Review: ‘John Adams’ is TV at its best

September 24, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

John Adams Review

John Adams, More 4, Saturday 27th September, 5:30pm Alert Me

The American Civil War. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t set the spine tingling with excitement. Yet here is a show, John Adams, that absolutely wiped the floor at the Emmy’s, taking 13 of the awards– and guess when it is set? Not only does it take place in 1770 but our hero is the relatively unglamorous  John Adams. Who? You say.

Well, turns out he was an instrumental figure in the Civil War and the second president of the united states. Yeah, bet you didn’t know that. Unless you are a history buff in which case, well let’s just say if I was a teenager i might point at you and say ‘Neeerd’. I won’t though, because i’m far too mature.

Yet you would be seriously mistaken to dismiss this as one for the buffs. Starring the superb Paul Giamatti as John Adams and Laura Linney as his wife Abigail, this is a show that tackles an epic premise in a way that only HBO seems to be able to do.

From the opening shots of Adams plodding through the snow on his horse, beneath the skeletons of hanged men and signs crying ‘Join or Die’, John Adams evokes for us a dirty humanity that is caught up in what would become an epic struggle, arguably shaping the modern world by forming America as we know it.

As Adams returns from a lost case he hears shouts of ‘fire’. Running to help he discovers not a fire but a massacre of five men and boys at the hands of the British Red Coats. No-one except Adams will take the case to defend the men.

Adam’s himself is a complex man, both humble and hungry. His ambition is thinly veiled and yet he is at heart a man of enormous integrity.

This is a show that grabs a powerful premise, shoves it through the muck and mire of history and gives it a human face. These are people who saw great things in their life times and yet often we remember the history and the legends before we remember the men behind them. John Adams remedies that.

A truly excellent, utterly gripping show that is TV at its best. Not only is it dramatically absorbing, but it also gives brings life to a period that is usually relegated to history books and quotes about the Founding Fathers in legal dramas.  A must watch.

By McGee Noble