This week’s episode of John Adams showed many of the same strengths and weaknesses of the last two. It continues to be gorgeous — a showcase for the production team and Take Fujimoto’s gorgeous photography, as well as a reference point for anyone with a high def TV — but it never really congeals into a single, coherent arc, and it relies too much on Law & Order style displays of courtroom talking points. Too often it plays like Greatest Hits of the American Revolution: As Told By John Adams: Here’s Adams being pig-headed in France; here’s the grotesquery of small pox, in vivid detail; here’s the inscrutable Thomas Jefferson being asked to pen the Declaration of Independence; here’s Ben Franklin, dishing wit and wisdom and charming the pants (quite literally) off of France’s upper crust. It’s not that it’s bad so much that it’s perfunctory; it lacks a unifying vision.
On the other hand, TNR’s discussion of the show continues to be excellent. I’m especially taken by some of the original Adams writings that Steven Waldman notes:
This Society has been a greater Calamity to Mankind than the French Revolution or Napoleans Despotism or Ideology. It has obstructed the Progress of Reformation and the Improvements of the human Mind in Society much longer and more fatally.”
Content aside, I think this liberal use of upper-case letters strikes a nice balance between the oblivious shout of ALL CAPS and the conventional — dare I say boring? — lower-case of contemporary English. A British acquaintance kept saying “whilst” at dinner the other night; she was made fun of for it, but it was really quite charming.
PS: I was going to title this post “Adams-antium,” but I thought better of it. Monday morning is not the time for such buffoonery.