Saturday, August 08, 2015

Television Review: Sons of Liberty

"The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power of man, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of any man, but only to have the nature of law as his rule." - Samuel Adams, founding father of the United States of America 

Along with Texas Rising, Sons of Liberty emerges as the History Channel's latest attempt to dramatize history in a manner that will appeal to modern audiences with little or no concept of true historical facts. Utilizing historical figures such as Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, John Hancock, and John Adams, Sons of Liberty follows these men as they stoke the fires of rebellion against the British and ultimately win their independence in 1776. (If you want a great review of Sons of Liberty that compares it to recorded history in a wonderfully detailed manner, you can click here.) I, however, will focus mostly on the aspect of Sons of Liberty that irritated me most: the dialogue. 

Take, for example, these exchanges between characters on the show:

Samuel Adams: Who is that?
John Adams: George Washington.
Samuel Adams: ... He's intense. 

(on being told the Continental Congress wants an explanation for the exchange of gunfire at Lexington)
John Hancock: They want it right now?
Samuel Adams: In case they hadn't noticed, we're in the middle of a fight here.

Now compare the above to an actual sentence articulated by Samuel Adams:

"He who is void of personal attachment in private life is, or very soon will be, void of all regard for his country. There is seldom an instance of a man guilty of betraying his country who had not before lost the feeling of moral obligations in his private connections." 

Ben Barnes as Samuel Adams
Mmhmm. Lil' bit different, aren't they? Even though the History Channel affirmed that Sons of Liberty is indeed "historical fiction at best," they didn't clearly advertise it as such. And if you're going to make a mini-series about the most important moments in our country's history, please please please do it right! I understand that the vernacular of 1776 might be a bit foreign to modern viewers, but seriously? Who wrote this thing? (I know who wrote it; the question is rhetorical.) When you have a wealth of historical knowledge available to you, the opportunity to integrate these men's real words and beliefs into a show attempting to glorify them ... why on God's green earth would you not utilize it? Sons of Liberty seemed to me as though someone grabbed a few hipsters off the street, threw some colonial clothes and a tri-corn on them, and said, "Okay, make a speech about liberty and freedom!" 

The results probably would have been the same. 

That being said, the acting of Ben Barnes (Samuel Adams) was a (the only?) redeeming quality of the show. The cinematography and opening sequence was beautifully done, as well. Hans Zimmer, as always, composed a magnificent main theme. Even the costumes and CGI were pretty well done. 

But, being the grammar Nazi and writer that I am, the horrifically anachronistic language just about ruined the show for me. Plus, after reading about all of the historical inaccuracies, I can conclude that while Sons of Liberty may have been mildly entertaining, it was far more fiction than fact. And if you're writing a show about America's liberation from the British, that ain't what you should be aimin' for. 

I give Sons of Liberty a 5 / 10 and will now resume reading inspiring quotes about freedom and independence from the real Samuel Adams. 

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