Pre-release criticism of the miniseries “The Kennedys” frightened the History Channel — guardian of historical accuracy — into renouncing their prior commitment to the project, and for good reason. The channel that brings us “Brad Meltzer’s Decoded” can hardly afford to further sully its reputation by airing something so historically flawed.
Clear inaccuracies abound. Joe Kennedy, in a scene where Roosevelt recalls him as Ambassador to the Court of St. James, is attired in a baggy tweed suit with lumpy shoulders and a fit so poor one would almost think it came off the rack. Later, both Bobby and Jack consistently display equally terrible tailoring, and worse ties. Yes, these ties may have been worn during the early sixties, but not by Choate graduates. Jack, in a black tie banquet scene, sports a bow tie with pointed ends popular at the time with maitres ‘d and crooners, but not by anyone who frequented state occasions.
In one real howler, Bobby walks into the Oval Office with the two top buttons of his suit jacket buttoned. We gaped. This particular affectation was a sure sign of dorkdom in the 60s, although the custom seems to have survived today as the favored look for professional basketball players.
Nor does Jackie escape unscathed. In one of her first scenes, she returns from riding wearing a pair of blue jeans. Never happened. Black Jack Bouvier’s daughter would never be caught dead riding in anything other than a proper pair of jodhpurs, and most likely never owned a pair of jeans until they became socially acceptable in the early seventies.
We could go on. Jack’s floppy shirt collars. Bobby’s button down shirts with the buttons halfway up the collar. McNamara’s PT 109 tieclip. They gave those away as campaign presents; wearing one would be as outlandish as the pointy pocket squares several characters, including Joe, frequently featured.
We know that concessions have to be made where accuracy is concerned in order to improve the entertainment value of historical dramas. But these lapses are inexcusable, and detract from the credibility of the narrative in the clumsiest possibole way. There’s just no excuse for those jeans.