The Kennedys fares poorly in comparison to The West Wing
BBC TV series can only trundle its way to various fiery denouements
Were you to catch a distant earful of the string-laden theme tune for The Kennedys (BBC2, Fri, 9pm), and glimpse, out the corner of one eye, some swimmy stars and stripes, you could be half-forgiven for thinking that someone has stuck on a West Wing DVD. The vision of a progressive future encapsulated in Jed Bartlet’s Oval Office rose as much from the ghostly embers of JFK and brother Bobby as it did from the Clinton/Gore period. But The Kennedys version of an (Irish) American Dream soured by vaulting ambition and a default setting marked ‘tragedy’ is not the product of a Hollywood liberal such as Aaron Sorkin, but from the vantage point of executive producer Joel Surnow, the self-proclaimed ‘right-wing nutjob’ whose 24 enflamed American pride during the War on Terror and virtually gave the thumbs-up to torture and extraordinary rendition.
When this project was aired by the History Channel, liberal commentators were outraged at what they saw as the depiction of JFK as a man driven purely by his libido and chipping away at the Democrat’s genuine achievements. Where The Kennedys falls down against the weight of The West Wing is that while Sorkin’s drama weaved tension with each successive season, The Kennedys can only trundle its way to various fiery denouements, amid the sound of gunfire on a Dallas street and in a Los Angeles hotel lobby.