What's so objectionable about The Kennedys that the family felt it must be pulled from TV? For starters, Joe Sr. fondles a secretary in front of his sons, bribes Jackie, and smashes a crucifix — all in the first episode!
The miniseries looks like a standard Kennedy family biopic in the trailer, yet for some reason Caroline Kennedy and Maria Shriver (allegedly) lobbied TV executives to remove the show from the History Channel's lineup. Now The Daily Beast has obtained an early copy of the script from the first episode, which contains eight crazy scenes that presumably left the family fuming.
According to Jace Lacob, the episode shows JFK from his college days to his presidential campaign and focuses on "the Svengali-like grip that Joe Kennedy held over his sons." In one scene, while dictating a note recommending Europeans make concessions to Hitler to keep the peace,
Joe Sr. fondles his secretary in his office at the ambassador's residence in London in 1938. As he dictates a note to the president, Joe "fondles her breasts" and "nuzzles her neck." When sons Joe Jr. and Jack enter his office, Joe Sr. continues his fondling as his sons look on, "amused."
Several other scenes show Joe Sr. openly cheating on his wife in front of his sons, and Rose herself. All the Kennedy men are painted as womanizers, but it isn't as if this has never been portrayed on screen before. In fact, it's one of the main themes of the delightfully trashy made-for-TV fanfic JFK: Reckless Youth, which aired on ABC in 1993. It seems more likely that the surviving Kennedys objected to an official History Channel production giving credence to the long-standing rumor that JFK stole the 1960 election. The Kennedys depicts Joe Sr. enlisting the help of Chicago mobster Sam Giancana to win Jack's presidential election, telling him to "get names off of tombstones for all I give a damn." There's also a scene that sullies Jackie's reputation, which Lacob describes:
In September 1953, while at Hyannisport, Joe Sr. tells Jackie he knows her grandfather was a Jew, changing his name from Levy to Lee so that he "could get a job on Wall Street." In the same conversation, Jackie tells Joe Sr. she wants a divorce from Jack. In order to keep the two together, Joe Sr. offers Jackie a $1 million trust, with the promise that if Jack doesn't win presidency, she can leave him and keep the money.
All of this makes it easier to see why A&E Television Networks would declare that the "dramatic interpretation [was] not a fit for the History brand." The program will still run in Canada, but so far FX, Starz, and Showtime have all passed on it. American viewers will probably get to see the miniseries eventually, whether on another cable channel or a straight-to-DVD release, but it seems the real-life Kennedys have successfully ensured no one will consider it a work of history, whether or not the rumors are true.
8 Crazy Scenes From The Kennedys [The Daily Beast]
TV Weekend; More on John F. Kennedy, With Patrick Dempsey [NYT]