The History Channel has released a three part min-series entitled Sons of Liberty. I got a chance to view part one this evening. Here are some thoughts in no particular order:
No attempt at historical accuracy. Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way first. I am no historian, so I don’t feel the need to nit pick historical errors in a TV series — even one on The History Channel. Frankly, stuff like that bores the tar and feathers out of me (I’m looking at you Journal of the American Revolution).
I understand Sons of Liberty uses historical events and characters as a touch point for creating TV drama, and yet I would be remiss if I did not point out that HBO’s Band of Brothers and John Adams sacrifice much less actual history at the alter of creative liberty than Sons of Liberty. I guess it is just too damn difficult to stay historically accurate AND entertaining. One must just leave that heavy load to premium cable and acknowledge that Sons of Liberty is no John Adams.
Boy, is Sam Adams beer trying to ride this thing all the way to the bank. Perhaps they are hoping that the reinvention of Sam Adams as a Keuno Reeves lookalike will spark a renewed interest in the hipster microbrewery segment. Or perhaps they have abandoned that market segment and are looking to take the burgeoning Sam Adams superhero mythology all the way to Coca-Cola Santa or Budweiser Clydesdale heights. Honestly how can anyone blame them? Almost no need for the ads at all. I’ll give them credit for throwing one at least on redcoat in an ad however. The head of Marketing has to at least act like he/she is trying.
Sam Adams is a mystery in this series so far–and not in a good way. So far no convincing glimpses into his motivations. He’s upset about taxes (I guess). He is sullen. In between bouts of sullenness he gets chased around by the British. He then becomes mad about a boy being killed due to mob violence. Even HBO’s depiction of Sam Adams has much less screen time yet seems to pull together a more convincing character. This may be in part because Ben Barnes is a miscast. He is just too young. This certainly was a TV demographics driven decision and not a historically driven one.
Rafe Spall’s John Hancock is carrying this series so far. Straight out of the gate you know where the Gentleman Hancock stands. He is a business man. His motives are focused on profit, yet as the show progresses you begin to see the effects of the events surrounding him take its toll. Add to this a few quirks and subtle embellishments of character and you have a solid (and even charming) take on John Hancock. Well done Rafe.
Fantastic setting and costume design. Man, they are getting good with these TV series. Sons of Liberty moves one notch above AMC’s TURN in this department. More ships. More extras. More city. My only reservation is that at times the costuming almost comes across as too grungy and stylish. Mix the costumes with slow motion scenes and you get a definite sense of the video game Assasin’s Creed. As one who was turned on to this period by a video game (Empire Total War) I can’t really complain about the decision here.
That’s it so far. Next time we get to take a look at even more historical characters like Washington and what looks to be Joseph Warren’s scandalous affair. Until then, stay calm and carry on.