Fact vs. Fiction

I remember being surprised when The History Channel began running promos of what appeared to be yet another miniseries about the Kennedy family with the rather salacious tagline that it would go behind closed doors to reveal the inner goings-on.

The History Channel is associated largely with factual data, documentary-style programming with newsreels and, pre-movie, still photographs or drawings. What were they doing producing a miniseries? There's always more than one cringe-worthy scene when miniseries are based on real people, usually the scenes involving pillow talk that are obviously clearly the product of the screenwriters' imaginations, not based on fact. Much of the everyday scenes are simply invented, or dramatic license taken with the actual unfolding of events, and they don't always sit well with the families of those being portrayed. You might recall a number of years back, how the mother of the late Melvin Franklin sued the the producers of The Temptations miniseries for depicting her son passing away in her Detroit kitchen in a wheelchair when he actually died in the hospital (I believe in L.A.).

The Kennedys as a whole have been written about to distraction, remarkable when you consider that not one of them ever wrote their memoirs. Did Jackie every have a phone conversation with Marilyn Monroe? Who knows...but its been depicted onscreen. Did Jackie threaten to leave JFK because of his philandering? Who knows...but a showdown makes for good entertainment, right?

I remember thinking that something didn't quite ring true when one of the productions had Jackie making the suggestion that JFK, only weeks before the 1960 election, call Coretta Scott King and offer assistance after Martin Luther King was sentenced to four months of hard labor in a Georgia prison camp for a traffic infraction. In Kennedy brother-in-law Sargent Shriver's obituary earlier this week, it stated that this suggestion actually came from him. (This is probably mean of me to say, but Jacqueline Kennedy just didn't strike me as being the type to be concerned about such matters as civil rights of black people.)

Anyway, the thought of airing a miniseries loaded with creative license simply wasn't in keeping with The History Channel's reputation. So I, for one, wasn't surprised when they announced that they would not be showing the miniseries after all. With other networks passing on the opportunity to air the show, citing numerous historial inaccuracies, this was a costly blunder for The History Channel for sure. As for inaccuracies, I recall one Kennedy reenactment showing Bobby Kennedy sitting outside by his pool in shirtsleeves when he received word of his brother's having been shot in Dallas...and Bobby Kennedy's residence was in Virginia. Anyone who knows Virginia weather knows that in late November you just don't sit poolside, and I was very surprised no one caught that.

I've got a feeling the miniseries will pop up somewhere, even go to DVD. I'm rather looking forward to it. My husband is a history buff, and we'll get a kick out of determining which scenes Kennedy staffers and intimates objected to as being false.


PatriciaW said...

My Hubby is big on history too, and particularly the Kennedys. Hadn't heard about this one, but doesn't seem like History Channel fare. More like A&E or Bravo.

bettye griffin said...

Sounds like our husbands have more in common than their first name, Patricia!