John Adams is a sprawling HBO miniseries event that depicts the extraordinary life and times of one of Americas least understood, and most underestimated, founding fathers: the second President of the United States, John A... more »dams. Starring Paul Giamatti (Sideways, Cinderella Man, HBOs American Spendor) in the title role and Laura Linney (You Can Count on Me, Kinsey) as Adams devoted wife Abigail, John Adams chronicles the extraordinary life journey of one of the primary shapers of our independence and government, whose legacy has often been eclipsed by more flamboyant contemporaries like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin. Set against the backdrop of a nations stormy birth, this sweeping miniseries is a moving love story, a gripping narrative, and a fascinating study of human nature. Above all, at a time when the nation is increasingly polarized politically, this story celebrates the shared values of liberty and freedom upon which this country was built.« less
"I read David McCullough's GREAT book in anticipation of this miniseries. McCullough painted a picture of a man and a time that I found fascinating; a picture of a hardworking, sensitive (maybe mildly obsessive-compulsive in terms of his emotional high and lows) genius. I found the first few episodes excellent, albeit different from the book. It is the last few episodes that have really affected my view on this series.
The series insists on focusing on Adams' lows. It seems the writers took all the depressing elements of McCullough's book, which were few, and magnified those to center stage. For instance, John Adams' alcoholic son Charles has a major part in the series, but played a relatively minor role in the book. The mudslinging between Jefferson and Adams in Adams' second election for president was jettisoned for the Charles Adams storyline. Also, Adams, presented by McCullough, was a good natured man with a self-deprecating sense of humor. In the series he seems to live in misery.
They also took scenes that were generally upbeat and made them darker. When Adams meets King George III (in my opinion the climax of the story - or at least the first half of the story) in the book, the King is very polite and friendly (much like his portrayal in The Madness of King George III). He smiled a lot and made Adams more comfortable, if not less in awe. In the series the King is just plain weird. I can only guess the filmmakers were hinting at King George's future illness/madness. It's almost as if this series is based on another book about John Adams - a darker book. This series really missed the tone of McCullough's great book.
Still -- divorcing myself from the book -- I find this series is well-made and held my attention. Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney are very good. My advice would be to watch the series first, then read the book for a much more uplifting story."
An Exciting Story
!Edwin C. Pauzer | New York City | 07/30/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Each night I turned on the HBO feature anxious to see a good dramatic series, and learn about my country's struggle for life through one its most underrated founding fathers, John Adams.
Paul Giamatti's performance in the title role is much in dispute as he, like many other actors, seems to play himself as much as his character. He turns from a loving father to the lawyer and representative who sometimes looks apoplectic rather than just an angry or fiery patriot. Much to his credit, I felt the John Adams of later years on subsequent episodes was extremely well-acted.
Abigail Adams is played by Laura Linney, and her performance is superb and not the least in dispute. From the first moment, she is thoroughly credible as the vivacious lover, friend, confidante, advisor, and wife of John Adams. Her acting here should garner her an Emmy. The actors protraying Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson turned in stellar performances.
Many complain that this did not follow the book of the same title, and was not true to history exactly. To the first query the answer is what does? To the second, it is a well-written and well-acted drama that deserves our attention.
The series begins with the Boston Massacre and John Adams representing the British soldiers. With his successful defense, he is noticed by the Crown, as well as the colonials who are striving for independence. Both want his services. Adams chooses independence over the king and we see him as representative, foreign minister, beggar and borrower, ambassador, vice president, and president. His one anchor through these assignments and occupations in the struggle of a new nation is his love and respect for his wife, Abigail whom he always refers to as "my friend." The letters between the two is one constant that sustains their love through loneliness of separation, as Mr. Adams is more often away than home.
Particularly touching is the drab existence they share in an uncompleted White House, the grief John Adams suffers from the loss of his Abigail, his renewed friendship with Thomas Jefferson, and his dying belief that his friend survives him, even though Jefferson died three hours earlier. In one of the ironies of our history, both men died exactly fifty years to the day, after July 4, 1776.
This story ends with both Abigail and John Adams quoting letters of their love for each other and a young nation, as they ascend a hill together and look out over their country. They hope that they will be able to see future generations of Americans, from heaven, and wonder if they will deserve the sacrifice and freedom they have given them.
So do I."
Takes you to that heady time
Suyong Min | Falls Church, VA USA | 03/31/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Like many others, I am seeing the series as they come out on HBO, and have yet to read the book (which I intend to at some point). The series features great acting, poignant scenes, and memorable oratory. But what really got me was how it transported you to that time, when life was a series of great heroics, but was also harsh, gritty, and so unforgiving. The series kept sending me to try and research different historial events that I remembered fleetingly reading about, in one line or a few paragraphs during unfortunately uninspiring history classes of many years ago. The concept of being "tarred and feathered" took a whole new dimension for me, as the brutality of that era touched everyone, rightly or wrongly. I am sure I would have more to say once I have finished seeing the series, but I cannot stop thinking about the different scenes. I recommend it to everyone very highly, and can't wait for the DVD to come out."
A "must see" for every red-blooded American.
A. Steckel | Washington, DC, USA | 06/02/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"John Adams: deeply principaled, no-nonsence, ornery, lawful good, brilliant, fallible, passionate founder of our country. This is the story of the unbridled defiance, the shrewd intellect, and the angry pounding fist that tore the American colonies from British rule and gave birth to one of the greatest experiments in the history of the world - the United States of America. Stunning and haunting, this is John Adams like you've never seen him. Myth and poetry have been stripped away to reveal the far-more-fascinating, truly-human story of one of the greatest men who has ever lived.
Giamatti is simply brilliant as Adams. If he doesn't win the Emmy for this, I may declare my own independance from the "dark tyranny" of the ATAS. Linney is equally wonderful in her portrayal as the groundingly sapient Abigail. Their love story is one of the greatest in American history, and it's been marvelously recaptured here.
If it's even possible to have "spoilers" for a factual historical drama, then the following might qualify, but if you want to see what each eposide covers, here's my stab at it:
Episode 1: Join or Die. Begins with the Boston Massacre, and covers the period leading up to Adams departure for Philidelphia to represent Massachusettes in the First Continental Congress.
Episode 2: Independance. Covers the First Continental Congress, the beginning of the American Revolution at Lexington and Concord, the nomination of GW (by Adams) to serve as general of the new Continental Army, the Second Continental Congress, and Adams collaboration with Jefferson and Franklin to bring forth the Declaration of Independance.
Episode 3: Don't Tread on Me. Covers the journey of Adams and Franklin to France to secure support against the British, Adam's tone-deaf approach to French diplomacy, his painful separation from Abigail, his dispatch to Holland (where his approach is somewhat better receive), and a terrible illness that befalls him.
Episode 4: Reunion. Covers the defeat of the British forces, Adam's return to Paris and reunion with Abigail, his appointment to represent the new nation to the English crown, his frustrating absence from the Constitutional Convention, his return to America, and his election as Vice President.
Episode 5: Unite or Die. Covers Adam's Vice Presidency under George Washington, the ongoing British and French conflict, his strained relationship with Jefferson over their very different ideas about how the new nation should be governed, and his narrow victory over Jefferson to become the second President.
Episode 6: Unnecessary War. Covers Adam's uneasy presidency, including the retention of Washington's cabinet, largely controlled by Hamilton (mistake #1), the imfamous Alien and Sedition Acts (mistake #2), his arrival at the White House in the new capital of Washington (both still under construction), his estragement from his son Charles, the XYZ affair, his successful prevention of war with France, his loss of the Presidency to Jefferson, and his somber return to Massachusettes.
Episode 7: Peacefield. Covers Adam's post-presidency, including the death of daugher Nabby, followed by Abigail, his reconciliation with Jefferson, the election of John Quincy as President, his long and introspective reflections on his life and legacy, and his death on the same day as Jefferson - the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration which they masterminded together.
I hope you enjoy this rare masterpiece as much as I did. I watched every episode as they aired, and plan to watch them all again as soon as the DVD is available. This is television at its finest, and I give it my highest recommendation."
Work of Genius and Depiction of Historical Events Regarding
Justin Heath | Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada | 10/11/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although the miniseries title and episodes focus on the life of John Adams, the strength of the film lies in the exceptional ensemble cast. It was impressive to see such giants as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin, as well as the lesser known individuals, truly inhabited by the actors.
The challenge of the series was to breathe life into those stories and lives we know so well. The filmmakers worked closely to David McCullough's outstanding book for the details, along with the human side of the story captured in the voluminous correspondence of John and Abigail Adams. The political, military, and personal issues were all thoughtfully brought to life. The design values of the film were also superb. Nothing looked stagy or stilted in the sets and costumes, which provided an unusual authenticity of period style for television drama. With each appearance of George Washington (David Morse), it was hard not to gasp due to the believability of his character.
The drama of America's breaking from England for independence was an improbable story and one dependent on the courage and idealism of the individuals portrayed in this film. The personalities of these great figures make this program an accessible and rewarding experience for the entire family. For the patient viewer, what emerges from the John Adams miniseries is not merely a history lesson, but a drama with great relevance today. Simply put, we need more people in our country right now just like John and Abigail Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Knox, and, above all, the ordinary human beings heroically portrayed in this fine film!"