Monday, March 24, 2008

Review of John Adams: Episode 3

The new HBO miniseries John Adams is now in its second week. So far, the film has been the buzz of almost every single blog and website that is dedicated to the American Revolution. It is wonderful to finally have a film on the American Revolution that the public is responding to.

Last week I gave the first two episodes ("Join or Die" and "Independence") some positive reviews. This week, however, I felt that episode #3, "Don't Tread on Me," was actually quite dreadful. This episode deals primarily with the experiences John Adams faced while in France from 1777-1781. My main problem with this episode (and I think this will be my main problem with the series overall) is that it only skims the surface of history. There is little to no "meat." Again, I understand that this is primarily the result of the limits of film making. With that said, I still found myself longing for much more from last night's episode. There was absolutely NOTHING on the war itself (again, I realize that this is a film on John Adams and not the Continental Army), which is an extremely important part of the revolutionary story. I also felt that Franklin's role in France was greatly diminished in the film. I understand the need to portray the Adams/Franklin feud, but at the same time is seemed like Franklin was often portrayed as nothing more than a lazy sex maniac, which diminishes his all-important role as America's finest diplomat.

The French were also portrayed in a somewhat negative light. Instead of depicting the French nobility as child-like and oblivious, I wish that the film would have shown the French as they were in the 18th century: as THE center of culture, sophistication and education.

Anyway, I sincerely hope that next week's episode will be more on the lines of episode #2, which I feel is the best so far.


Tommy said...

Though I agree with your opinion, the overall perspective has been that of from John Adams. Even a particular Characters portrayal may be tainted by the point of view of what John Adam's sees. Though historically we know Ben Franklin to have such integrity, John Adams may not, so therefore the show will not.

Brad Hart said...

I agree that the film views the events of the American Revolution from the perspective of John Adams. That is something i've never argued against. My problem is that certin historical facts were either twisted or ignored in episode #3.

Tommy said...

I am just asking, were those certain historical facts twisted and ignored because that is how John Adam's viewed the events?

Brad Hart said...

I think they were "twisted" because this is a television production, not a bonafide historical documentary. I applaud HBO for endeavoring to recreate as much historical accuracy as possible, but in the end, this is a movie.

Brian Tubbs said...

Here's a question...was Benjamin Franklin sexually active in Paris during the Revolutionary War?

There's little doubt that he was flirtatious, but that's not the same thing.

Obviously, earlier in life, Franklin indeed was on the move so to speak. He writes openly about "whoring" in England.

Do we have solid evidence that Franklin was a "sex maniac" (as Brad describes HBO's characterization) during the American Revolution?

Tommy said...

From this article here:

It sounds like Mr. Franklin used gossip as a way to do the talking and to move his way through the hearts of the French Court.

Now, I do agree with Brad that this of course is a TV Production and as we all know, sex sells. But, I do wonder if Mr. Adams believed the Gossip?

Brad Hart said...

Historian Gordon Wood does mention the fact that Benjamin Franklin shared "a very intimate affair" with Anne-Catherine Helvetius. Franklin proposed to her on numerous occasions while on his diplomatic mission to France. John Adams noted that French women, "had an unaccountable passion for old age."

Franklin actually debated staying in France, which he considered "the civilest Nation upon Earth." At a later time, Franklin stated, "I am here among a people that love and respect me, a most amiable nation to live with...and perhaps I may conclude to die among them...I have been so long abroad that I should now be almost a stranger in my own country."