Last weekend, Comcast offered a free HBO preview. This gave Pax Arcana a chance to DVR the first two episodes of the most talked-about miniseries of 2008: “John Adams.”
We like the show. Really, we do. But Pax Arcana is a stickler for historical detail. Nothing drives us up a wall faster than a filmmaker who thinks that historical events need to be embellished to suit the tastes of modern audiences.
In that sense, the show leaves a bit to be desired. Here are the top five historical inaccuracies we spotted in the first two episodes of “John Adams”:
5. No monocles or butter churns. Everyone who’s ever been to Colonial Williamsburg knows that the women of the colonial era spent a majority of their time either gathering eggs or churning butter in large, rickety wooden contraptions — while wearing low-cut blouses. The men of the time, we know, all wore either monocles or those glasses-on-a-stick devices. All are pointedly absent from the John Adams miniseries.
They’re glasses. On a stick. And they belong in our history.
4. Sam Adams was sober the whole time. Samuel Adams, a cousin of John Adams, plays a large role in the first episode of the miniseries. He is presented as a dead-serious agitator for colonial independence and a firebrand who hurls old-timey insults like “toss-pots” at passing redcoats. However, as anyone who went to college knows, Sam Adams was a kick-ass homebrewing homey who always had a tankard in his hand and a lass in his lap. He invented beer pong and high-fiving, bitches. Look it up.
Frank ye Tanke
3. No treasure. It’s clear the U.S. government has no interest in revealing the truth about the founding fathers and the piles of gold they stashed deep in a cavern in Northern Virginia. And I guess HBO will just kowtow to the government’s wishes. I suppose it’s just as well, since publicizing this fact would only inspire more treasure hunters who would eventually stumble upon the lock box in the classical archive room at the Boston Public Library where I… I… I’ve said too much already. Forget you ever saw this.
I will find you, Cage. I will. You owe me $9.
2. No sexy Indians. With the exception of the mulatto Boston Massacre casualty Crispus Attucks, all of the characters in the first episode of “John Adams” are white-bread whiteys. While it’s true that most colonists viewed themselves as English — and therefore white — I think it’s safe to say there was more than a little Wampanoag tail making its way around the outer walls of old Beantown. Is it too much to ask that the filmmakers venture into the woods and let the cameras follow a saucy squaw as she cleans her nearly hairless body in the river? For history’s sake.
Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about. Succotash!
1. Where are the flying hatchets? I’m not sure what the budget was on this miniseries, but I suppose I can give the makers the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the fight scenes. The fighting in John Adams is slow and plodding, with a bunch of guys getting shot in the thigh and shin and whatnot. Perhaps it was too expensive to include long tracking shots of a renegade guerilla dodging redcoat bullets while flinging hatchets, Gibson-style, through a dense forest — landing them blade-side down in some crumpet-eater’s spine. Then he approaches another officer silently from the rear and — oops! — snaps his neck! Fucking British soldiers.
America, fuck yeah.
Nota Bene: It really is a good show, and if you’re interested in nitpicking the historical details, you should go here.