Channel hop

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 September, 2011, 12:00am


People tend to look back at the past through rose-coloured glasses, preferring to remember the good rather than the bad. A good example is the American public's reverence for John F. Kennedy, seen as one of the 20th century's most progressive- and attractive- leaders.

The Kennedys (History; Mondays at 9pm) is a four-part, eight-hour miniseries that shows a different side to JFK's America's one-time first family as they rose to power while dealing with personal and professional problems. We're not sure whether the show seeks to balance our view of the famed family or simply muddle it, but, either way, it makes a tedious and unconvincing job of it.

Events open on election night in 1960, with Senator John F. Kennedy (Greg Kinnear; Little Miss Sunshine) awaiting the results with his long-suffering campaign manager, brother Bobby (Barry Pepper; True Grit), elegant wife, Jackie (Katie Holmes; Batman Begins), and egocentric father, Joseph Snr (Tom Wilkinson; The Green Hornet).

Numerous lengthy flashbacks during the opening two-hour episode explain how and why JFK came to be in the running for leadership of the free world. After failing to reach office himself in the 1930s, Joe Snr manoeuvred his sons into politics- first selecting his eldest son, Joe Jnr, for greatness. But when Joe was killed during the second world war, Jack (JFK) was asked to put his own dreams aside to become the vehicle for his father's political ambitions.

Many will take issue with the way The Kennedys is scripted. The screenplay feels like a checklist of significant events within the clan, and these larger-than-life figures often feel like they're reduced to caricatures. Despite Wilkinson's talent as an actor, Joe Snr comes across as a villain in horn-rimmed glasses who plays his sons like puppets while fondling his secretary's bottom. The lack of chemistry between Kinnear and Holmes gives short shrift to the weight of the relationship between JFK and Jackie. Pepper, meanwhile, provides the lone credible performance.

Without feeling we're getting a genuine insight into this great American family during its short but memorable reign, it's hard to recommend investing eight hours of your time in this clunky drama.

Any parent would recoil in horror at the idea of their child being switched at birth and that they've been raising someone else's offspring. The aptly titled family drama Switched at Birth (Star World, Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm) explores such a scenario through the story of two teenage girls who learn they were raised by each other's parents.

Bay Kennish (Vanessa Marano; right; Gilmore Girls) lives with a wealthy family, attends a private school and expresses her creative and rebellious nature via graffiti art. Daphne Vasquez (Katie Leclerc) is living with a single, recovering-alcoholic mother who is struggling financially. She has been deaf since the age of three and is an A-student and athlete at a special school for hearing-impaired children.

When Bay begins to question her place in her family, they discover there was a mix- up at the hospital. Let the drama begin (and it really does).

The series doesn't dwell on the actual revelation of the mix-up - the two families agree to meet at a counsellor's office within the opening minutes of the pilot episode.

The three parents and the two girls come up with a short-term solution: Daphne and Regina (Bay's biological mother) are invited to live in the Kennish's guest house. The close proximity is supposed to give the fami- lies a chance to get to know one another but this proves challenging for all involved, and entertaining and insightful for us, the viewers. The mothers butt heads almost immediately over parenting issues and, more importantly, over where the lines need to be drawn as co-parents.

Strong, heartfelt performances all round help anchor the series' outlandish premise. After the slightly abrupt treatment of the revelation, the opening episode becomes as compelling as it is playfully confusing. We plan to find out if the dust settles.