It’s Not About John

Number one in my list is this series from HBO.

But in spite of the title, it is not about John Adams. It is about the birth of a nation as witnessed by someone who was not only there but who also played a key role.

The series of nine episodes, each about one hour long, comes on three DVDs. I get these because I can then “rip” them to my main computer as *.mp4 files and, thence, copy them to my tablet, either the iPad or the Samsung Android tablet I now use after giving the iPad to my wife. Add a pair of noise cancelling ear buds and I’m ready for a trans-Pacific flight.

I am partial to this particular series because of the attention to historical detail. Having been to many of these same locations hundreds of years later, while the buildings are different, the climate is unmistakable. For example, in an early shot, we see John Adams on horseback in the dead of winter headed back into Boston. The bitter cold is unmistakeable, and yet this is how they lived, day in and day out. It is easy to feel what they must have felt.

But the overpowering content is the story, told from one man’s perspective as he slowly converts from citizen loyal to the King, to vocal objector, to rebel who knows he must do what is right even though that makes him a traitor doomed to a gallows hanging should he be captured.

How many of us would put everything we have, everything we own and even the very breath we take on the line knowing that our lives would be sacrifice and the future of our families at best no more than desperate and uncertain?

I’ve watched this series in its entirety at least half a dozen times. And after a long break, I’m now looking forward to a business trip to Florida and the associated five hour flight so I can again watch this awesome production, half going and half returning.

As a lay historian, this production brings that time and those events to life like no other experience.

I’ve walked across the bridge outside of Concord where “the shot heard around the world” was fired, and sat on the hillside where the patriot’s stood their ground. Immersing yourself in the actual location is an awesome experience. So was my visit to Faneuil Hall in Boston, Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and a distant view through the wrought iron fence on the south side of the White House.

But seeing what they saw–back there, back then even if it’s a fabrication–hearing the scrape of stone on raw wood floors, seeing a top-notch actor’s performance of the fear to be inoculated against smallpox by direct transfer of infection from sick person’s open sore to well person, and through all that to nonetheless rise up and throw off a tyrannical ruler … well, this series captures it all.

It is quite an experience.

You’ll find the complete set new for around $30, used for as little as $10, and you can watch it “on demand” right on your computer. But I recommend you purchase a DVD (or BlueRay) because you will want to watch it several times.

It’s that full of detail.

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