Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 05:18 | SYDNEY
Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 05:18 | SYDNEY

On 'The Kennedys'


Sam Roggeveen


27 May 2011 13:42

I enjoyed Bob Carr's review of the mini-series 'The Kennedys', which began on the ABC last Sunday.

Based on the first episode alone, I would agree with Carr that the script is underwhelming. It seems weighed down with exposition, as if the writers are trying to hold the audience's hand, walking them methodically through the historical period, ticking off landmarks as they go. As a result, conversations seem stilted and unnatural, as if the actors are addressing the viewers rather than each other.

And yet, the producers of the series have toyed with parts of the historical record. Carr has a number of examples, and I picked up another. There's a scene set in Joe Kennedy Sr's office the day after the 1960 presidential election, in which Bobby and Jack walk in proudly to announce that Jack has won by the closest margin ever. Their father quips in reply that 'you didn't expect me to pay for a landslide, did you?'.

I'm quoting from memory there, but if that serves me correct, then the writers are being quite cheeky. That line, or something like it, was actually uttered by JFK himself in a 1958 speech in which he jokingly tried to deflect criticism that his father was bankrolling his political ambitions. The full quote is: 'I have just received the following wire from my generous Daddy. It says, Dear Jack: Don't buy a single vote more than is necessary. I'll be damned if I am going to pay for a landslide.'

So a quote that JFK made up as a joke has been put in the mouth of Joe Sr as if he actually said it. You could call that either a deliberate misrepresentation of history or a clever piece of dramatic licence to illustrate Joe's character. I actually favour the latter explanation.

Part two of 'The Kennedys' airs on ABC1 this Sunday at 8.30pm.