Thoughts on HBO's John Adams
I'm watching my second episode of HBO's mini-series John Adams at the moment. It's the third episode of the show, but I missed the first one, and after last week's I'm extremely excited for this. It is certainly the best drama on the American Independence that I've seen, and I've seen quite a few. There are advantages of being able to tell the story in seven hours that one does not have in a typical Hollywood movie.
It's been awhile since my university courses that covered the American Revolution, so my History Sense might be a little off but I've yet to see any glaring mistakes. I do question whether Jefferson would have spoke out against slavery as he did in last episode, while continuing to own slaves of his own. However having said that views on slavery at the time were often confused and contradictory, so I'm not going to make a hard and fast claim that it was an error.
Rather than doing a review I thought I'd add in a few random thoughts that occur to me as I'm watching the episode. Note this is the third episode entitled "Don't Tread On Me" that is meant to cover Adams' time in France trying to gain support from Europe for the Revolution.
- It is very convenient that everyone addresses everyone else by their names during this time period. Having missed the first episode I was worried that I'd be a bit lost to start off last week, but found that since everyone was addressed in this manner it was easy to follow. This technique would fail miserably on a show like The Sopranos, where it would feel so much less natural that everyone talks in this slightly stilted and formal manner.
- I'm very glad that many of even the American characters have English, Irish and other accents. Often there's a tendency in Hollywood to have all the Revolutionary figures sound as American as possible, forgetting that during the Revolution everyone was actually English. Here there are English actors in many roles and Ben Franklin is played by Tom Wilkinson.
- On a related note it's nice to see that these people are flawed. Popular figures in the Revolution tend to get painted larger than life, and almost deified. These people argue, have flaws and are so much more interesting for it.
- The French were weirder then than they are now. Hard to believe, but yeah.
- If there was any doubt that Paul Giamatti is a great actor this should put it to rest. I was not a huge fan of Sideways, but he keeps proving himself again and again and this could be his defining role. Or would be if it weren't a historical drama on HBO.
- Back then it was easy to invent shit. Seriously Thomas Jefferson makes a chair that swivels and he's a genius. Franklin invented pretty much everything else during his life. Can you imagine President Bush, either one, inventing anything? Clinton? Kennedy?