The Kennedy women's view of life inside 'Camelot'
'Voyage of the Unicorn' is a modern fairy tale for families
It's tempting to see the NBC miniseries, Jackie, Ethel, Joan: Women of Camelot, as yet another excuse to mine the public's nearly bottomless curiosity about anything Kennedy.Skip to next paragraph
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But as it navigates once more through the heyday of the Kennedy family, the years 1960-1980, "Camelot" turns out to be more interesting than it has any right to be, given the fact that these three women have been bystanders to pretty familiar history.
This four-hour miniseries (NBC, March 4 and 5, 9-11 p.m.), which could have been merely about the reactions of three women to some of history's great moments, explores the subtle, but real and often painfully difficult choices these women made.
These three women may have made different decisions than many women might make today. But the decisions still must be made. Former first lady Hillary Clinton's political transformation from long-suffering political wife to politico today reminds us there is something yet to be learned about life as the woman behind the powerful man.
"The more things change, the more they stay the same," says J. Randy Taraborrelli, author of the book upon which the series is based. "Jackie Kennedy made certain choices in her relationship with JFK. And obviously Hillary Clinton has made similar choices, but for very different reasons.
"Hillary Clinton is much more political than Jackie Kennedy ever was," he says. "Jackie's choices were based on family ideals. So she was loyal to her family. She was also loyal to her political party. But she felt very strongly that she wanted to keep that family together."
Focusing on the relationship between the sisters by marriage provided a new way into a familiar story, according to producer Sheri Singer.
"What [other stories] have missed is the camaraderie and the sisterhood that formed between Jackie, Ethel, and Joan," she says.
"These three women who were so incredibly different and would have never known each other under any circumstances are thrown together in the most public way and have to make their relationship [work] both publicly and [through] great triumph and with also incredible tragedy. That's the story you'll see that you haven't seen before."
"Jackie came from a sophisticated, educated, you might say, classy background and came into the Kennedy family, perhaps not ready to be a football player," Taraborrelli says. "The Kennedys had never seen anything like Jackie before.
"Ethel, on the other hand, came from a family that was very rough and tumble. Ethel's family, the Kennedy family, they were used to getting into trouble when they were younger."
Joan, he says, came from a somewhat typical upper-middle class background. "She really had no idea what she was getting herself into. She was really broadsided by the experience."
All the actors said they felt the burden of history in re-creating such a familiar period in American politics.
"There have been lots of Jackie Kennedy books over the years and lots of Kennedy books," says Daniel Hugh Kelly, who portrays John F. Kennedy. But, he says, none have ever dealt with these three sisters-in-law. "It's the first time the viewer will be able to see what these relationships were like," he says. "We're giving new historical perspective to a subject that seems time worn."
Taraborrelli did not interview any of the Kennedys profiled in the book, although he says Joan Kennedy wrote to him.