Tuesday, September 7, 2004
Los Angeles Bobby McCallister stands in the doorway of the school boiler room, nervous fingers clutching the edge of the battered satchel that was once his father's.
For a long moment, the boy hesitates, filled with shame that he was one of the kids who had earlier trashed the room, damaging the shrine the janitor had set up in memory of a son killed in battle.
Then Bobby finds the courage to tell the janitor how badly he feels, how sorry he is, how he's "not friends with those guys anymore."
Life lessons and the way they shape character are the heart and soul of "Jack & Bobby," a new WB drama premiering 8 p.m. Sunday about two brothers, one of whom grows up to become president of the United States.
But it's not the Jack and Bobby you know. The series is not about the young Kennedys.
Is this a deceptive pretense?
"I think we can call it a much sexier name if we were going to bait and switch," producer-director Thomas Schlamme said. "It sounds a lot better that 'Jimmy & Billy' or 'Roger and Bill."'
Co-creator Vanessa Taylor, however, acknowledged an abstract connection with the Kennedys: "It's about the inspiration of the Camelot era. That's what we're talking about -- hope going forward."
The pilot episode reveals which of the boys becomes president some 40 years later, so the audience of future episodes is provided with knowledge which, of course, the boys and their mother don't possess.
Documentary-style interviews set in 2049 with people who have known and worked with the president are woven throughout the footage of the boys' lives today. The device will be used in all episodes, but not as extensively as in the pilot.
Berlanti believes that revealing the future helps the emotional impact of the stories about the boys' high school years.
Matt Long plays 16-year-old Jack, and Logan Lerman is 13-year-old Bobby. It's the first TV series for both.
Christine Lahti, an Emmy winner for her work on "Chicago Hope," plays the boys' mother, Grace, a liberal, emotionally scarred college professor who was left to raise her sons alone. (Lahti's husband, Schlamme is also an executive producer of "Jack & Bobby.")
Executive producer Greg Berlanti said the writers often jokingly referred to Grace as the "Tony Soprano of moms."
But Lahti offered a softer assessment of her character: "She's very flawed, very human, but also very loving and well-meaning ... intellectually she's way ahead, but emotionally she's in some ways really adolescent still."