March 05, 2001 12:00 PM

NBC (Sun.-Mon., March 4-5, 9 p.m. ET)

Though NBC publicity promises that this two-part movie (based on the book by J. Randy Taraborrelli) will offer “untold” stories and “rare glimpses” of the Kennedy family, most of it seems like the product of a recycling machine that never shuts down. The tragedies and triumphs of the political clan have been retailed in so many TV dramas (including CBS’s Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, which Women of Camelot was originally slated to compete against last November) that it’s almost irrelevant to ask whether Jill Hennessy (formerly of Law & Order) resembles the real First Lady of the New Frontier. What counts is that Hennessy compares favorably to Joanne Whalley, this season’s previous pretend Jackie. Hennessy brings charm and elegance to the role, achieving a nice balance of beguiling softness and cool pragmatism.

You can’t help sympathizing with Leslie Stefanson’s pretty, vulnerable Joan Kennedy, here seen as frequently bolstered by sister-in-law Jackie. But Lauren Holly portrays Ethel as crass, envious, prone to astonishingly insensitive remarks and only slightly less ambitious than Lady Macbeth. Completing this Ethel’s set of unattractive traits is a voice that can jangle any nerve within a five-mile radius. For a more positive portrait of Robert Kennedy’s widow, turn to A&E’s Biography March 1 at 8 p.m.

Bottom Line: Camelot—been there.

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