By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Apr 05, 2011 at 11:00 AM

After watching the eight-hour miniseries "The Kennedys," I can honestly say there was absolutely no need for all the controversy that surrounded what had originally been a project for The History Channel.

The docudrama, airing on ReelzChannel, certainly isn't great television, but it's not terrible. As a history buff, I found it generally watchable, if sometimes a bit melodramatic. Overall, it reminded me of the kind of miniseries that network TV used to run routinely back in the 1980s.

I can't imagine that anyone who watches "The Kennedys" isn't already aware of JFK's pill-popping, skirt-chasing ways. And anybody who has done a little reading is aware that his old man, Joe Kennedy, was the ruthless, driving force behind the family business -- which had turned to politics by the late 1940s.

So there's no fear of shock. There are no real attempts at revelations, and the murdered president comes off as a memorable leader, despite his personal weaknesses.

When it comes to the acting, there's more imitation than inhabiting of the roles. Greg Kinnear looks, talks and acts like John F. Kennedy. But he doesn't have the heart of the guy that grabbed so many people. Katie Holmes is pretty good as Jackie Kennedy, and there are points here and there when she does get to the core of that character.

Tom Wilkinson is the villain of this morality play, as the patriarch of the clan, a role model for his son's flagrant infidelity, and the ultimate victim as he's felled by a stroke.

The only of the main players not just imitating the real-life original is Barry Pepper as Robert Kennedy. He doesn't look that much like RFK and seemed to be trying to interpret his character, rather than just copy it.

All in all, History Channel's decision to dump the project was a bit silly. It was worried that a b-level miniseries would damage its brand, while it continues with series like "Ice Road Truckers" and "Pawn Stars" that have little to with "history."

And even in its more historical period, the old History Channel repeatedly aired the "documentary" series, "The Men Who Killed Kennedy," which treated every outlandish assassination theory with equal weight.

The channel's public dumping of "The Kennedys" brought far more attention to it than it deserved.

Sunday's two-hour premiere of the miniseries pulled in 1.9 million viewers, by far the biggest audience in ReelzChannel's five years on the air, according to Nielsen Media Research numbers.

Part three of "The Kennedys", focusing on the Cuban Missile Crisis, debuts tonight at 7 on the somewhat hard-to-find ReelzChannel (Channel 275 on Time Warner Cable, Channel 299 on Dish Network, Channel 238 on DirecTV, Channel 799/1799 HD on AT&T U-Verse).

For DVR purposes, the first six episodes will air Saturday at noon (repeating at 6 p.m.), with the two final hours airing at 7 and 9 p.m. next Sunday.

On TV: It's looking more and more like Katie Couric will be signing off for good from CBS News. The Associated Press is quoting an unnamed CBS exec as saying she's leaving the network, although there's no official confirmation from either side.

  • Conan O'Brien takes to Facebook tonight to live blog his show at 10 p.m. on TBS.
  • Sunday's debut of Showtime's "The Borgias," brought in just over a million viewers, the premium channel's best drama premiere in seven years, according to Nielsen numbers.
  • Aaron Sorkin is working on an HBO pilot about a fictional cable news outlet. Variety says Jeff Daniels has signed on as a fictional anchor.

He's already back: Now that former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has left politics, he's going back to the entertainment world -- as an animated character. There's no word on where or when it'll start airing.

All we have so far is this "official trailer" for his "Governator" character:

Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist

Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.

A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.

In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at

When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.