Television Listings

History miniseries takes on the Kennedys

By Nellie Andreeva

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The History cable network has cast its vote for "The Kennedys," developing an eight-hour miniseries about the iconic American clan.

The project, slated to begin production in the spring for a 2011 premiere, hails from "24" co-creator/executive producer Joel Surnow, a noted Hollywood conservative. It marks the channel's first foray into scripted programing.

"The Kennedys" revolves around John and Robert Kennedy, opening with the 1960 presidential election won by the former and ending with the 1968 assassination of the latter. It also features flashbacks to their earlier years, and depicts the brothers' relationship with their father, Joe, and their wives.

The story line draws parallels to "The Godfather": a manipulative, egocentric father determined to live out his own ambitions through his sons, who in turn spend their lives dancing to his tune while trying to stand on their own.

The big political events of the 1960s -- the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the civil rights movement -- will be featured in the miniseries, but "we will play them as background to the personal stories of the relationships between brother and brother and father and son," Surnow said.

Since the miniseries largely will shy away from the big conference rooms and well-documented speeches in favor of private conversations, research for the project wasn't easy, especially given History's strict requirements for accuracy.

All eight scripts were written by Kennedy scholar Stephen Kronish, a former "24" co-executive producer. He said he included private scenes only if they were supported by multiple sources, relied on public records as well as his own extensive library and previous Kennedy documentaries. No members of the Kennedy family or their inner circle have been interviewed.

"I didn't want this miniseries to be a Valentine -- there have been plenty of them -- neither did I want it to be a hatchet job," said Kronish, a self-professed liberal. "I think it is a fairly even-handed look at people who achieved big things at amazingly early ages. We're really trying to see them as people and to strip away some of the patina that has attached itself to them because of their early deaths and to show them, warts and all."

Canadian-based Muse Entertainment is producing the miniseries, whose budget is said to be in the $20 million-$25 million range, in association with Asylum Entertainment.

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