By David Hiltbrand
October 14, 1991 12:00 PM

NBC (Sun., Oct. 13, 9 P.M. ET)


Ever since that voyage to the bottom of the sea War and Remembrance, miniseries have become an increasingly endangered species. The stakes in money and time are just too high for the timid networks. One of the few miniseries you’ll see this year is this glib pageant dedicated to the extraordinary life of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.

In this grim fairy tale based on C. David Heymann’s best-selling, unauthorized biography, Roma Downey plays Jackie as a daddy-fixated beauty destined from birth for center stage. The mini is psychologically vague, establishing with certainty only that this famous woman was nearly paranoid in the way she protected her two children, even before the assassination. We see her irrationally suggesting to an aide that a huge wall be built around the White House because Caroline and John-John are too vulnerable when they play on the lawn. There are, though, some resonant scenes, as when Joe Kennedy (Josef Sommer), the family patriarch, grills his future daughter-in-law during her first visit to Hyannis Port. And the film avoids scandalmongering, though there is a gratuitous detour into the final days of Marilyn Monroe (Eve Gordon).

Considerably better costumed than cast, the mini costars Stephen (Tattinger’s) Collins as John F. Kennedy, Tim Ransom as Bobby, Joss Ackland as Aristotle Onassis and William (Knots Landing) Devane as Jackie’s rakish father, John Bouvier. (Devane played JFK in the 1974 TV movie The Missiles of October.)

The choice of Downey was perhaps inevitable because of the physical resemblance. But the Irish actress has a cramped, unplaceable accent and little empathetic power, though she has improved since her stunningly wooden American TV debut on daytime’s One Life to Live. Downey’s remoteness and the mini’s sumptuous superficiality combine for a biographical fan dance that manages to show all and reveal nothing.