Paul Giamatti: John Adams
Laura Linney: Abigail Adams
David Morse: George Washington
Sarah Polley: Abigail 'Nabby' Adams
Rufus Sewell: Alexander Hamilton
Justin Theroux: John Hancock
Matt Roush offers his review of the epic miniseries on HBO.
John Adams, based on David McCullough's acclaimed biography, is as sumptuous and satisfying as TV gets: gorgeously produced, marvelously acted and written with a sense of high drama amid generous displays of wit.
Befitting such an enduring love story, Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney are splendid as America's second First Couple. At home, when John sheds his wig and attitude, they're equals: "You do not need to quote great men to show you are one," Abigail chides him, all the while acknowledging her husband's indisputable greatness.
As his ardent champion and best and most loving critic, she truly does complete him. They ache for each other's company and counsel during his long absences as he tends to history and she minds the family and farm.
Linney's wry warmth meshes with Giamatti's restless bluster, rendering Adams admirable even when unlikable. He's combative and impatient, whether debating independence in Congress or awkwardly practicing diplomacy in Europe. He bristles with envy when upstaged by his more admired peers, each sharply played: Tom Wilkinson as the witty Franklin, Stephen Dillane as the urbane Jefferson and David Morse as a Washington of quiet dignity.
"You are not meant to sit in the shade of life," a colleague assures him. Indeed, John Adams emerges from the pages of history as a dynamic hero of ideas in this dazzling TV event.