class=”alignleft size-thumbnail wp-image-82664″ title=”*Jan 01 – 00:00*05_Flatbed_WEB” src=”×150.jpg” alt=”” width=”220″ height=”150″ />When the screener for the first two episodes of The Kennedys arrived I was honestly excited, for here sits a person whose university dissertation was entitled ‘Goodbye Norma Jean’ and focussed on that period of US history which the Kennedy family led America and gave hope to the world.

For me and for many others, the Kennedys have an enduring appeal, as much for their expressed political values as for their imperfections and I have found them compelling despite these.  This is pretty much the mindset that one needs to apply to this series.  The series begins on The History Channel tonight after a reportedly chequered journey to the screen, already denounced by the family it depicts and much maligned crtiically as a poor version of a very good story.  Despite all this I quite liked it.

This TV bound series, part family biopic, part political drama, part history play can more readily be defined by what it is not.  It is in no way shocking, ground breaking or epic.  The main actors (Greg Kinnear as Jack, Barry Pepper as Bobby, Tom Wilkinson as Joe and, of course, Katie Homes as Jackie) seem uncertain of themselves, like children caught playing dress-up in mummy’s room.  There is much chin scratching, many hands wrung and determined, desperate looks given but there is a disconnect.  The actors look like the characters they have been cast as, sounds like them, but there is no punch to their performances.  This is a family that has been well documented in film, was among the first to be captured in the press and is much loved around the world, so the look and feel is very important and although the production values are high, nothing here seems lovingly done.

Stephen Kronish’s script struggles to maintain pace while some of the most beautifully crafted sentences ever written in modern politics (“Ask not what your country can do for you” for instance) are delivered without build up and fall rather limply at the audience waiting for us to fill in the blanks of scenes that could have made this a joined up, well told story, but sadly must have perished on the cutting room floor.   Above all the series seems confused as to the focus and does not seem to make the connections between telling the story of Joe’s relationships with his sons and family, Jack’s presidency or his philandering, or Boddy’s morality.  It has been put together in such a way that had I known better I would have been surprised that Jack was interested in politics at all, or going through the motions to please his dad.  If my knowledge of the family was derived from this series alone, I doubt I would have much cared.

The series receives a 8.4/10 scoring on iMBD and having seen only the first four episodes I can only assume it improves as it goes on.  As the episodes that follow cover JFK’s and RFK’s deaths, it cannot fail to be compelling.  Bobby’s speech, in which he quotes the Greek poet Aeschylus, after the assassination of Martin Luther King can still give me goosebumps: “Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”  With a tale so sad and such potential and hope quashed who can fail but tune in?  I know I will be watching, for the story it is telling rather than for the success with which tells it.