Sunday, April 20, 2008
What I stopped watching or it can't be a good sign
for HBO when I--a former specialist in 18th century studies and, in general, a fan of Paul Giamatti--hasn't been able to sit through an episode of John Adams since the tedious representation of the Versailles court in all its Sophia-Coppola-inspired decadence. I gather the whole project is an attempt to "humanize" the founding fathers, but I'm finding the narrative frameworks a little too familiar: from Paul G's reliance on head-shaking rages in order to dramatize Adams' well-known crankiness to Abby Adams playing out the oddly familiar role of the nagging wife complaining her husband spent too much at work. It's not that I don't believe Adams shouted a lot or that his wife was annoyed that he was busy founding a country, but it seems strange to pay so much narrative attention to story arcs straight out of a NYPD or CSI or virtually any show with a dedicated pro fighting the system and a beleaguered wife having a hard time holding down the home front. It's probably hard to represent the clash of pragmatism and idealism which was played out in the arguments and decisions of the founding fathers in a way that would make good TV, but finding out that John had a hard family life somehow doesn't feel like an adequate substitute.