03/28/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What's Giamatta With Paul? Roger Friedman Disses Alessandra Stanley

Someone oughta open up a window! Alessandra Stanley is getting called out for yet another TV column, this time from Fox News gossip columnist Roger Friedman, who was peeved at her review of the HBO miniseries based on the life of John Adams (second cousin of Sam Adams, the guy on the beer). Friedman was perplexed at her criticism of Paul Giamatti in the title role ("John Adams is the weakest part of "John Adams"...Paul Giamatti is the wrong choice for the hero"). Fightin' words!

I was a little shocked by Alessandra Stanley's off-the-mark review in the New York Times of Paul Giamatti's tremendous performance as John Adams in the new HBO series. Her review, in fact, showed little knowledge of David McCullough's book. She hadn't even seemed to have watched the first four parts of the remarkable HBO series that were made available to critics.

I know Stanley has few fans and is oft-corrected in the Times, but this was too much. As anyone who watched last night knows, Giamatti is just wonderful as the staid, stoic, almost prissy Adams as he tries to invent the United States, deal with decadent Benjamin Franklin (another great performance by Tom Wilkinson), keep his marriage to Abigail together (Laura Linney, amazingly perfect), and learn to deal with the Dutch and the French.

There's a great scene in either Part 3 or 4 when Adams, Abigail, and Franklin, all of whom are in Paris, are joined for lunch by Thomas Jefferson (Stephan Dillane, again, spot on casting). It's a scene central to the detail of "John Adams" and kind of very moving, to be able to see this very convincing re-creation from a moment in our collective imagination of American history. Don't miss it...

Having neither read McCullough's book nor seen the first four parts of the series, I can't comment on the accuracy of Stanley's review, but I can confirm at least one error: She says that in his costume of "18th-century britches and wigs, he looks like Shrek"; yet, Shrek is green, and from all accounts it does not seem like Giamatti was green in any of the episodes (nor Ben Franklin for that matter, high times in Paris with syphilis-ridden prostitutes notwithstanding). So it is with surprise that I find myself sticking up for Stanley, who as TV critic for the New York Times ought to be free to express her own opinions as she sees fit. Just not her own facts.

In other news, "John Adams" features actor David Morse as George Washington — but students of "1776" history will know that William Daniels postively owned the John Adams role in that movie and on Broadway, just as he owned St. Eligius hospital in that awesome 80s drama "St. Elsewhere," which featured, inter alia, Howie Mandel, Mark Harmon, Ed Begley Jr. and...David Morse. An autistic kid couldn't have dreamed up that kind of coincidence!

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