedy biographers and historians have said that never happened. The relationship, a sexual relationship, between the president and Marilyn Monroe is stated in the film. Again, that is conjecture.
"When you do a documentary, you could present all points of view on something like this. But (when) you put it in the film, and you're dramatizing it, you're compressing it and you're presenting it to the public as something that actually happened."
Battaglio says much of the series does seem to be historically on-target. "Actually," he told Mitchell, "the Kennedys are portrayed as principled and courageous throughout much of the film. The hour about the Cuban Missile Crisis, apparently, is very accurate. And it portrays them in a very positive light.
"I mean, the family was concerned about this film ... although no one's really come out and said who complained about what to History Channel. But the involvement of Joel Surnow, who was the producer who worked on "24" (on Fox), I think became the hot potato here. He's a stated Republican conservative, and I think what happens today is that, whenever something political is done, the -- there's a media questions about whether it has an agenda. That becomes debated. And it almost overwhelms the whole process of putting something like this on the air."
After the History Channel dumped the $25 million, Reelz picked it up, for $7 million. Wise business move?
"We'll find out!" Battaglio deadpanned. "Can anybody find the Reelz Channel if they want to watch this? It's a new channel. They're known for running movie trailers and a couple of shows about movies, and even an occasional film. But it's way up on the dial. I gather a lot of people are finding out about it the first time today. And from that standpoint, then, it's a success for them."
Out of five stars, Battaglio says, he'd give "The Kennedys" a two-and-a-half.