Picks and Pans Review: The Kennedys of Massachusetts

updated 02/19/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/19/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

ABC (Sun., Feb. 18, 9 P.M. ET)

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As testimony to our continuing fascination with the Kennedys, here is a shimmering six-hour family hagiography. Can you imagine a network devoting three nights in a sweeps period to the Udalls or the Stevensons?

The lavish, romanticized miniseries (which continues on Monday and Wednesday) begins with the swearing in of Boston Mayor John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald (played by Charles Durning) in 1906 and concludes with the inauguration of J.F.K. (Steven Weber) in 1961. The central characters are Joe and Rose Kennedy, and the actors playing them are on opposite gradients. William Peterson's performance as Joe starts off jarringly—his banty cock-sureness is too contemporary—but it grows in maturity and depth. Annette O'Toole as Rose, on the other hand, is never as appealing as when she is playing a student at a convent school. The mini's first night is devoted to politics, pregnancies and finance, all wrapped up in Beantown blarney. The second night, in a transparent attempt to rope in some glamour, takes a long detour into Joe's dalliance with movie star Gloria Swanson (played with maddening extravagance by Madolyn Smith Osborne). Then his appointment to the Court of St. James's takes the family to London, where daughter Kathleen (played by Tracy Pollan—Mrs. Michael J. Fox—looking uncannily like Madonna in her brunet phase) becomes the toast of British high society. The final night is all tragedy—daughter Rosemary's unsuccessful lobotomy; the deaths of Joe Jr. and Kathleen—and politics.

Despite its length, The Kennedys of Massachusetts is really a Cliffs Notes version of history. But although it is simplistic and streamlined, there's no denying it is also quite entertaining.

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