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The Adams Chronicles

4.4 out of 5 stars 94 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Four generations of a founding family

Winner of four Emmys® and a Peabody, The Adams Chronicles created a sensation when it debuted in 1976. Lauded by contemporary critics as "the best and highest-rated series in the history of American public television," its vitality and historical integrity now prove timeless. This lavish series dramatizes four generations of Adamses and 150 years of American history from the birth of the Revolution through the Gilded Age. You meet John Adams -- passionate revolutionary and second president; John Quincy Adams -- proud son of a famous father and sixth president; Charles Francis Adams -- skillful minister to Great Britain during the Civil War; and Henry and Charles Francis Adams, Jr. -- historian and railroad magnate, respectively.

Going well beyond politics, this television masterpiece portrays these men as husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons, as well as leaders. Based on the family’s personal diaries and correspondence, The Adams Chronicles not only educates as a true historical epic, but also captivates as a fully human family saga.


Anyone interested in the birth of America, and those who formed its precious Constitution--that would be just about anybody--will be riveted to all 13 hours of The Adams Chronicles, an Emmy-nominated miniseries from the mid-'70s that focuses on the life, and political dynasty, of John Adams. While occasionally rather talky, the series is accessible, well-directed and a fascinating history lesson, telling the larger story of politics, conflict, and power, through a family and relationships that are touchingly real to contemporary audiences. Adams launched an American political and financial dynasty that the Kennedys and Bushes can only dream of emulating. The second president of the U.S. was a key player in the battle for Independence and the drafting of the Constitution, and his offspring would become statesmen, historians, diplomats, a railroad magnate--even another U.S. president. Originally broadcast in 1976, the height of the American miniseries rage, The Adams Chronicles was a ratings smash, and proves to be a timeless, satisfying tour through America's inspiring formative years.

Adams (also paid detailed homage in both David McCullough's biography and the HBO miniseries starring Paul Giamatti) was a more low-key Revoluntary figure than, say, George Washington or Benjamin Franklin. But his political stealth, and fervent beliefs in liberty and freedom, helped mold the very country at its birth. The Emmy-nominated George Grizzard is nuanced as Adams, whose conscience must forever be reconciled with political reality. His relationship with his intelligent wife, Abigail, is depicted lovingly. Years after the Revolution, living in France as a diplomat for the still-unrecognized United States, Adams greets his family whom he hasn't seen in several years. When Abigail asks, simply, "How are you feeling, Mr. Adams?", he replies, holding her gaze, "Twenty years younger than yesterday." The 13-hour series traces John and Abigail's children, and their children, and so on, up through the Civil War and then the turn of the 20th century. By then there is no doubt that the Adams family is America's family, intertwined with the great upheavals, and achievements, in the young country. --A.T. Hurley

Special Features

  • 12 page program guide featuring articles by C. James Taylor, editor-in-chief of the Adams Papers, and Neil Horstman, president of the White House Historical Association

Product Details

  • Actors: George Grizzard, William Daniels, Nicholas Pryor
  • Directors: Paul Bogart, James Cellan Jones, Fred Coe
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Closed-captioned, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 4
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: ACORN MEDIA
  • DVD Release Date: April 15, 2008
  • Run Time: 780 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0013NAML0
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,504 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Adams Chronicles" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael Birman TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 12, 2008
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Produced by PBS as part of the American Bicentennial celebration in 1976, this superb 13 hour television film chronicles the lives of four generations of the illustrious Adams family. It depicts approximately 150 years - from 1750 to 1900 - in the saga of this family whose history is nearly synonymous with that of the difficult birth and adolescence of the American republic. Central to this sprawling tale are the lives of four Adams men: the patriarch John Adams, the second president of the United States, his son John Quincy Adams, the sixth president, his son Charles Francis Adams, an Ambassador to Great Britain during the era of the Civil War, and his son, the historian Henry Adams. Because the family inevitably participated in the central events of their time, especially during the era of the Revolution and shortly thereafter, the series becomes a splendid, often probing depiction of America's early years. Featuring superb acting, wonderful period sets and costumes and, most importantly, truly stellar writing, this may arguably be the finest miniseries, along with the still unreleased Oppenheimer starring Sam Waterston, that American television has ever produced.

George Grizzard portrays John Adams from youth to old age. He is splendid, as is William Daniels who portrays John Quincy from ages 50 to 81. Daniels is no stranger to portraying Adams's having played John Adams in the film of the musical 1776. David Birney portrays John Quincy Adams from ages 36 to 48. John Beal plays Charles Francis Adams and Peter Brandon plays Henry Adams. John Houseman reprises his Paper Chase crotchety attorney role as the irrascible Justice Gridley, John Adam's early legal mentor. The series depicts all of the founding fathers, doing so with humanity and very few marble bust performances.
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Format: DVD
One of our oldest PBS series dramas that focused on our Founding Fathers and their activities to create the United States of America from the roots of Revolution to the establishment of Political order has finally been brought back for us to enjoy once again. The series was based on a book by Jack Shepherd entitled: "The Adams Chronicles, Four Generations of Greatness" with an introduction by the famous author Daniel J. Boorstin (Long before he became popular for his "Discoverers", etc.) Published by Little, Brown in Boston, Mass. in 1975 (very appropriate !) and covered 150 years of the Adams family involvement in the emerging nation and the politics of the era in which they lived.
The series mirrored the book almost chapter by chapter. Intended to re-familiarize our nation with the leaders from Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, etc. for the celebration of the Bicentennial of America in 1976.,this is past history to be proud of in every respect. The most surprising element is how well the actors played their roles and the interesting insights we get to see, including the popularity of Dr. Franklin in France and his "adventures" in becoming a living pop icon of the era.
The transfer is very plain, but this was not a big production anyway and was rather skimpy with sets, relying on actors to fill out the picture for us. This they do very well. Any History major, specializing in the Revolutionary era in America will not be able to resist the charm of seeing pages of the past made into the land of the living.
A great legacy of cultural film. Reviewing it now you may find that you need to refresh your usage of certain words.
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At long last, the "Adams Chronicles" miniseries is coming to DVD. Anyone with any interest in American history will enjoy this great work. The recently-deceased George Grizzard does a stellar job as John, William Daniels (accustomed to playing John Adams in "1776") is remarkable as John Quincy, and the rest of the cast is not too shabby either! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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If you are trying to choose between this golden oldie and HBO's recent version, rent the HBO version and buy this version. HBO's version is less factual and more gossipy. I am not really interested in whether Benjamin Franklin cheated on his wife. Iam more interested in what made John Adams tick. That is what you will find with the Adams Chronicles. You also find out what happened in four generations. There are many great actors, headed by George Grizzard as John Adams. Also watch for Kathryn Walker, an underrated actress as the young Abigail Adams.The original is still the best.
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Here was America's answer to the great literary and historical dramas and miniseries from Great Britain in 1976. It aired regularly only twice (multiple airings on different PBS outlets) in 1976 for America's Bicentennial and in 1986 for the centennial of the Statue of Liberty. After that, it was relegated to the vaults with only VHS and Beta copies made from the original broadcasts in the hands of a few collectors. It is a brilliant series, brilliantly acted and directed. The late George Grizzard seemed to be a lock for the Emmy for Best Actor in a Dramatic Series of Miniseries (it was won, and just as deservedly so, by the late Gordon Jackson - Hudson on the BBC's "Upstairs, Downstairs") for his outstanding portrayal of John Adams. William Daniels (who played John Adams on Broadway and in the film version of "1776") reprises his role of eldest son John Quincy Adams after 24 years. (He first played John Quincy in his 1952 television debut, the Hallmark Hall of Fame's presentation of "A Woman of the Ages," a drama about First Lady Abigail Adams.)

In a production painstakingly assembled by Virgina Kassel and coordinating producer Robert Costello ("The Patty Duke Show," "Dark Shadows," "All My Children"), some of the great writers and directors of television's Golden Age came together with many of the finest of the Broadway stage to deliver 150 years of history. The series was taken from, not merely based on, the superlative volume of the same name, and much of the dialog comes from letters, journal writings and diaries from Adams family.

It's a decent transfer from the original tapes to the DVDs, but it was diappointing that the original "collage" openings (showing images from each of the 13 episodes as narrator Michael Tolan said, "Four generations...one family...
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