'The Kennedys': A dynasty in stick figures

In this publicity image released by ReelzChannel, Greg In this publicity image released by ReelzChannel, Greg Kinnear portrays John F. Kennedy, left, and Katie Holmes portrays Jacqueline Kennedy in a scene from the eight-part movie, "The Kennedys," premiering Sunday, April 3, 2011 on the ReelzChannel network. (AP Photo/ReelzChannel) Photo Credit: AP Photo/

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REVIEW

REASON TO WATCH: Controversial miniseries that History pulled reportedly after pressure from Kennedy supporters.

WHEN/WHERE: Sunday at 8 p.m. (then Tuesday-Friday and next Friday) on ReelzChannel. (Reelz is available on DirecTV, Dish Network, Time Warner Cable and FiOs.)

THE MINISERIES "The Kennedys"

WHEN | WHERE Sunday at 8 p.m. (then Tuesday-Friday and next Friday) on ReelzChannel. (Reelz is available on DirecTV, Dish Network, Time Warner Cable and FiOs.)

REASON TO WATCH Controversial miniseries that History pulled reportedly after pressure from Kennedy supporters.

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WHAT IT'S ABOUT As originally described by History, this eight-hour film was designed as "history through personality," with lead personality Joseph P. Kennedy as a "Godfather"-like figure who "was determined to live out his own ambitions through his sons." Sunday night, Joe Kennedy (Tom Wilkinson) explains to a young Jack (Greg Kinnear, in later episodes) -- the fulcrum of his ambitions -- that "this Mick is going to the White House," referring to himself. Joe decides Bobby's (Barry Pepper) role is mostly to protect Jack. Jackie (Katie Holmes) later tells Joe she plans to divorce Jack, and the old man reflexively does what he always does in this program -- try to buy her off. Later episodes revolve around the Bay of Pigs invasion, mob ties, JFK's drug use, Marilyn Monroe and civil rights.

MY SAY When a completed $25-million miniseries is rejected by a network, at the very least you'd like to think it was for cause -- that History found something so scurrilous that viewers simply had to be protected from its monstrous lies. But the only thing that's shocking here is just how bad the dialogue is. "The Kennedys" often plays like a B-movie with unintentional aspirations to be a C one. Protagonists speak only to a) move the story forward or b) reveal some facet, preferably uncomplimentary, of their character.

Everyone -- JFK included -- is a stick figure in service to a larger story or point of view. The producers (including "24's" Joel Surnow, an avowed conservative) certainly yielded to the temptation to paint their canvas in shades of black -- Joe is a racist Svengali, Bobby a mama's boy, Jack a dullard who emerges in the Oval Office as someone with barely a political past or thought in his head.

With material this thin, the actors can only do a competent job of mimicry. Mimicry is about all you'll get.

BOTTOM LINE Hokey biopic, tepid drama

GRADE C-

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