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'Kennedys' miniseries pulled by History Channel

Family members and their friends had objected strenuously to the eight-part show. It will still play in Canada and other countries, and could find a home on another U.S. outlet.

January 08, 2011|By Joe Flint, Los Angeles Times

The Kennedys have no one left serving on Capitol Hill, but the family may still have enough clout to prevent a miniseries about the dynasty from airing in the United States.

In a statement Friday, the History Channel said it had decided not to air "The Kennedys," an eight-part miniseries that stars Greg Kinnear as President Kennedy, Katie Holmes as his wife, Jacqueline, and Barry Pepper as Robert F. Kennedy.

"While the film is produced and acted with the highest quality, after viewing the final product in its totality, we have concluded this dramatic interpretation is not a fit for the History brand," the network said in a statement. "We recognize historical fiction is an important medium for storytelling and commend all the hard work and passion that has gone into the making of the series, but ultimately deem this as the right programming decision for our network."

The History Channel had not set an air date for the miniseries. It is still scheduled to premiere in March in Canada and will show elsewhere around the world. The production companies that made the program, Asylum Entertainment and Muse Entertainment, are free to try to sell it to another U.S. outlet.

Heavy lobbying by the family and friends played a key role in getting the project yanked, according to sources close to the project who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak. The miniseries was produced by Joel Surnow, a political conservative who was creator of the Fox network action show "24."

People close to the Kennedys got an early script for the program and immediately objected. The late Theodore Sorensen, a senior advisor to President Kennedy, had called the draft a "one-sided right-wing script" that was "vindictive" and "malicious," speaking in a short film about the project made by documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald. Some had managed to view the first few episodes of the completed program.

The sources said Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the late president, also appealed to Anne Sweeney, a top television executive at Walt Disney Co., one of the three companies that co-own History Channel. The other co-owners are NBC Universal and Hearst Corp. Caroline Kennedy has a book deal with Disney's publishing unit, Hyperion.

The controversy is similar to the struggle over a 2003 miniseries on President Reagan. When Reagan supporters objected to the portrayal, CBS declined to air the program, though it was shown on a sister channel, the premium pay channel Showtime.

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