Reviews > Television

Jack and Bobby

Television | This futuristic tale of two brothers isn't about the Kennedys

Issue: "2004 Election: Countdown," Oct. 23, 2004

Jack and Bobby, a new television series on The WB (Sundays at 9:00 p.m. ET), is not about the Kennedy brothers. Rather, it is about two brothers today, one of whom becomes president in the future.

Talking heads from 2049 discuss the legacy of the 51st president, known as "the Great Believer." Then we get flashbacks to today, with 16-year-old Jack and 13-year-old Bobby having formative experiences.

Jack is popular, athletic, and cool. Bobby is a sensitive social outcast. They are raised by a single mother, an intellectualoid marijuana-smoking college professor. Bobby is her favorite by far, and she smothers him with affection and tries to mold him in her image. She scorns Jack for being a "conformist."

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In the pilot, we do not know at first which brother becomes president. Bobby is already passing around petitions in the eighth grade and challenging bigger kids for littering, so maybe, the viewers think, it could be him. Jack, though, appears to be a natural leader. Though he seems shallow at first, he is also dark and troubled, what with the cruel way his mother treats him. He shows glimpses of character when he takes a punishment Bobby deserves (or, rather, a punishment his mother deserves). So maybe Jack will become the president.

At the end of the first episode, the future president's identity is revealed. It is Bobby, the sensitive one. (What else would we expect from the producers who also gave us The West Wing?) Bobby will even become a Republican, we are told, though by 2040 that is likely to have a different meaning than it has today.

The show has a fine premise. It dramatizes how early choices, experiences, and trials all work together to form character. Both boys show virtues, as when they try to get their mother to stop taking drugs. In one episode, Bobby challenges his mother's contempt for religion, and we learn that before he goes into politics, Bobby will become a minister. The futuristic plot of what America will be going through in the 2040s-including a war with Latin America-is also intriguing.

One would think, however, that having a positive family background would be helpful in the formation of a future president. Instead, their family background is something these boys have to overcome.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith

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