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An ignominious beginning for The Kennedys – the embattled miniseries that was commissioned and then summarily axed by History after a campaign by members of the Kennedy family – culminated with ten Primetime Emmy nominations on Thursday. The eight-hours miniseries, which was rescued from the straight-to-DVD bin by the heretofore-obscure ReelzChannel, received a nomination for outstanding miniseries as well as three acting nominations; for Greg Kinnear and Barry Pepper, who played John F. Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy, respectively; and a supporting actor for Tom Wilkinson, who played Machiavellian patriarch Joe Kennedy.
For the producers of The Kennedys, the Emmy nominations bring more than a measure of “vindication,” said Michael Prupas, president of Montreal-based Muse Entertainment, which co-produced the project with Asylum Entertainment.
“We ended up with what we thought was a terrific show that eventually got terribly tarred,” Prupas told The Hollywood Reporter. “So I’m feeling vindicated.”
Prupas said he got the news this morning when he logged on to his email.
“I opened up my computer on my desk this morning and I nearly fell off my chair,” he laughed. “Honestly, I had prepared myself psychologically for not getting any nominations. But getting ten nominations is way beyond my expectations.”
The Kennedys was also nominated for art direction, cinematography, sound mixing, main title theme music and hair and makeup giving ReelzChannel more Emmy nominations than History, which has seven. The Kennedys will compete in the newly merged miniseries or movie category with Starz’s The Pillars of the Earth (which is also a co-produced by Muse and received seven nominations), PBS’ Downton Abbey, and HBO’s Too Big to Fail, Cinema Verite and Mildred Pierce (which received 21 nominations, the most nominations of any program).
Although Prupas said he’s “disappointed” that Katie Holmes was not recognized for her portrayal of Jackie Kennedy (“I know that other people haven’t been moved by her performance the way I was. But I thought Katie did a great job of interpreting what Jackie was.”), the acting nomination for Kinnear is particularly sweet.
Kinnear, said Prupas, “suffered terribly because of the way he and the show was being looked at by his peers and the press. [He was in] total shock. For him to emerge from that with an Emmy nom is just fantastic.”
Prupas praised Reelz, a network with limited financial resources, for bankrolling The Kennedys Emmy campaign, adding that he hopes the nominations will spur more networks to take on controversial projects but he’s not terribly optimistic.
Ad-supported networks, he said “are very risk adverse. And it’s clear that whatever else happened, the History channel took a big, big gamble on The Kennedys. And from their point of view, it’s a gamble that didn’t pay off. I’m sure there is some regret at this stage. But I’m not sure that they’re likely to embark on controversial material in the future.
“I think that’s one of the terribly discouraging things that goes on in our society where creative attempts to deal with contemporary affairs and recent history often run up against entrenched interests,” he continued. “And when you’re dealing with very big dollars and very sensitive egos, you run into the risk that the safe thing to do for the parties spending the money is simply to avoid controversy. So I don’t know if people are going to step up.”
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