John Adams on HBO


So I finally took the plunge and delved into the HBO miniseries John Adams.? Suffice it to say, it’s as good as most people would lead you to believe.? Through three episodes it’s constantly provided an intriguing look at American history through the eyes of a man on the periphery of some important events.? It works on two very distinct levels.

First, on a historical level it comes off as doing their homework.? The production values are off the charts for this 8.5 hour, $100 million series.? They are squeezing every penny of that budget.? But more than that, it’s how history plays out in this series that is all the more impressive.? It’s not exactly historically “accurate” as HBO would have you believe.? But it’s close enough and certainly not rose-tinted.

Events are seen from a distance.? Was that the Boston Massacre?? OMG is this the Boston Tea Party?? Was that Bunker Hill?? What’s going on with the Continental Congress?? More likely, to occur throughout time is this version of history.? Men working their farms, plying their trade on the docks as history envelopes them.? You and I wouldn’t realize the big life changing events in our time either.? We’re just trying to have a decent living.

And even if there was something huge, say 9-11 for example, the large majority of us weren’t there we watched it on television or heard about it from friends or family at work.? But as the years go by, we’ll recollect that moment in history as if we were there.

The only complaint with this take on history is that it is too often difficult to tell what is going on.? We’ve become so conditioned as watchers to have a firm grasp on the “big” history events.? We want to remember the Boston Massacre or Boston Tea Party as something hugely significant, not something that could pass in the blink of an eye.? It also goes to show that sometimes the big events are often the smallest.? As for the cast of motley characters that populate this universe, I spent half the show trying to figure out whom was whom, which ended up frustrating me.

Thankfully, this is gripping drama for sure. Secondly, it works as pure entertainment.?? All of the actors are in top form here chewing scenery.? Laura Linney as Abigail Adams is a particular standout.? David Morse is almost unrecognizable as Gen. George Washington. ? I’m still not 100% sold on Paul Giamatti as John Adams, but that’s because he has the biggest load to carry.? Certainly he does not make a fool of himself, it’s just that I keep seeing Giamatti.? You know what I mean?? It’s almost that he’s too recognizable an actor for the role.

Final assessment: Total history porn.

Also: Quincy, MA is attempting to capitalize on the new found fame for John Adams.? It is the city of Presidents, afterall.
Further Reading: Founding Brothers

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