We will tell you up front, this take is scathing. If you do not read another sentence, do yourself a favor and avoid wasting 7 hours of your precious life on this questionably embellished series.
The Fortress has a solid foundation of knowledge concerning the revolutionary period. It was a unique time where a hand-full of great men came together in one place, and for a common goal. We could learn a lot from those times. HBO’s John Adams series either tramples or misrepresents the education, passion, honor and sincerity of the era.
Whatever you may think of the founders, the producers of John Adams had an agenda to not only “humanize” them, but made efforts to impugn their character. In reality Adams was such a devoted family man, and yet painfully sacrificed month after month away from them for year after year. Washington himself wanted nothing more than to retire and yet literally for the country’s sake took on his second term as president. After leaving he would live less than 18 months more.
We went into John Adams having heard some favorable media buzz. However favorable buzz from the mainstream media is rarely a good thing in regards to the founders. Next we should have been tipped off by the early and generous overuse of the fly-buzzing sound effect. Oh there were flies then as there is now, but the sound was used to make a constantly squalid impression.
Finally another tip-off was the excessive use of the Dutch angle. We already know that tripods are passe, but now we cannot even hold the handheld camera level? It was like watching the 1960’s Batman TV series if the entire episode took place in the Penguin’s lair. The cumulative effect of the handheld camera and Dutch angle left you feeling continually off balance and a little ill-at-ease.
You could learn more about the personalities of the founders from the the fanciful musical 1776  than you can from this dark, monotone, overly gritty and music-less piece. Do not waste you time watching this agenda driven material. Instead read David McCullough’s heavily sourced books John Adams and 1776 and see what these guys really thought in their own words and those of their contemporaries.
There is a definite current tendency to filter all people and all eras through today’s overly cynical and morally relative eyes. However there really was such a thing as a man of virtue. Not perfect by any means, but upstanding.
Some of history’s greatest documents came from a small group of dedicated men. HBO’s John Adams would have you believe that the founders were unenviable, overly flawed men who stumbled kicking and screaming into successfully pulling off the greatest revolution in history.