Glad I'm not a Kennedy

By Sarah Lang

Prepare for a glut of JFK TV, warns Sarah Lang

Rob Lowe as President John F. Kennedy and Ginnifer Goodwin as Jackie Kennedy in 'Killing Kennedy'.
Rob Lowe as President John F. Kennedy and Ginnifer Goodwin as Jackie Kennedy in 'Killing Kennedy'.

What fascinates so many of us about John F. Kennedy? What grips those of us not yet born when he died? Those of us looking at him only through the lens of history, or the History Channel? Perhaps it's the clear charisma, charm, cheekiness and conviction of the man who became America's most-popular modern president, a martyred hero, then an acronym. Perhaps it's his soap-opera life. The perfectly coiffed Mrs Kennedy. The philandering. The affair with Marilyn Monroe. The so-called Kennedy curse. Perhaps it's his awful - and awfully public - end, shot by a sniper as his open-top limousine crawled through Dallas. Probably it's all of the above.

Certainly, few events have been more scrutinised, documented and fictionalised - and not just because conspiracy theorists think Lee Harvey Oswald was a scapegoat. Even without that, the story fascinates us. And TV networks know it.

Now that the 50th anniversary of JFK's death is upon us, good luck avoiding the tsunami of shows coming to the small screen. And not just on the anniversary, Friday.

Over the next eight days, Sky alone is screening 15 JFK programmes over five channels, from BBC Knowledge "Uncovered" special JFK's Women: Scandals Revealed (Sunday week, 8.30pm) to the History Channel's programme JFK Assassination: The Definitive Guide (Saturday, 8.30pm), about who Americans think did it.

The History Channel may win on sheer numbers (six shows in nine days), but National Geographic Channel (NGC) has got JFK into three consecutive 7.30pm timeslots.

Wednesday's is JFK: The Final Hours, a documentary that interviews people whose lives brushed his (and Oswald's) that day. Thursday's is JFK: Seven Days That Made a President, a documentary on the seven moments that shaped the man.

Prefer a feature film? NGC, best known for its factual shows, figured now is the hour for a telemovie . Killing Kennedy drew 3.4 million US viewers last week: a network ratings record. The "global television event," screens here Tuesday night. Rob Lowe plays JFK, Ginnifer Goodwin with a bouffant as Jackie, and Will Rothhaar as Oswald.

Based on a bestselling book, Killing Kennedy re-enacts the events that set these two men on a collision course with each other and history. Depicting their marriages is presumably meant to add human interest. We see Jackie's pain at Kennedy's philandering, but that's overshadowed by sappy declarations of love and family picnics. In Oswald's case, his alleged physical and verbal abuse of Russian wife Marina (Michelle Trachtenberg) takes centrestage. But nothing rings true, and it offers nothing new.

Killing Kennedy, National Geographic Channel on Tuesday, 7.30pm.

- Herald on Sunday

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