Saturday, June 28, 2008

The John Adams Miniseries

I finally watched all of the excellent "John Adams" miniseries on DVD. This was one television event that I was looking forward to for a few years when I heard that my favourite actor Tom Hanks had bought the rights to David McCullough's bestselling biography on one of the most neglected Founding Fathers. Because of that critically-acclaimed biography, Adams had seen his historical rank rise a little bit. Before, he was mostly known as the first one-term president who established the Alien and Sedition Act (a forerunner to today's equally un-Constitutional USA PATRIOT Act). The biography gave Adams a fuller picture and what's more, it shows how remarkable his relationship was with Abigail. Would he have been as successful without such a strongly opinionated wife?

It is my hope that Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney will win Emmy Awards for their excellent portrayal of John and Abigail Adams. Paul, especially, did an outstanding job. He truly did embody how I envisioned Adams to look and behave. He was passed over for an Oscar nomination in the film "Sideways" (a slight I never understood, for he made that movie what it was), so if he doesn't get an Emmy nomination for this role, something is seriously amiss.

Laura Linney has been one of my favourite actresses since I first saw her in the film "Congo." She has what I consider to be an excellent track record for choosing film projects that I'm interested in seeing and each role has never disappointed me yet. I love her portrayal of Abigail, a remarkable woman living in a time when women were considered second class citizens and expected to keep her opinions to herself when the men are talking. It's nice to see that even back then, during those times, a man like John is not threatened by the opinions of a lady and has no problem following her advice.

Here's a scene of Adams with Benjamin Franklin in Paris. The two episodes in Paris vaguely reminded me of the film "Jefferson in Paris." They even have the same opera and music in one scene. It's amusing to watch the level of discomfort Adams (like Jefferson in that previously mentioned film) has when talking to the somewhat obscene French. You can see the clash of cultures just in the dinner scene. Franklin was quite popular in Paris because he had no problems with the sexual decadence of the upper classes in aristocratic France.

Stephen Dillane plays the best Jefferson I've seen yet! Forget Nick Nolte or Sam Neill as the firebrand liberal. Dillane plays him EXACTLY as I envision Jefferson in my head as I read his books or books about him. Since Jefferson is my favourite president, I wanted to see more of him. I think he comes across well in the miniseries, which is surprising because I had heard that McCullough is no fan of Jefferson at all.

After seeing the show in its entirety, I'm really glad they made it into a miniseries rather than a two or three hour movie. They are able to do much more with the longer running time and we get a richer experience for it. Granted, I could've done without the gross stuff (the smallpox, the leg amputation, and the breast cancer surgery), but those are minor complaints. I'm just completely blown away by how good this miniseries is and I want to see more! Every Founding Father should have one of their own. Jefferson, especially, should have a miniseries of his own. To me, this is what makes me feel patriotic. It's witnessing our history come alive on screen and getting a better idea of the times our Founding Fathers lived in.

Definitely worth owning and watching every year. I'll have to add it to my wish list.


Margie's Musings said...

Interesting commentary, Nicholas. I hated that it came out on HBO and we couldn't see it. I am glad to hear it is on DVD. maybe I can rent it at Blockbuster.

Sansego said...

I didn't mind it coming out on HBO because they make quality programs, so it was guaranteed to be good and of course it would come out on DVD. It truly is one of the best miniseries I've ever seen...up there with Shogun, Band of Brothers, War and Remembrance, and Roots.

Mandalynn said...

I had wanted to see the it, but didn't have HBO. I didn't know it was on DVD already. I'll have to check it out. With your recommendation (and my dad's - he loved it), plus Laura Linney (one of my favs), how could I go wrong.