Founding Fighters

HBO's John Adams looks anew at the start of America--and of the arguments it's still having

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From left, Paul Giamatti as John Adams, Sean McKenzie as Edward Bancroft and Tom Wilkins as Benjamin Franklin are shown in a scene from the HBO's John Adams.

America's first president, George Washington, is on Mount Rushmore. So is the third, Thomas Jefferson. But there is only the merest crevice between them where the second, John Adams, might have been. Nor has Adams ever been on the face of a regular piece of U.S. currency. William McKinley got the $500 bill, for God's sake!

The misfortune of John Adams the man, however, is the good fortune of HBO's John Adams the miniseries. Because viewers have little preconception of the man, the miniseries is free to do what history should, which is not just reproduce the past but reflect on...

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