Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
The most investigated crime in world history — the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963 — gets yet a new theory when ReelzChannel premieres the original investigative doc JFK: The Smoking Gun on Nov. 3 precisely 19 days before the 50th anniversary. While JFK conspiracy fatigue long ago set in, it provided undeniably fascinating fodder during a TCA panel that comes to a genuinely fascinating conclusion: There was a second shooter during that fateful day in Dallas, and it wasn’t an assassin. It was a Secret Service agent named George Hickey, who was riding in the car in the motorcade directly behind Kennedy’s vehicle and whose automatic weapon accidentally discharged. This is the theory, presented in painstaking scientific detail, that the doc will lay out. On the panel, an author named Bonar Menninger and a retired Australian detective Colin McLaren presented their argument that the bullet that exploded into Kennedy’s brain came not from Oswald’s rifle but from Hickey’s in the chaos of the moment. “We believe it wasn’t intentional but a tragic accident,” McLaren said, indicating that the evidence was long covered up at the highest levels of United States intelligence as well as by JFK’s brother Robert. “The lone gunman theory is nonsense and always has been.” Part of the reason the doc is proceeding now, besides the 50th anniversary, is the fact that Hickey died two years ago and can no longer bring suit. But the airing of an undeniable hot potato seems to tie into ReelzChannel’s self-appointed mission of being The JFK Network. The first evidence of that came two years ago when it acquired the miniseries The Kennedys, which went on to win four Emmys.
That panel — hosted, like the ones that preceded it, by entertainment reporter Sam Rubin — made for a decidedly jarring contrast with the sessions that preceded it promoting the reality sitcoms The Capones and Hollywood Hillbillies. The Capones featured a bickering, working-class, stereotypically Italian clan involved in running an Italian restaurant in Chicago called Capone’s Restaurant & Pizzeria. The centerpiece of the discussion was a debate over whether or not the family had a legitimate genealogical claim to being blood descendants to the real Al Capone. That panel was an exercise in intellectual discourse compared to the one that followed for Hollywood Hillbillies, about a hillbilly family from rural Georgia that moves out to LA after striking it rich in the viral video world. They had named like The Angry Ginger and Mema and Dee Dee, bringing fresh new meaning to the term Southern hayseed.
The contrast in the ReelzChannel programming mission sent the channel’s CEO Stan Hubbard scrambling to admit that its mission is “evolving,” particularly given that the original mission involved Hollywood and cinema. “We’ve evolved from being a network that felt a little bit like a barker channel,” Hubbard acknowledged. “We will not go away from trying to find that Hollywood thread, trying to be that network that celebrates movies. The movie thread is [still] very important, even when we do shows like Hollywood Hillbillies. The network really is a fun discussion of movies, but we’re doing it in a fun and entertaining way.” And what’s the movie thread in JFK: The Smoking Gun? “It doesn’t have one,” Hubbard allowed.