John Adams has been in my Netflix queue for a while, and I've finally started making my way through it. I've never been a fan of colonial/pre-Independence American history, so I'm not surprised that I couldn't latch onto the first episode, which is primarily a legal drama surrounding Adams' representation of British soldiers charged in the Boston Massacre. I'm also not generally a fan of Paul Giamatti in his dramatic mode (he was exquisite in his 30 Rock cameo -- "Death to Lincoln!"), and so far, he and many of the other actors chew a considerable amount of the scenery. Giamatti in particular leans his teeth into his showier scenes. I suppose the era's fondness for high dudgeon lends itself to long-winded gestures.
The second installment, detailing the run-up to the Declaration, is a lot more interesting, if only for the historical trainspotting that it admits. There's Washington! A-a-and Jefferson, deathly afraid of public speaking! A-a-a-and Ben Franklin, who says many inappropriately hilarious things (e.g. remarking upon the lack of British stones, so to speak). The politicking and historical intricacies are glossed over in favor of impassioned speechmaking (to my relative dismay), but one scene that stands out admirably depicts Adams and Franklin scrutinizing Jefferson's first draft of the Declaration. Adams and Franklin both praise the author's prose and radically trenchant theories while also suggesting improvements, all of which Jefferson seems diffident to and disengaged from. In fact, Jefferson only comes alive when Franklin admires one of Jefferson's inventions. Sovereign rule derives itself from the consent of the governed? Yawn. Swivel chair -- utter genius!