Having just come back from Washington, DC a week ago, it seemed like an opportune time to catch HBO’s latest mini-series sensation, John Adams. Adams, our 2nd president, is a guy I knew little about, other than the fact he had a ridiculous haircut. When you think about it, though, if he was the second President in our nation’s history, he had to have done something noteworthy beforehand, right? But why do we, as a nation, seem to know so little about the man, other than he and George Bush are the only Presidents to have their sons occupy the same job (John Quincy Adams was our 6th president)? Why is he not honored with the other Founding Fathers with a monument in Washington? Why haven’t we learned more about him from our high school history teachers?
The series, based on the biography by David McCullough, gives us all that background information and more, painting a picture of a devoted husband, a true patriot, and above all a man of integrity. He, perhaps more than any other representative of the 13 colonies, was responsible for leading his countrymen toward revolution and independence. He was the driving force that led to the events that formed our very country! The impact men like Washington, Jefferson (Adams’ best friend), and Franklin had is undeniable, but it’s Adams that brought them all together and did the dirty work, thereby hurting his own reputation among his detractors in the process. Not only that, but he suffered tragedy after tragedy in his family both before and after his presidency. It’s a wonder to end all wonders that he lived to the ripe old age of 90, scant hours after his friend Thomas Jefferson passed away on–wouldn’t you know it–July 4th, 1826, fifty years to the day after the thirteen colonies declared their independence from Great Britain.
The mini-series itself, as you can imagine, is both highly informative and entertaining, though if I have to hear Laura Linney (playing Adams’ wife, Abigail) say “Oh, John!” in a disapproving tone one more time, I might jump off a cliff. (Seriously, her lines throughout the 7+ hour miniseries amount to 863 “oh, John’s” and 582 “Hmm’s.”) Paul Giamatti, as Adams, delivers a great performance throughout, diseased teeth and all. The rest of the cast is uniformly great as well, save an odd performance by David Morse’s huge fake nose as George Washington. No matter, it’s high quality all around. It was also pleasing to learn Ben Franklin was the 1700’s version of Uncle Buck.
After finishing the mini-series, I can’t help but wonder how many other men and even events have been lost or muddled by the biased penstrokes of historians past. It’s amazing that you could take such a man for granted, and I plan on mining Wikipedia (quite the source of unbiased historical accounting, I know) for more information on our Founding Fathers. Maybe HBO will produce another series on another forgotten hero. One can only hope.
Executive producer Tom Hanks was instrumental as part of a large delegation advocating the recently-completed World War II Memorial on the National Mall in DC, thanks largely to his involvement with another HBO mini-series, Band of Brothers. I could see the same sort of movement gather momentum for Adams, a man this country has seemingly forgotten, for shame.
And shame on Alexander Hamilton who, by all accounts, was a huge douchebag.