Based on the book by David McMullough, HBO's John Adams (Paul Giamatti) covers the life of the would-be second President of the United States in the way only HBO can. I often give a lot of credit to PBS for making even the most mundane of topics interesting. In many respects, HBO is able to pull off the same feat by taking history and tossing in a little dramatic know-how (not that early American politics needed much drama added to it).
The series begins with Adam's life as a lawyer in 1770 and continues through his Presidency and eventual death. A large part of the series deals with Adam's constant frustrations with the still-fledgling government and the toll it eventually took on his family life. Time is equally split with his home life, in particular his devotion to his wife, Abigail (Laura Linney) and family.
Generally, the mini-series does a good job of showing both Adam's private and public life, though the split tends to muddle up the pacing. The first few episodes rocket along at a great pace as they set up Adams' background. About the time Adams gets into office, the series begins to buckle a bit under its own weight. It tries to keep the personal story going while wedging a bit of the country's early history. Were it not for stellar performances by Giamatti, Linney and a host of others, John Adams would likely fall apart in the middle.
The Blu-ray release ships with the same extras found in the DVD release along with a few "enhanced for Blu-ray" features. "Painting with Words" discusses McCullough's career, including his Pulitzer-winning novel, home life and interest in John Adams. There are a number of non-related anecdotes that, at times, seem pointless, but even the more off-topic anecdotes are fun - at least if you're the type that's interested in hearing about people's lives.
Another extra is a short "Making of..." featurette. Most of the runtime is dedicated to showing the painstaking process production designers went through to make the series as historically accurate as possible. The history behind the production is further focused on with two "pop-up" features. One is a set of 17 short biographies on the show's more significant figures, while the other offers background information on everything else.
John Adams is an accurate representation of the man it follows. Though not a perfect, awe-inspiring series, it isn't something to ignore or overlook. If you missed out on the DVD release, make sure you pick up the Blu-ray release.