John Adams (TV series)

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to navigation Jump to search

2008 US Miniseries, about the life of John Adams, second President of the United States, from his defense of the soldiers accused in the Boston Massacre in 1770 to his death in 1826. Shown in seven parts.

Two major themes stand out throughout this work- "behind every great man is a great woman" and "the more things change, the more they stay the same"- there seems to be a fair few parallels with the contemporary USA in the story, something emphasised when More 4 broadcast in the UK in the weeks around the 2008 US Presidential Election.

Nominated for 23 Emmys, it won 13 of them, setting a record for most wins by a single series in a single year.

An excellent series, with brilliant performances from Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney.

Tropes used in John Adams (TV series) include:
  • The American Revolution: Well, obviously. Key moments of the Revolution or their aftermath are shown throughout the series including the Boston Massacre, the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the Declaration of Independence and many others.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Charles to John Quincy.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: Or rather, Awesome Moment of Swearing In. George Washington becoming the first president is truly a sight to behold. From the other Founding Fathers gathering behind him to walking towards the balcony where the audience hears the buzz of a crowd until a woman shouts "There he is!" and thousands of people cheer as Washington appears to take his oath. "God bless George Washington! President of the United States!"
  • Ass in Ambassador: Adams, to a degree while representing America in France. Franklin eventually gets him removed because of it. Ambassador Genet while whipping up support for the French in America is very much this.
  • Bald of Awesome: John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.
  • Bilingual Bonus: John Adams gets confronted with both French and Dutch during his stay in Europe. That he does not speak a word of French is greatly hilarious to the French king.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Charles does this to John in "Unite or Die," when he describes their lack of contact when John and Abigail were in Europe.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: Some members of Congress still feel loyalty towards the king, though grieved by him.
  • Cool Old Guy: Dr. Benjamin Franklin, natch.
  • Courtroom Antics: John Adams when defending the British Soldiers after the Boston Massacre.
  • Culture Clash: Funnily enough not as strongly between enemies US and UK. John and Abigail Adams seem more baffled by the land of their allies, France.
  • Daddy's Girl: Nabby.
  • Dan Browned: Some minor historical inaccuracies, but...
  • Deadly Decadent Court: Vive la France, baby.
  • Deadpan Snarker: George Washington certainly had his moments. And in general this was sort of Ben Franklin's thing.
  • The Dutiful Son: John Quincy.
  • Eccentric Mentor: Benjamin Franklin succeeds in Adams toning down his obnoxiousness... a little.
  • Eternally Pearly-White Teeth: A rare aversion. Every character's teeth get noticeably more hideous-looking the older they get. In fact, George Washington is so tight-lipped, his teeth are never shown (he had false teeth).
  • Fake American: Tom Wilkinson as Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Stephen Dillane as Thomas Jefferson, Rufus Sewell as Alexander Hamilton... Admittedly, the characters should necessitate this kind of casting, because the Founding Fathers were British subjects before they were "American", and the colonies were culturally similar.
    • Hamilton, in fact, was born and raised in the British West Indies, on the island of Nevis.
  • Fish Out of Water:
    • To say that Adams doesn't fit in at the French court is an understatement.
    • Adams' meeting with George III, in all its awkwardness, surely counts as an example. Behold.
  • The French Revolution: Causes a lot of problems during Washington's presidency.
  • General Ripper: Alexander Hamilton. The enemy X is Revolutionary France.
  • The Good Chancellor: Adams to Washington during his time as vice-president.
  • Happily Married: John and Abigail Adams. A stark contrast to the French court.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: Adams' only response to a scathing newspaper article that hurls numerous physical insults at him is "I'm not crippled."
  • Kavorka Man: Benjamin Franklin - ambassador, inventor, statesman... skank? By all accounts, however, this is correct.
  • Large and In Charge: Washington.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson to a certain degree.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Tom Hollander as King George III. His total onscreen time is less than ten minutes and limited to a handful of lines, but manages to hold his own against Paul Giamatti.
  • Pair the Smart Ones: Why John and Abigail have such a good marriage.
  • The Presidents (USA):
    • George Washington: Appears throughout most of the series. True to form, his influence is felt even when he doesn't appear in the episode.
    • John Adams: Naturally.
    • Thomas Jefferson: Adams' ally, best friend, rival, enemy, and best friend again.
    • John Quincy Adams: Interestingly enough, the show watches John Quincy from a young, bookish little boy all the way to ascending to the presidency.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Abigail, but only once, in France.
  • Pretty Boy: Edward Rutledge, most definitely.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The Boston Militia.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: John Adams is Red to Thomas Jefferson's Blue. Also, Alexander Hamilton is the Red to Jefferson's Blue.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Hot tar. OW.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: John Adams is visibly impressed when his wife puts on a nice dress at Versailles. Apparently Truth in Television.
  • Shout-Out: Possibly unintentional. At one point about midway through the series, Adams is pacing and ranting about something and Abigail says to him, "For God's sake, John, sit down". Her words are identical to the repeated line from "Sit Down, John", the opening number to the much-loved musical 1776 about Adams' labors to convince the Second Continental Congress to unanimously adopt the Declaration of Independence.
  • Shown Their Work: Far more accurate than most works about The American Revolution.
    • It's based on a legitimate work of history.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Ambassador Genêt, and how!
  • Smart People Play Chess: Combined with a fair amount of Squick for Adams (and hilarity for us), when Adams heedlessly barges into Franklin's quarters at the American Mission in Paris...only to find Franklin playing chess in a bathtub with Madame Helvétius.
  • Southern Gentleman: Edward Rutledge of South Carolina. When he privately informs Adams that his colony - pardon - state is willing to vote for independence he says that one of the reasons the southern delegates delayed for so long is that they are used to a more "courtly forum".
    • A lot of the Southern delegates--including Richard Henry Lee, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson--are also portrayed this way.
  • Strange Bedfellows: France of the Ancien Régime and the Rebellious States.
  • Stunned Silence: The delegates of the Second Continental Congress after they pass the Lee Resolution, making the United States an independent nation, July 2, 1776.
  • The Quiet One: Thomas Jefferson. Truth in Television, natch, and lampshaded by Adams.
  • Talk to the Hand: Rutledge casually waves the back of his hand at an angry Adams and his supporters during the debate over independence.
  • Tar and Feathers: Adams witnesses a British tax collector being tarred and feathered by an angry Boston mob.
    • Can also serve as a Tear Jerker and Nightmare Fuel for some, conflicting emotions and all. Sure, the mob was angry over a rightly felt injustice, but to see a man screaming in agony for only trying to do his job is enough to make anyone feel for the unbearable pain he must have gone through.
  • Tears of Joy: Adams awakens after a serious illness to the news that the British have surrendered at Yorktown. After several moment of digesting the information he breaks down in tears and kisses the messengers hand over and over.
  • War Is Hell
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Charles Adams gets this treatment in the series; with his father being largely absent during his childhood and teenage years, Charles becomes resentful, neglects his own wife and children and devolves into alcoholism and self-destructive behaviour before dying an early death. Not quite how history really played out, and more likely done to invoke Rule of Drama.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Invoked by John Adams to Sam Adams following the Tar and Feathers scene.
  • Woman Behind The Man: Abigail, so very much.