March 25, 2008
A Perfect Union
It's not always easy to sit down and watch something that reminds you of sophomore American History class. It's also hard to sit down and watch something that reminds you of the time your family took an educational family trip to Boston where your mom made you stand on the porch of some colonial house, point off into the distance, and scream, "The British Are Coming!" (Said trip also concluded with the family's Plymouth Horizon breaking down on the side of the highway which led to all sorts of other fun drama.)
Anyway, it was with a reluctant spirit that I originally felt obliged to watch the HBO John Adams miniseries that had been stockpiling on the DVR. It felt like having to eat my broccoli. And yet, five minutes in, I was hooked. (Never mind that it took me at least 15 minutes to understand Paul Giamatti's New England patois.) References I was once forced to memorized for random multiple choice quizzes suddenly came in handy... "The Customs House!"..."no taxation without representation!"..."The XYZ affair!!!!"
Aside from brushing up on my history, I found the characters to be totally engrossing. Laura Linney, as Abigail, was luminescent and spouted off truisms I wished I had thought of. Paul Giamatti was great as the conflicted, grudging and grumpy leader, delivering lengthy, inspired monologues with ease. They both deserve an Emmy (ditto for the makeup crew who aged the first couple, warts, liverspots, blackened teeth and all.)
The early episodes and the ones set in France were the most engrossing (later references to his loser children started to wear thin.)
I think TV needs to devote more time to the historical miniseries, especially since, with the advent of DVRs, we can now watch them at our leisure. I'm sad the series has wound down, but here's hoping its success with viewers will convince some exes that we need more of this ilk. It's like Schoolhouse Rocks for adults, only without the catchy tunes and crude animation. So what if The Washington Post questions whether HBO got it right.