John Adams HBO Mini-Series (2008)
Paul Giamatti stars as John Adams, the first vice-president and second president of the US, in this historical drama based upon David McCullough's Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of the same title. The seven-part series begins in 1770 with the Boston Massacre and ends with the improbable death of both Thomas Jefferson and Adams on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1826). The series will appeal to history buffs, but it's really more of a character study of Adams himself and his wife Abigail. Openly affectionate, their devotion to one another was legendary. Adams, for example, would refer to her as his “best, dearest, worthiest, wisest friend in the world;" over 1,000 letters between them survive. Along the way, the famous founding fathers populate the drama, including Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and George Washington. I agree with the many viewers who have commented how the film makes you see and feel how audacious and tenuous was the declaration of independence by the fragile colonies, and the greatness of the men who transformed their grand vision into a practical reality against all odds. It was Adams above all people who understood that the break with Britain was the easy part, and that the country's really heavy lifting required building a government “of laws and not of men.” About a year before he died at the age of ninety-one, his son, John Quincy Adams, was elected our sixth president. This miniseries makes for fantastic family viewing.