I have been a fan of John Adams at least since the first time I saw the musical 1776, perhaps even before that. I recall, as a child, looking forward to watching The Adams Chronicles on our local PBS station, Channel 48 I still treasure the companion volume my Mom bought for me.
I’ve always admired Adams’ tenacity in pushing for our nation’s independence. The more I read about him, the more I learned about his flaws, his insecurity. His humanity seemed to enhance rather than detract from his greatness. And of course there was his affection, his devotion for his “dearest friend,” his wife Abigail. Few presidents have so completely loved and depended upon their wives.
Given my admiration for the Atlas of American Independence, it’s strange that I would wait this long to watch the DVDs of the eponymous miniseries. For Paul Giamatti‘s performance alone, it was more than the worth the cost the collection. Giamatti captured both the insecurities, passion and essential integrity of our nation’s second president. And we believed he loved Laura Linney‘s Abigail.
Save Tom Wilkinson (as Benjamin Franklin) and David Morse (as George Washington), I was not so keen of some of the other actors. To be sure, most did play their parts well, but all too many were Brits and did not get the American accents right. Some didn’t even seem to be trying. It was a bit jarring at times.
Much as I enjoyed the mini-series, I wished the filmmakers had shown more of the friendship between Adams and Thomas Jefferson when the two men spent many a long evening discussing freedom, independence and self-government when together in Philadelphia for the Second Continental Congress.
Even in a program as long as this miniseries, they had to leave out many events from Adams’ life. It seemed there was focus more on his domestic situation than on some of his political accomplishments. They didn’t show him negotiating the Treaty of Paris which secured our independence.
All that said, it was a marvelous production. I loved the way the screenwriters wrote lines from both Adamses’ correspondence and his public statements into the characters’ dialogue. They seemed to pay homage to the 1776 when, in the final episode Abigail says, “For God’s sake, John, sit down,” a line from the musical’s opening song:
Just as I watch this movie musical again and again, I’ll be watching the mini-series again. And again.