Last Night's TV: The Kennedys/History
Dad's Having a Baby: a Bodyshock Special/Channel 4
Botox Britain: Your Face in Their Hands/BBC3
Friday 08 April 2011
Whoosh. What a disappointment. I was far too keen to watch The Kennedys. Spurred both by its documentation-via-paparazzi (that's what happens when you cast Katie Holmes as Jackie) and subsequent American cancellation (purportedly) at the hands of an irate Kennedy clan, I had invested levels of excitement usually reserved for HBO's Next Big Thing. This couldn't have been less appropriate. The Kennedys is many things – lusciously filmed, richly sound tracked – but exciting isn't one of them. Neither is good.
First: the scandal. When the plug was pulled, the assumption was politics. Eh? There wasn't a whiff of it last night. Instead, the Kennedys just don't come off very nicely. Joseph Sr is a morally dubious patriarch, pushing his sons against their will and openly cheating on his wife. His sons are jealous and competitive. JFK gets his place in the Senate thanks largely to his father's funds and his campaign's dirty tricks. So, yeah, not hugely flattering but nothing to set the world alight.
None of this would matter, of course, if the rest of the show was any good. It's not. Katie Holmes is woefully underwhelming as Jackie, compensating for what she lacks in depth by continually – distractingly – mugging for the camera. How much of this is her, and how much is poor direction is not clear. It's a tick repeated throughout the cast.
The exception is the wonderful Tom Wilkinson. His Joseph Sr isn't just plausible but also compelling, to the extent that, for all his nasty traits, he becomes the one you're rooting for. Greg Kinnear, as the prodigal son, is OK too. But for a drama of such epic proportions – it will play out in two-hour instalments over the next few weeks – it's not nearly enough.
In Dad's Having a Baby, we met Scott and Tom, a happily married couple with two adopted sons. Things, however, were more complicated than they seemed. For one thing, Scott and Tom used to be women. For another, they were expecting a baby.
There are many families a child wouldn't want to be born into – this, though, isn't one of them. If anyone needed testimony, they need look no further than Logan and Greg, the couple's adopted sons. Greg is autistic and struggles at school. Yet in spite of this, he and Logan remain confident, charming young boys. "Do you have an unusual family?" Greg was asked. "Nah," came the breezy reply.
All this is blown apart when a fire destroys the family home. Tom and Scott move to Bible belt New Mexico, where they find themselves wilfully allowing neighbours to assume that they're brothers to avoid any lurking prejudices – prejudices displayed when Greg is sent home from school after claiming one of his dads is to give birth.
It was all rather fascinating, and more than a little moving. But, of course, there was a reason for that Bodyshock title. So, when we weren't being given a genuinely touching and really quite revelatory documentary, we were getting shots of the happy couple in bed, their (considerable) chests bared to the world. Or near-nude interviews conducted in the shower. It was unnecessary, and it was there to entertain, detracting from – though, happily, not ruining – the rest of the programme.
Botox Britain rather missed the boat, didn't it? These days, it's all about renouncing the needle, giving interviews apologising for your chemically frozen face and promising to regain control of your eyebrows (cf Dannii Minogue, Nicole Kidman et al). Someone should probably tell Jemma, too. Now 23, and a devoted patron of Liverpool's Lecce Beach, she said she loves getting her lips done because it "feels like someone's just punched you in the mouth", a logic about which the less said the better, I think.
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