America's so-called royal family was said to have got it cancelled – but after a brief period in television limbo, a controversial mini-series charting the life of the Kennedys has found a new home.
The show, also named The Kennedys, stars Katie Holmes as Jackie Kennedy and Greg Kinnear as JFK himself. It was billed as a warts-and-all look at "the public and private joys and tragedies of the most influential family in the world". After the History Channel abruptly changed its mind about screening the eight-part series, complaining that it was "not fit for the History brand", fledgling cable station ReelzChannel seized on the opportunity of a little notoriety and booked the multimillion dollar drama in for an April debut. The show had been dropped after suggestions that the real-life Kennedy family and associates were unhappy about the series. Caroline Kennedy, daughter of Jackie and JFK, reportedly led the bid to get the series axed.
The drama initially attracted controversy before filming even started, with John F Kennedy's advisor Theodore Sorenson calling the script "malicious". The multi-generational series, executive produced by 24 creator Joel Surnow, is said to touch on the former president's infidelities and the strain in his marriage.
The script was then revised and edited by prominent historians for accuracy. The Hollywood Reporter, which obtained the first instalment of the series, said the script "differed significantly in key areas from script details which appeared online last year".
It said the hour-long opening episode was "certainly melodramatic in parts" and contained allusions to John F Kennedy's "pill-popping and womanising". Reports continued that behind the scenes, members of the Kennedy family were lobbying the channel to drop the project. One source told The Hollywood Reporter that a senior executive at A&E Television Networks, parent company of the History Channel, was personally lobbied by Caroline Kennedy.
After the series was dropped from the History channel, the Showtime channel in the US also passed on it. Now four-year-old ReelzChannel, available in 60 million homes, will broadcast the series. And while the drama may have been deemed too risky for the US version of the History Channel, the same moral caution does not apply internationally: it will be licenced to the channel's counterparts in 30 territories worldwide, including the UK.