Past is Prologue

Clint Schemmer writes about history, heritage preservation and the American Civil War.  On Facebook: Past is Prologue  On Twitter: @prologuepast  ContactEmail Clint or call 540/374-5424.

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TV’s Treatment of JFK Assassination’s 50th Anniversary

MORE: Read more news from Fredericksburg

Well, we promised Friday’s Free Lance-Star readers I’d have a bit more to say here about “JFK,” the new documentary on John F. Kennedy forthcoming Monday from the talented folks at “American Experience” at PBS.

In short, this superb piece of programming ranks up there with the very best I’ve seen on “American Experience.” And I’ve been watching the award-winning program for many years.

Its opening sequence, which segues from the frantic fright of the Cuban Missile Crisis to , pulls you right in and sweeps the viewer along.

The documentary’s writing by Mark Zwonitzer is taut, the cinematography is riveting, and the musical score is beautiful, even haunting.

Those are just a few summary impressions; I’ll have more later today.

Meanwhile, here’s a sampling of recent write-ups on this must-see, two-part special, and other programming keyed to the half-century mark of those horrible events in Dallas:

FORBES: ‘The biopic doesn’t tiptoe around JFK’s well-known affairs. “We don’t name names,” says [director and producer Susan] Bellows, “but we don’t dodge the womanizing. Nor does the film whitewash his well-known political failures, like the Bay of Pigs debacle, which is covered in great depth.’

and: “Right around the time Bellows and company began their research, about two years ago, new books, documents and videos about the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs came out, as well as Kennedy’s medical records. As a result, the documentary covers new ground and offers startling revelations.”

HOLLYWOOD REPORTERDepicting tensions between America and the U.S.S.R., as [historian Timothy] Naftali sees it, is the most difficult aspect to telling the story of Kennedy to younger viewers. “The biggest challenge for us explaining the cold war is the physiological element,” he said, noting that some details can’t be expressed by facts. “I think we’re looking at this, trying to be a comprehensive portrait that’s drawing on all of the latest scholarship.”

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: “The assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, not only changed the course of America, it changed the course of television. The flickering black-and-white glow from tens of millions of TV sets linked the country in shock, disbelief and grief. So it’s fitting that television will look back repeatedly on that terrible moment as we move into the 50th-anniversary month.”

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS:  ”On his first day on the Richmond, Va., set of “Killing Kennedy,” Rob Lowe saw Ginnifer Goodwin donning a replica of the pink suit worn by first lady Jacqueline Kennedy when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Immediately, the intensity and the reality of what they were about to depict in the film hit home.”

USA TODAY: A quick rundown on the lineup of TV programs that will mark the 50th anniversary of the president’s murder, including National Geographic Channel’s movie Killing Kennedy, based on the book by Bill O’Reilly and starring Rob Lowe, Nov. 10 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: The PBS program’s website, in addition to preview videos, offers a further-reading booklist, a bunch of related websites, and a wealth of primary-document material on Kennedy and his presidency, for those who like to read the facts themselves.

NEWSOK: The Oklahoman’s Melissa Hayer puts video summaries of PBS’ specials on Kennedy in one handy spot.

THE WASHINGTON POST: A quick viewing guide, with Post TV critic Hank Stuever’s starred recommendations.

HANK STUEVER makes some pithy observations, including: “Since everyone seems to be in the business of knowing what Kennedy thought, I wonder why none of the documentaries asks one of its public intellectuals the following question: What would Kennedy say about our fascination with his presidency, and especially the grisly details of his tragic death, five decades on?”

HARTFORD HISTORY EXAMINER: “Of the many television specials, mini-series and news shows airing this month, however, none are as thoroughly researched, as comprehensive, or as honest as JFK, the newest installment in The American Experience series on public television.”

VARIETY: Brian Lowry says, ‘ “National Geographic Channel’s decision to air “Killing Kennedy” timed to the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination was a no-brainer. That’s also an apt description of this once-over-lightly treatment, which alternates between Kennedy and Oswald with nary a fresh beat, dutifully replicating scenes with all the finesse of reality-show reenactments.’




  • Michael Blevins

    Magic bullet ??? I think not.