I’ve been squeezing an hour here and there to catch up on HBO’s “John Adams” miniseries. After tonight I’ll be only three (or four?) episodes behind.
The show has one flaw typical to most every historical drama: the historical figures always seem to work their most famous aphorisms into casual conversation. But you know what? It’s forced, but it if done well it works.
And that’s “John Adams” in a nutshell. It’s forced sometimes, but done well enough that you don’t care. Sometimes you even get swept away in the patriotic drama of it all.
Paul Giamatti might seem an unlikely choice to play John Adams, and he probably is. To me, William Daniels in the sillier-than-silly (but wonderfully so) “1776,” will always be Adams. But Giamatti really inhabits the role, even if he does seem too often too modest. But still: Kudos.
But the biggest kudos (do they come in sizes?) go to Tom Wilkinson as Ben Franklin. He never goes for the laugh, but always lets you see the good humor behind the spectacles.
If there’s a weak point, it’s Stephen Dillane as Thomas Jefferson. Dillane does what he can with the part, but as written, the character lacks fire. I never found myself believing that this was the guy who penned the Declaration of Independence.
Finally, who would have picked David Morse to play George Washington? An unlikely, but inspired pick. HBO and HBO2 will be showing the miniseries near-endlessly, so set your TiVo if you already haven’t.
UPDATE: Almost forgot. Laura Linney as Abigail Adams? It’s the best thing she’s done since “Mystic River” and she absolutely blew me away in that movie.