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John Adams

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"Trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty."

- John Adams, 1772

John Adams, David McCullough's Pulitzer Prize-winning book and one of the best-selling American historical biographies of all time, comes to the screen as a seven-part HBO Films miniseries.

John Adams chronicles the life of this remarkable historical figure, a man whose fiercely independent spirit, reverence for the rule of law and commitment to personal liberty profoundly influenced the values on which our country was founded.  The miniseries also explores the extraordinary relationship between Adams and Abigail, his wife of 54 years, a partnership regarded as one of the most moving love stories in American history.

This Playtone Production stars Academy Award® nominees Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney as John and Abigail Adams.  Directed by Emmy® Award-winner Tom Hooper (HBO's "Elizabeth I" and the recent Golden Globe-winner "Longford"); Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman executive produce; Kirk Ellis (Emmy®-nominated for "Into The West" and "Anne Frank:  The Whole Story") writes and serves as co-executive producer with Frank Doelger; David Coatsworth and Steven Shareshian produce.  The miniseries also stars Stephen Dillane as Thomas Jefferson, Academy Award® nominee Tom Wilkinson as Benjamin Franklin, Danny Huston as Samuel Adams, David Morse as George Washington, Sarah Polley as Nabby Adams, Ebon Moss-Bachrach as John Quincy Adams, Rufus Sewell as Alexander Hamilton, Justin Theroux as John Hancock, Guy Henry as Jonathan Sewall and Zeljko Ivanek as Pennsylvania delegate John Dickinson.

Since this miniseries is currently available on HBO OnDemand I thought I'd start a thread.


I could watch this every year of my life it's that good. My favorite part other then when Laura Linney's Abigail was on the screen was the scene where Adams, Jefferson and Franklin discuss the Declaration of Independence because it imparted two big pieces of information: how the Declaration was altered and Franklin marveling at Jefferson's swivel chair invention.


Information found on the web...see below.

Conversation between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, regarding who should be the author of the Declaration of Independence. (This is how Adams remembered it occurring, years later. Jefferson had no such memory.)

John Adams insisted that the author be Jefferson.

    Jefferson: You should do it.

    Adams: Oh no.

    Jefferson: Why will you not?

    Adams: I will not.

    Jefferson: Why?

    Adams: Reasons enough.

    Jefferson: What can be your reasons?

    Adams: Reason first: you are a Virginian and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business. Reason second: I am obnoxious, suspected and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Reason third: You can write ten times better than I can.

    Jefferson: Well, if you are decided, I will do as well as I can.

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We have the DVD of this, and my husband does indeed watch it every year.   You're right; it's fantastic.  I felt so connected to John and Abigail that I literally cried at the end, even though they've been dead for like 200 years.  How weird is that? 

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Thanks for the on demand alert! I haven't seen this since its original run, and I've always wanted to have another look. At the time, it inspired me to read a couple books on the founding fathers. Now if I can only find the hours in the next day and a half to watch it! (My on demand has it until the 10th.)

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John Adams is also free if you have Amazon Prime. I just used a clip in a sermon this past Sunday where they are all arguing while writing the Declaration of Independence. Love the series!

Edited by mbutterfly
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Still love Stephen Dillane's performance as Jefferson...absolutely sublime.



Dillane is such a versatile actor.  His Thomas Jefferson portrayal was such a contrast to Stannis Baratheon in Game of Thrones.  He is an underrated talent to be sure.

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I missed this the first time it came around, and until I saw this thread, hadn't realized HBO made it available On Demand every year!


So, I plunked my ass down and watch the first four back-to-back. I love the music, the acting, just everything about it.


Just color me shocked, that I saw a regular bad guy (rapist/murderer/drug dealer) Ritchie Coster from Law & Order, playing Preston in the first episode.  And another veteran from that show--playing the guy who cleared Preston.


I'll definitely have to read the book.  Though I can't recall if the author is the same one who wrote "Culloden" and if so, I think the reason why I didn't read the book when it first came out, because Culloden was just so damn dry in its telling. (I'd just come from visiting Scotland when I read it).

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I wish that someone would do a miniseries on Hamilton--he had an extremely dramatic life, filled with highs and lows. Of course, there's always the new musical.  Rufus Sewell did a good job in John Adams, but he didn't look anything like the historical figure.   I enjoyed the scene where Hamilton had to explain the basics of economics to a supercilious Jefferson.  I agree about Dillane.  Best Jefferson that I've seen.  I quite enjoyed Giamati's performance as well.

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The best Jefferson I've ever seen is Bill Barker, who portrays Jefferson at Colonial Williamsburg.  Parts of the Adams miniseries were filmed at various locations at Colonial Williamsburg.  I was able to watch some of the filming, which was interesting to watch (patience is a virtue useful to have when watching filming).

I have the DVDs, so I have watched this several times, but I'm thinking it's time for another watching!

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I really wanted to like this and watched the first episode when it aired, but Giametti was just too...not the Adams for me. Another actor with the same script, I might've loved it.

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Yokosmom, if you're a theater fan and live near NYC, there is a musical coming to Broadway soon based on the life of Alexander Hamilton. It's written by Lin-Manual Miranda who wrote the Tony-winning musical, In the Heights.

On topic: I am a big fan of John Adams, but I couldn't get past the tar and feathering scene in the first episode. HBO doesn't pull any punches where violence is concerned.

Edited by Phebemarie
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I really wanted to like this and watched the first episode when it aired, but Giametti was just too...not the Adams for me. Another actor with the same script, I might've loved it.

Me, too. I'm attached to Adams and family. Grew up in Quincy, MA, which meant passing the church where he and Abigail (and John Quincy and Louisa Catherine) are interred, and walking past the statues of John and Abigail in our little downtown (they are across the street from each other to emphasize how often they were apart. It meant multiple field trips to the Adams homestead and learning lots and lots of Adams history. That said, Giamatti was the only actor who bothered me. 

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One of the things that struck me while watching this over and over again is the irony of John Adams being the first president to move into the White House (which was built by slaves) when he was one of the few founding fathers and the only founding father president never to have owned them.

I'll never tire of this miniseries. It's one of the few that I re-watch twice a year.

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I'd be curious to hear if others think this still stands up. I've recently watched the first two episodes.  The first was okay - Adams was a bit shouty, but otherwise mostly fine - but I found the second quite dreadful. Adams, Washington, Franklin are all so painfully stiff. Let Franklin talk, for heaven's sake, not just spout Poor Richard's! And the effort to weave the dialogue with quotations directly from primary source material means it feels simultaneously stuffed-shirt and inaccurate. (in that time the term "revolution" still meant a turning back to former ways rather than a break from the past, for example, so every time they use that word it clashes disastrously to my ears.)  overall, for me it felt like a history-shaped version of a living creche. A necessarily simplified (talk a little faster, a little more concisely and you could get in a little more nuance!) celebration of a founding myth that is much, much more interesting when it's complex than when it's simple. I'm very curious about whether others who've found it recently enjoy it or whether it also feels painfully dated to them. 

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