Sunday, March 30, 2008

John Adams on HBO: 3 and 4: Jefferson and Space Travel of the Soul

A powerful, beautiful Episode 4 of John Adams on HBO tonight - after last week's somewhat lackluster Episode 3, in which the highpoint of the tension was Adams getting sick of and in Europe.

But let's look at Episode 4, bursting with brilliant scenes:

.John and Abigail reuniting Paris - handled with sensitivity and passion, as Abigail forgives John for his years of absence.

.Adams and Jefferson in Paris (1) - Adams chastising Jefferson for the high opinion he has of human nature, at the same time that Jefferson chastises Adams for his low opinion of same. This difference of opinion is crucial, and will set the stage forever more in American history between those who want strong central authority to show the people the best way (Adams) vs. those who want to protect the people, capable of governing themselves, for the tyrannies of government (Jefferson).

.Adams and Jefferson in Paris (2) - at the launch of the first hot-air dirigible. Adams doubts that it will fly; Jefferson (a Renaissance man and inventor) believes it will. Guess who is right ... Another reason I always liked Jefferson - I bet he'd would have been a great advocate of the space program today and in the 20th century... he was always an advocate of space travel of the soul, of human beings breaking beyond their confines. (Obama is not a big fan of space travel, but his vision of the human spirit reminds me of Jefferson.)

.John and Abigail Adams, and Jefferson: Abigail is somewhat taken by Jefferson's charm...

.Adams meeting King George III ... the King is willing to give Adams a chance, for now, because he heard that Adams was not too fond of the French ... England, however, won't really get over losing American until at least the War of 1812.

.Washington takes office as the first President, and Adams as the first VP. Brilliantly acted and perfectly staged. Once again, I had tear in my eye during this vivid American history.

And there was more. But I'll stop here, and just add that the acting was outstanding.

Stephen Dillane is perfect as Jefferson. Paul Giamatti as John and Laura Linney as Abigail are excellent. David Morse looks like he came right off the dollar bill as George Washington. Tom Hollander even puts in a memorable performance as King George III (I say "even," because the time on the screen was short, the rendition understated, and the effect therefore all the more impressive).

I loved the music, too - kudos to Rob Lane and Joseph Vitarelli.

This is the best American history I've ever seen on television.

See also: John Adams on HBO: Good Founding Father, Bad President ... John Adams 5: Jousting of Ideas ... 6. President and Father ... John Adams Concludes ...

Further reading ...

The Flouting of the First Amendment - my 2005 Keynote Address at Fordham University, in which I talk about the vying opinions of John Adams v. Thomas Jefferson on human nature...

The Soft Edge: A Natural History and the Future of the Information Revolution - my 1998 book, with more details on this time in history, and the roles of Adams and Jefferson

And ...

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