Getting to Know JFK: Video Legacy Demonstrates his Mastery of TV

by | January 20, 2011 at 9:55 AM | Special Features, TV News

John F Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy in 1960 (Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

John F Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy in 1960 (Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

This week is a very appropriate time to reacquaint yourself with John F. Kennedy.

Thursday marks the 50th anniversary of his inauguration as 35th president of the United States (on Jan. 20, 1961), an administration that would be tragically cut short on Nov. 22, 1963, with his assassination at age 46.

With a few notable exceptions, TV is not pulling out all the stops to commemorate the day. There are no specials planned for Thursday night on any of the broadcast networks, though you can expect network newscasts to mark the occasion with a story or two. (“CBS Sunday Morning” did its own story last weekend, with Jeff Greenfield taking a look back at JFK’s legacy, focusing mainly on his inauguration speech with its famed exhortation, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”) The same goes for the cable news channels, which will make note of the milestone in their regular programming, their reps say.

Among the exceptions: The premiere Thursday night of “A President to Remember: In the Company of John F. Kennedy” (9:30/8:30c on HBO), a documentary narrated by Alec Baldwin and assembled from various sources of footage of JFK the candidate and then president.

And, on Sunday, Jan. 30, TLC will premiere a two-hour documentary (at 9 p.m./8c) called “Kennedys’ Home Movies,” narrated by Stockard Channing. In contrast to the HBO doc, TLC’s film is more about the private, family life of the Kennedys, whose story is told through home movies, photographs and other footage – some of which has not been widely seen before, if at all, according to TLC.

But you can also immerse yourself in all things JFK right here. It’s our own exclusive archive – including 14 of JFK’s most famous speeches – assembled under the auspices of the John F. Kennedy Library in partnership with Comcast. Check Top Picks in XFINITY On Demand.

When you watch the videos, you may come to understand why JFK has long been considered the master among modern presidents when it came to using television. With his youthful good looks, Kennedy had the ability, rare among presidents, to appear relaxed and personable in televised news conferences, or forceful and commanding when addressing the nation on serious matters such as the Cuban Missile Crisis.

He may have been the most-skilled on-camera president we’ve ever had, although President Reagan, as a former movie actor, is often rated as high as JFK.

Who do you think has been our most telegenic president?