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John Adams: Obnoxious, Suspected, and Unpopular?


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#61

JodithGrace

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Posted Mar 16, 2008 @ 11:05 PM

Well, I enjoyed this, though I did keep singing the songs from 1776 wherever they seemed to fit. The actor who played Rutledge seemed about 12 years old, and Jefferson was definately too short (actually I have no idea how tall he was in reality, but he will always be the White Shadow to me) but otherwise the casting seemed spot on.

I knew Benjamin Franklin..yes I am that old. Well, actually Howard deSilva lived in Ossining when I used to live there and I used to run into him in the dry cleaners all the time. What a charming man, he was. I did see the "original" cast on Broadway. I use original in quotes since Howard deSilva replaced the original Ben Franklin shortly after the show opened, and I love the movie.
But actually I also loved the book by Irving Stone about the John/Abigail love story. I believe it was called Immortal Wife. I read it many years ago, but I always remembered how important she was to him, and therefore to history.

The theme music was driving me crazy since it reminded me of the theme music to something else which I really liked, but I couldn't think what it was.

I have to admit that the production was a bit dry, and it wasn't until they flashed a bit of full frontal nudity at us during the tar and feather scene that I remembered that it was on HBO. I mean it could have been on network television for all of the profanity, etc.

What I did like, though was how authentic everything seemed. I realize that history buffs are criticizing the Join or Die banner that is used thematically throughout, but I didn't know the history behind that and it made sense to me while watching it. The 18th century was an extremely inconvenient time to live, unless you were exceptionally rich, and it's refreshing to see it portrayed that way.

Being a New Yorker by birth and upbringing, I always sigh at how NY comes off in these things. I guess we eventually redeemed ourselves during the war itself, but we weren't exactly the shining light of Continental Congress.

I certainly plan to watch the entire thing. I think it is very interesting and important.
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#62

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Posted Mar 16, 2008 @ 11:25 PM

I have to dissent from the majority here. It just seemed so ponderous. Even the acting seem labored (of course, that's a personal grip I always have with Laura Linney whose charms elude me), and these are talented actors which makes it more disappointing. I know this period of American history is Very!Important!, but this is completely uninvolving.

Also, I find it terribly directed. What is with all the Dutch angles, wavering camera, and quick shots? They add nothing to the material, and seem to be just showing-off.

Edited by jjfc, Mar 16, 2008 @ 11:26 PM.

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#63

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Posted Mar 16, 2008 @ 11:34 PM

I just wish I hadn't chosen to get a snack right before that scene.

Mmm, juicy pustules! (Imagine convincing people it was a good thing--especially when they were barely past believing in witchcraft.) I found it pretty dry, and I admit I was doing the Sunday bill-paying, work prep routine so wasn't wholly focused. But Tom Wilkinson was wonderful (although seemed tall for Ben Franklin, I don't know why). The Declaration reading sequence was pretty darn great, realistic or not, though. Sad but not surprising that the founding of Our Great Republic was so beset with bureaucracy and tit-for-tat.

Being a New Yorker by birth and upbringing, I always sigh at how NY comes off in these things. I guess we eventually redeemed ourselves during the war itself, but we weren't exactly the shining light of Continental Congress.

But we've got Peter Minuit and the purchase of Manhattan Island for $24-the Greatest Real Estate Deal EVAH!

Edited by maatkare, Mar 16, 2008 @ 11:34 PM.

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#64

uclagirl

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Posted Mar 16, 2008 @ 11:47 PM

Being a New Yorker by birth and upbringing, I always sigh at how NY comes off in these things.


Well, it's not as though New York New York City could haven been called a bastion of independence during the war!

I don't know how tall Franklin was--since I have never heard him described as particularly tall or particularly short, I suppose he must have been of average height. Wilkinson probably is too tall, but his performance is so good that I don't find myself noticing. However, Jefferson definitely does seem too short!

While I'm happy to see this production, I wonder if it isn't shooting itself in the foot. So many people don't find this period interesting, and with such strong personalities throughout the Colonies and early states, I have always loved it. However, this production isn't showing that so far, and I think it's missing the "spark" that it needs. Everything and everyone seems so drab! It's a wonder that they had the energy to rebel, when every motion seems to be such an effort. I'm particularly disappointed in Laura Linney's portrayal. While I generally like her, I wasn't entirely sure about her as Abigail--I thought she might seem too modern. However, she's just so mopey! I can't imagine Linney's Abigail writing the "Remember the Ladies" letter, for example.

Zeljko Ivanek, however, was wonderful. I loved watching him look around the Congress and wonder exactly how he'd lost control of the situation. And I loved it when Franklin told Adams to talk privately with the Virginia delegation, basically saying, "If you try shutting up for a minute, you just might learn something."
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#65

lynch

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Posted Mar 17, 2008 @ 12:32 AM

Also, so far I'm quite liking David Morse's understated performance. As good as Wilkinson is, you can't have everybody showing off like he is.
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#66

buttersister

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Posted Mar 17, 2008 @ 12:43 AM

The theme music was driving me crazy since it reminded me of the theme music to something else which I really liked, but I couldn't think what it was.

It reminded me of the theme from Last of the Mohicans crossed with Lewis & Clark.

I thought Giamatti and Wilkinson were especially fun to watch. Good old crotchety J. Adams and wacky B. Franklin. I'll stay tuned, it never fails to amaze me how this place got started and they seem to be set on not entirely shying away from some of the messier parts.

The production values seem to vary a little, though, between Colonial Williamsburg and some of the angles that make parts of the town look at home in Blazing Saddles.

Edited by buttersister, Mar 17, 2008 @ 12:45 AM.

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#67

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Posted Mar 17, 2008 @ 1:55 AM

I liked it and thought it took pains to be accurate - except for Stephen Dillane, an otherwise fine choice, really being too short to play Jefferson. And having seen the original Broadway production of "1776", with all the songs duly committed to memory, I was impressed by the fact that I only wished once or twice that they'd burst into song. Guess that means they're not yanking me out of it much.

I agree that the 'pox' scenes were pretty gross, but then, the pox was pretty gross in and of itself. I also winced during the tarring and feathering.

I thought the guy who played Rutledge could not have seemed more like a fop, but I did like his 'private' talk with Adams and his reference to two 'gentlemen' being able to solve just about anything. Wilkinson seems to be thoroughly enjoying the fact that, as Franklin, he gets most of the best lines. Danny Huston's Sam Adams irked, but then I realized that it was the character, not Huston, and by the end of the second episode I'd warmed to Sam anyway. David Morse is great as Washington, but I've always thought he was a stealth actor, the kind one tends to underrate over and over again... of course this is going to rise and fall on the central pair and I think Giamatti and Linney are doing a fine job, especially at showing the emotional intimacy between the Adamses, even when apart. I loved the scene where Abigail explained to Washington how important the letters were to them and he gallantly promised to have them delivered by his own courier. I also loved the plaintive "All the quotes?" from John after she critiqued his closing argument in the Boston Massacre case.

All in all I'm looking forward to next week's episode.
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#68

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Posted Mar 17, 2008 @ 7:48 AM

And, probably my favorite line about politics ever:

"Mr. President, have you ever been present at a meeting of the New York legislature? They speak very fast and very loud, and nobody listens to anybody else, with the result that nothing ever gets done."


Interestingly, that's still the case!
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#69

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Posted Mar 17, 2008 @ 9:02 AM

I liked this a lot more than I expected to.

I agree that the prosthetic(s) on Washington are too much, and unnecessary.

Re: the music, at first I was happy that HBO seemed to have hired someone new, but as the show went on, and especially during the second ep., it really sounded like the same composer who did Deadwood and possibly Rome and Carnivale, too (it sounds like one composer did all four to me, but I haven't looked into it to see if the three old shows really shared a composer).

Looking forward to more!
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#70

attica finch

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Posted Mar 17, 2008 @ 9:19 AM

Oh, I'm fully enjoying this. There's nothing that's not drawing me in. I seriously want Abigail to be President.

I actually cried out when the tar got poured. Damn, that's a nasty bit of business (and I'd seen Jonesy get it in Carnivale, so you'd think I'd be inured, but: nope.).

Also, so far I'm quite liking David Morse's understated performance.

Me, too, but it's a puzzling choice to me. I think of GW as larger than life, vigorous, robust. I like the modesty and humility that Morse is bringing to the party -- it's lovely -- but I'm hoping we'll get to see some redder meat from him.

Dillane's dreamy distraction as TJ is, um, kinda hot.

Wilkinson is chewing everything within reach and making a meal of it. Love him. Ivanek is doing a really good job with that accent, but I still want to feed him a sandwich. (Or, they're in Philly -- howsabout a cheesesteak?)

Does anybody know why the rep from Delware (I'm pretty sure it's Delaware) had his head wrapped in bandages?

I stayed to watch the "Making of" bit, and was fully amused to see McCullough's full-on mancrush over Washington. Morse looked pleased and rightly gave credit to the makeup and costumers, but he seemed a little surprised by DMcC's swoon. (Perhaps he should have checked in upthread wherein we've discussed the phenomenon of a person's Favorite Founder!)
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#71

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Posted Mar 17, 2008 @ 9:31 AM

Wilkinson was rather good - I was worried about the scenery chewing, but then Franklin was probably a smart alecky scenery chewer in real life so the acting fits. I'm neither here nor there on the fake nose, but Morse is doing rather well also. I just about gave a whoop of joy to see Zeljko Ivanek, loved him since Homicide LOTS and I don't think I've ever seen a bad acting job from him. Lots of good character actors here, and such a pleasure to see them all.

One of my favorite scenes was after the vote to declare independence with the room so quiet - the collective thought of "what the hell did we just do? Yeah we really are doing this" just hanging in the air.

I would agree that it's unfolding a bit slowly, but I'm still enjoying it. Maybe it's just a matter of wanting to take their time and tell the story correctly. Gold star for the set designer and costumer, fantastic job.

Well, actually Howard deSilva lived in Ossining when I used to live there and I used to run into him in the dry cleaners all the time. What a charming man, he was.


I'm totally jealous, he was a great actor.

Edited by cherry malotte, Mar 17, 2008 @ 10:38 AM.

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#72

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Posted Mar 17, 2008 @ 9:53 AM

Now I need to read the book.

This was marvelous - usually, in Revolutionary war dramas (including my beloved 1776), there's a sense that "Of course,they want to be independent! Everyone does." Because that's what we're taught. Just like we weren't ever taught about that trial after the Boston Massacre. That just blew my mind.

And to see they didn't want it, but were forced to it from the situation and their own beliefs, and that they were completely terrified of it - that was done so well.

But - David Morse made me cry when he said it was his duty, and the guns of Ticonderoga scene gave me chills, and to see that wonderful true, loving partnership between John and Abigail - yes.

I need to read this book.
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#73

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Posted Mar 17, 2008 @ 9:57 AM

Mr. Wordnerd (a huge history buff) and I totally loved this last night. It was almost how I imagined starting a revolution would be -- a burning desire to be free coupled with an intense tentativeness about actually DOING it. The "now what?" silence after the final vote was great.

I'm from Boston as well, and actually worked on State Street right after college. I'd get out of the T (that's the subway to you non-Bostonians) RIGHT UNDERNEATH the old Customs House. During all the street scenes I was going "I've been there!" "I walked there!" Even though it was mostly done with green screens, it was still pretty cool.

One question, though. Did the oldest daughter wind up dying? It looked to me like Abigail might have been constructing a cross at the end, but it could have just been her chopping wood.... I was a bit distracted at that moment and couldn't watch with both eyes.

Not sure if the spoiler tags are necessary, but figured better safe than sorry.
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#74

attica finch

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Posted Mar 17, 2008 @ 10:01 AM

wordnerd:No. Nabby lived. She's played as a grownup by Sarah Polley.
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#75

schmanda42

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Posted Mar 17, 2008 @ 10:03 AM

Does anybody know why the rep from Delware (I'm pretty sure it's Delaware) had his head wrapped in bandages?

That was Caesar Rodney. IIRC it was covering up cancer. [/lived in Delaware as a kid]

I just about gave a whoop of job to see Zeljko Ivanek, loved him since Homicide LOTS

Oh hey, are you me? *g*

I agree, though, he was fantastic (though I'll confess to turning to my sister a few times last night and saying "Aww, Danvers got pwned."). I've found all the principal cast has been, actually.
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#76

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Posted Mar 17, 2008 @ 10:14 AM

I know there have been lots of comparisons to 1776 (which I have not seen) but I've always been a fan of the book Johnny Tremaine. I thought that was an interesting way to "energize" the American Revolution by introducing a fictional character who is a very minor player into the grand scheme of things. I tried to sit through The Patriot but had to bail.

So I was looking forward to Sunday night. I have to say I enjoyed the program very much. My pet peeve was only that the North Carolina vote wasn't shown - just heard. ;-)
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#77

Sarcastico

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Posted Mar 17, 2008 @ 10:26 AM

I was in the orchestra (trumpet) my freshman year of high school when the school's annual musical was 1776!
Giamatti wasn't as bad as I'd feared; I like the way he's trying a half-Boston, half-English accent. Notice the way he says "woohhrrd."

They're giving Otto von Bismarck's lines to Ben Franklin! "Politics is the art of the possible." Bismarck, not Franklin.

Can I get a seat on the Jefferson hate train? Totally overrated, and one of the worst mischief-makers in American history.

Edited by Sarcastico, Mar 17, 2008 @ 10:26 AM.

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#78

VodouDoll

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Posted Mar 17, 2008 @ 10:56 AM

Does anybody know why the rep from Delware (I'm pretty sure it's Delaware) had his head wrapped in bandages?

That was Caesar Rodney. IIRC it was covering up cancer.


Exactly. He had cancer in his face. There was a surgery they could do in England that might have cured him, or at least extended his life, but he signed the Declaration instead.

What was the point of infecting everyone with the pox? Was that supposed to be some sort of 18th-century inoculation


Yup! What they would do is take a thread that had smallpox germs on it, cut a little slit in your arm, and then stick the thread in. John actually postponed his wedding to Abigail because he wanted to get inoculated first. The timing for the family's inoculation was off: Abigail was present in Boston when they read the Declaration to the assembled citizens, not home taking care of her sick kids. But it made a great scene, I thought. [/dork]

Edited by VodouDoll, Mar 17, 2008 @ 4:39 PM.

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#79

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Posted Mar 17, 2008 @ 11:04 AM

I hope they get into the political street gang warfare in Boston that preceded and then was a part of the Revolution. (I vaguely remember from my reading things like tar-and-feathering of pretty innocent people


I'd say you got your wish. The tar-and-feathering scene was horrific to watch (I'm still a little upset by it), but if that's how it was in real life, I'm very glad they depicted it in such a raw way.

On the whole, though, I agree that the whole business dragged, especially the first episode. Why did the inoculation scene have to be so long? Watching one cut-and-shmear was plenty to illustrate the point; having to sit there and watch child after child was just unnecessary. It's also very weird that the NYTimes reviewer thought the disease at hand was measles. Even if you were clueless about medical history and didn't know that early vaccination was all about smallpox, the show was very clear that they were talking about smallpox.

They seem to have paid a lot of attention to historical details of speech, but is it really true that people didn't use contractions in everyday conversation? "I do not think," "that is correct," etc. sound so stilted and fake-old-fashioned. There are plenty of contractions in Shakespeare, like I'm, 'tis, he'll, that's, and more, and I can't think why they would be out of use in colonial New England.
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#80

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Posted Mar 17, 2008 @ 11:04 AM

Does anyone know why so many of the scenes are shot with a handheld camera tilted at a slight angle?

It's distracting and annoying.
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#81

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Posted Mar 17, 2008 @ 11:16 AM

Thank you attica finch! I was pretty sure that was the case, but just wanted to make sure.

The tarring-and-feathering scene was quite difficult to watch - including the full monty. I'm no prude, it just took me by surprise, that's all.

I got into a "heated discussion" with a buddy one day who claimed that the Sons of Liberty were in reality terrorists (he also says that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist)... while I don't disagree that they fought dirty and would cater to the mob mentality (the tarring-and-feathering is an example) I'm not sure I'd actually call them terrorists. But I guess it's like he said: one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

When Mr. Wordnerd first saw Samuel Adams, he just had to throw out a "hey, Sammy! Love your Lager!" Dork.
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#82

attica finch

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Posted Mar 17, 2008 @ 11:18 AM

The handheld camera didn't bother me, and in fact I liked it. But I agree, the occasional dutch angle was weird and off-putting. Either do it with (or to) a consistent plan, or don't do it at all.

That was Caesar Rodney. IIRC it was covering up cancer. [/lived in Delaware as a kid]

Posters here totally rock. Thanks!
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#83

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Posted Mar 17, 2008 @ 11:29 AM

If you look at Ceasar Rodney's signature on the Declaration of Independance, it is quite shaky and hardly readable. I believe that he was quite ill and died not too long after that, though I'm not sure of the exact timeline. I do know that he was considered one of the heroes of the D of I because he put his health aside to race back and vote for independence, since he was the deciding vote in his delegation.

Heh..in the interest of accuracy, I just went to our old friend wickopedia and looked at Rodney's signature, and to tell the truth it doesn't actually look any worse than anybody else's. Let's face it, quill pens were nobody's friend. So I guess that is an old wives' tale, if my grade school teachers can be considered old wives.

ETA: Oh, and he didn't die until 1784. So much for my historical education.

Edited by JodithGrace, Mar 17, 2008 @ 11:43 AM.

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#84

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Posted Mar 17, 2008 @ 11:41 AM

One of my favorite scenes was after the vote to declare independence with the room so quiet - the collective thought of "what the hell did we just do? Yeah we really are doing this" just hanging in the air.


I had the same thought. Like "holy f*ck... now what?"

I too was horrified by the T&F scene - and the brutal mob rule that allowed it to happen - I kept thinking JA/SA were going to stop it...somehow...but not.

Overall, thoroughly enjoyed pt 1 & 2; think it is really well-done, and I don't mind some historical inaccuracies. HBO has done it again - and yes, I would love to see 1776 again.
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#85

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Posted Mar 17, 2008 @ 11:45 AM

If you look at Ceasar Rodney's signature on the Declaration of Independance, it is quite shaky and hardly readable. I believe that he was quite ill and died not too long after that, though I'm not sure of the exact timeline. I do know that he was considered one of the heroes of the D of I because he put his health aside to race back and vote for independence, since he was the deciding vote in his delegation.


Actually, Rodney lived until 1784. He did have to race back and vote, but he hadn't left because of his health--he was in Delaware, dealing with a Loyalist uprising. That's plenty of drama on its own; he did ride through the night, in a pouring rainstorm, and arrived just in time to vote, still wearing his boots and spurs.

And he could have gotten treatment in England if he hadn't signed the Declaration, so the part about putting his health aside is true--just not in the way it's portrayed in 1776 (which is an amazingly accurate depiction of events for a fictional portrayal--I really can't fault the few times they "adjusted" things for dramatic license, because they did so in a way that was very limited, and still true in spirit, with the glaring exception of James Wilson).

The tarring and feathering scene was really quite awful, and not likely to have taken place exactly as portrayed. I know of one case like the one shown, but in general it wasn't full-body--and in many cases in Massachusetts it was the victim's house that was tarred and feathered, not the victim itself. By this point, lots of people generally agreed that tarring and feathering was a barbaric thing to do to another person. It still happened in some form, though.

Edited by uclagirl, Mar 17, 2008 @ 11:51 AM.

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#86

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Posted Mar 17, 2008 @ 12:03 PM

So far I've only been able to see the first episode and the first few minutes of the second (I have the rest of the second on tape), and from what I've seen, I'm a little disappointed. I agree with those critics who have said that the first episode has too much of a "Law and Order" vibe to it.

One thing that bothered me was that the action jumped from the aftermath of the Boston Massacre in 1770 to the Intolerable Acts in 1774 (with the Tea Party of 1773 mentioned only in passing) with very little effort to convey that time has passed. I have prior knowledge of the period, so I was able to figure out fairly quickly (though not immediately) what was going on, but it must have extremely confusing for a newcomer. (Call me old-fashioned, but a "Four years later" graphic would have been helpful.)

The confusion was exacerbated by the fact that Adams's children were portrayed by the same actors in both 1770 and 1774. In reality, Nabby was five in 1770, John Quincy was three, and Charles was an infant, but Nabby seemed ten and John Quincy seemed seven or eight in the opening scenes. I understand that corners of this kind have to be cut to save the expense and potential confusion of hiring multiple actors to play the same child at every stage of life, but I think it could have been handled better. At least they could have reduced the children's role in the early scenes instead of having Abigail teach them Latin. I can suspend disbelief and believe John Quincy is just a really tall three-year-old, but when he's learning Latin as well, clearly he's supposed to be significantly older than that. (Oddly enough, Abigail is portrayed as pregnant in 1774, although their last child, Thomas, was born in 1772.)

I was also surprised to see Adams pooh-pooh the Nonimportation Agreement of 1774, which was actually a key event that did a lot to build American national identity in the year leading up to the outbreak of war.

ETA: Samuel Adams was actually less of a rabble-rouser than he is portrayed here (and, to be far, in many other accounts). He was the sort of man who often emerges in popular movements as a bridge between the radicals and the moderates, the sort who had credibility with the masses and often functioned as their spokesman, but who was not as radical as others like the little-known but important Ebenezer Mackintosh. Sam Adams was as likely to rein in the crowd (or attempt to do so) as to spur it on, and when John Adams asked him "Do you approve of this?" about the tarring-and-feathering, I thought that Sam might intervene to stop it, which is the sort of thing that historically he often did.

Also, it's the elderly and palsied (although he lived until 1785) Stephen Hopkins of Rhode Island whose signature on the Declaration is notably shaky, not Caesar Rodney's. Hopkins supposedly said, ""My hand trembles, my heart does not."

Edited by Oudeis, Mar 17, 2008 @ 12:18 PM.

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#87

Tom Cantell

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Posted Mar 17, 2008 @ 12:16 PM

But we've got Peter Minuit and the purchase of Manhattan Island for $24-the Greatest Real Estate Deal EVAH!

I remember reading somewhere that it's even better than that: The Indians who sold it for $24? Not the Indians who actually owned the land. Not that it eventually mattered at all.

Edited by Tom Cantell, Mar 17, 2008 @ 12:16 PM.

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#88

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Posted Mar 17, 2008 @ 12:43 PM

I was surprised how much grade school history this show caused me to remember. As soon as the shots rang out in the beginning I found myself yelling 'Crispus!'. I did a book report on him in 5th grade.

I caught the HBO2 airings and was afraid that I wouldn't be able to finish it so late but I found it griping. When it was over I switched over to 'The Patriot' and there was Wilkerson playing a British general.
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#89

cherry malotte

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Posted Mar 17, 2008 @ 12:44 PM

That was Caesar Rodney. IIRC it was covering up cancer. [/lived in Delaware as a kid]


Quite the famous dude in Deleware, he's on their state quarter. I only know this because my kiddle collects them, then I looked him up at that time. Nasty cancer for that time, can you imagine.

Have to put forth my shallow remark of the day - quite looking forward to seeing Rufus Sewell as Alexander Hamilton...a whole lot.
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#90

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Posted Mar 17, 2008 @ 12:48 PM

Oddly enough, Abigail is portrayed as pregnant in 1774, although their last child, Thomas, was born in 1772.


Actually, Abigail had a stillborn daughter named Elizabeth in 1775, although I do take your point about the ages of the other children. I think it was like you said, they likely didn't want the hassle of dealing with a multitude of child actors.

Can I get a seat on the Jefferson hate train? Totally overrated, and one of the worst mischief-makers in American history.


Awesome. I couldn't agree more.

So far, I'm riveted. I'm looking forward to next Sunday!
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