Tuned In

The Morning After: Declare Thy Loyalty

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John Adams (Paul Giamatti) and Abigail (Linney). / HBO: Kent Eanes

Last night HBO began partying like it was approximately 1770 through July 4, 1826, as it kicked off its John Adams miniseries with two installments. Thoughts? I always feel at a little disadvantage reviewing shows like this because I’m not a big fan of historical fiction (or history documentaries) to begin with–though for that reason I was pleasantly surprised by how well I like the four segments I saw. The Law & Order: Colonial Victims Unit episode that launched the series did a particularly good job, I thought, of establishing Adams’ character and his particularly stubborn sense of principle: you get the sense that he takes the case of the British soldier sincerely because he believes in the rule of law and also sincerely because he does not like anyone else telling him what to do. And while I thought Laura Linney’s Abigail Adams seemed written as an afterthought, the second segment did provide some suitably grim glimpses of life during wartime–molding bullets with the children, being inoculated against pox with pus cut from the boils of a victim.

One of my quibbles, though, was with the concluding scene of various parties reading from the beginning of the Declaration of Independence, which–right down to the kid stumbling over “inalienable”–only invited comparisons to TV’s finest depiction of the American Revolution.