March 17, 2008

Ed Murrow would be proud

Living virtually “over the hill” from historic Deadwood, South Dakota, Karen and I have visited that colorful community many times. Its scenic setting in the northern Black Hills makes the town a popular tourist destination, as does its raucous gold rush history. Of course, Deadwood also heavily promotes its present-day casino entertainment, too.

Nonetheless, I’ve never watched a full episode of HBO’s much-heralded TV series, Deadwood.

I must confess, I couldn’t get beyond the filthy language used gratuitously throughout the single episode to which I was exposed. How unfortunate that many folks like myself missed the series; on the other hand, knowing that liberal license was taken with authentic language of the period, I fear the whole series strayed quite far from reality. A friend suggested that perhaps I should be less prudish. After more than 24 years of exposure to "salty language" in the Navy, I've never thought of myself as a prude. Perhaps HBO could produce a good historical drama without incessant gutter language? Except for PBS, there aren’t a lot of folks doing that kind of quality programming anymore.
Well, now they’ve gone and done it! HBO this month unveiled what appears to be a great series, John Adams, chronicling the lives of our second U.S. president, John Adams, and his remarkable wife, Abigail. The seven-part story is based upon the Pulitzer-prize winning book authored by David McCullough. The series premiered March 16th and subsequent episodes will air Sunday evenings during the rest of March and into April. I’ve watched the first two episodes, and I’m hooked.

The story is well told, finely acted, and leaves you wanting more. I’ve just visited the HBO John Adams web site, and before the day is over, I’ll visit our local library and hope that they have a copy of McCullough’s book.

Some reviewers have been critical of actor Paul Giamatti, who portrays Adams, but I found his character very credible. Laura Linney as Abigail Adams was superb. I was quite inspired by the first two episodes of John Adams. I want to revisit colonial history and the founding of our country. I want to know more about the Adams family. My curiosity has been aroused!

Programs like HBO’s John Adams series demonstrate the power of television. And it it comes like a breath of fresh air.

Legendary broadcaster Edward R. Murrow once said about television, “This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box.”

Congratulations to HBO for bringing us this outstanding series. I think Murrow would be proud of what they’ve done. I know I am.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you search for realism I encourage, no implore you, to rent the HBO Deadwood series. Since you've seen the first episode, go straight to the director's commentary. David Milch explains, in excruciating detail the realism portrayed in his fictional account of Deadwood. He explains the foundation for the rich frontier victorian language used. Virtually each DVD has one or two commentary selection. The imperative ones are those by Milch or one of his guest directors. I suspect that unless one lived in the mud 24/7 for months on end that one may be too civilized, too divorced from even a modest frontier-like existence to appreciate Milch's depiction of the harsh realities and, yes, crassness of basic survival, of building a community, of establishing a rule of law. My wife saw the first episode and walked away. After I watched the director's commentary and convinced her to watch it; she was hooked. She's an award winning writer lacking tolerance for mediocre.
Shifting to Adams, we both read McCullough's book, immensely enjoyed Part 1 of the HBO series, were riveted to the commentary "Making John Adams", and look forward to Parts 2-7. Both series are as history should be taught.