I went to see Collateral last night at one of those massive metroplexes last night. I’m planning to review the film later, but right now I just want to mention my curiosity about a new show, Jack and Bobby, that was advertised during the highly annoying pre-preview Regal Cinemas commercial fest, “The Twenty.”
In an entry to Atlanta Metroblog, I discussed my initial reaction to the show. The title of the show initially led me to believe that the show is actually about John and Robert Kennedy as children. We know from the preview that one of the two boys grows up to become president. They grow up in a wealthy New England family. Even if the show is set in the present and is not based on the Kennedy story, it’s impossible not to read their history into the show due to the show’s title and the basic story of the series. In my original entry, I wrote:
Despite my aversion to “The Twenty,” I did find myself intrigued by one of the shows they advertised, a new WB show called Jack and Bobby, made by the creative people behind Everwood and Dawson’s Creek (I’ve never seen these shows, but I’ve heard they’re pretty good). The show focuses on Jack and Bobby McCallister when they are children and seems to ask whether or not their future “greatness” can be seen when they are children, but of course, the family really repesents the Kennedys, something the preview clearly tried to gloss. It’s an odd election-year fantasy, nostalgic for some ostensibly more innocent form of politics (which begs the question: how will it deal with Joe Kennedy’s business connections?). The other notable creative decision was the choice to essentially write Ted (and half a dozen other brothers and sisters) out of the show. Based on the clips I saw and the promotional photo for the show, it’s like Ted doesn’t even exist. Now I don’t expect TV shows to be historically accurate, and gauzy nostalgic shows about a more innocent past are always going to remember selectively. But it seems that for the premise of this show to succeed, it has to write Ted out of the picture. Otherwise we have a connection to the contemporary political scene, and the nostalgia concept would no longer be quite as possible.
Part of the sensation of nostalgia grew out of the show’s aesthetics, which clearly tried to evoke a kind of timelessness, particularly through fashion and setting. In this context, there also seems to be some degree of nostalgia for a certain kind of economy that allows a “blue-blood” family like the Kennedys (in this case the McCallisters) to be portrayed without the ironic distance of someone like Paris Hilton (I may be guessing a bit here, after all it was a 2-minute preview). Finally, Jack and Bobby is told via flashbacks from the mid-21st century (via interviews with the future White House staff), which I imagine will structurally impose a nostalgic storytelling mode onto the show.
And of course the fact that the show is based on fictional characters allows them complete license to depart completely from the Kennedy myth if they choose. Even so, the complete erasure of Teddy from the story seems significant, and I think it’s due almost entirely to the fact that he’s still a public figure, and one who evokes a broad range of responses (oh, and I just realized that the show essentially will write Joe, Sr. out by giving Jack and Bobby a single mother). Jack and Bobby Kennedy have the “safety” of distance to make them more easily representable televisually. This speculation is not to suggest that I have already decided that Jack and Bobby will be a “bad” show. On the contrary, I’m very interested to see how it uses past political figures to navigate a contemporary political moment. I might even try to remember to watch it.
Update: I’ve been getting tons of hits for this entry, and it’s not one of my best, so I’m changing the title of it.