In part one we met John Adams, lawyer and orator extraordinary, taking his first steps into the political arena. Part two finds John in Philadelphia attending the Colonial Congress, and highly frustrated. Much hot air has been expelled but little of substance has been achieved.

A much needed break at the family farm is abruptly curtailed when news reaches him of the attack on Lexigton and Concord. It is a deeply troubled man that returns to Philadelphia, it was not a battle, it was a ruthless slaughter of untrained men. The solution in John’s mind is clear, negotiation with “Powder and Shot”, but more moderate members prefer to send an olive branch to England.

This may not be John Adams finest hour, lacking in diplomacy and statesmanship he creates a serious rift in the congress, and makes few friends in the process. The die is cast, and as any 5th grader can tell you, this is the beginning of the march to independence that was declared on July 4th, 1776. John Adams writes to his wife “The break is made, and now our work begins”.

This is going to be the hit show of the weekend. HBO have done a stunning job of bringing David McCullough’s book to life. The casting is superb, Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney take center stage as Jon and Abigail Adams, Stephen Dillane plays Thomas Jefferson and David Morse is George Washington. The real show stealer though is Tom Wilkinson whose Benjamin Franklin is nothing short of genius. Cynical and sarcastic, yet done with humor and flair, oh how I would have liked to spend an evening with the real Benjamin Franklin!

The ‘behind the scene’ folks deserve a great deal of credit as well. In particular costume designer Donna Zakowska who has done a spectacular job of recreating the 18th century fashions. In total the costume inventory for the series is over 40,000 pieces. John and Abigail’s costumes were all handmade, and authentic to the period.

I have no idea what the budget was for the production of John Adams, but it must have been huge. Because so much of the series was shot ‘on location’ the project was centered in Virginia. For those of you that are fact junkies, Mechanicsville, a suburb of Richmond to be exact. A former AMF bowling ball/pin factory with over 200,000 square feet of space was used as the soundstage, and nine very large interior sets were constructed. The back lot was also located at the old AMF factory and a two story cityscape was constructed which served for the street scenes of 18th century Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.

HBO is airing parts one and two on Sunday March 16 at 8pm (ET/PT). This is a must see series.

Simon Barrett

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