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Adams Chronicles, The (PBS 1976, William Daniels, David Birney)

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In the 1970’s the burgeoning PBS’s output was made up of low budget public access shows and British imports but in 1976, to coincide with America’s bicentennial, they pulled out all the stops with a lavish 13 episode mini series (made by WNET), detailing 150 years of the John Adams family and how they influenced American history in a big way, two members of the family becoming US presidents of course , John Adams being the second president and John Quincy Adams the sixth.

Mixing in key moments from history from history such as the revolution, the civil war, the coming of the railroads etc with the personal lives of the men too showing glimpses of their real character behind the public face.

Shot on videotape, giving it an almost British look and a brilliant vintage vibe, the series was a major critical and popular success winning itself a stack of Emmy awards along the way and actually becoming a study guide in schools and colleges across the states. The series is full of high quality performances by notable talent of the likes of the venerable John Houseman, George Grizzard, William Daniels, Emmy winning Kathryn Walker and Nancy Coleman to name just a few of the key members of the mammoth cast (over 1000 actors were credited over the course of the series).

cast
Tim Wilson as John Adams II – younger
Michael O’Hare as Richard Cranch
Wesley Addy as Andrew Jackson
David Birney as John Quincy Adams
W.B. Brydon as Samuel Adams
Allan Carlsen as John Adams II
William Daniels as John Quincy Adams
Curt Dawson as John Hancock
M’el Dowd as Madame Brillon
George Grizzard as John Adams
George Hearn as Henry Clay
Patrick Horgan as Lord Howe
Katharine Houghton as Nabby
Jeffrey Jones as None
K.C. Ligon as Fanny
Lisa Lucas as Abigail ‘Nabby’ Adams II
Nancy Marchand as Mrs. Smith
Pamela Payton-Wright as Louisa Catherine Adams
William Shust as Patrick Henry
Jean-Pierre Stewart as Alexis de Toqueville
John Tillinger as King George III
Kathryn Walker as Abigail Smith Adams
David Elliott as George Washington Adams
Albert Stratton as Thomas Jefferson
Michael Tolan as Narrator
John Beal as Charles Francis Adams
Peter Brandon as Henry Adams
Henry Butler as James Monroe
Nancy Coleman as Abigail Brooks Adams
Leora Dana as Abigail Smith Adams
Thomas A. Stewart as Charles Francis Adams
Tom Aldredge as James McHenry
Maureen Anderman as Mary Cathering Hellen
Susan Bjurman as Fanny Adams
Peter Coffield as George Washington Adams
Patricia Elliott as Minnie Adams
Paul Hecht as Jay Gould
Ken Kercheval as James Madison
Robert Phalen as John C. Calhoun
J.C. Powell as Charles Adams
Nicholas Pryor as John Quincy Adams II
Reid Shelton as Timothy Pickering
Charles Siebert as Charles Francis Adams II
Jeremiah Sullivan as Alexander Hamilton
Robert Symonds as Benjamin Franklin
Tom Tammi as Thomas Adams
Charles Tenney as Brooks Adams
Mark Winkworth as John Quincy Adams

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crew details
Creator: Virginia Kassel

production details
Country: USA
Network: PBS
Duration: 13×60 minute episodes
Aired From: 1976


Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.

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