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An Exciting Story
on July 30, 2008
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.