Sons of Liberty: Was the Premiere of History's Miniseries Revolutionary?

Sons of Liberty Miniseries Premiere Recap

A group of unlikely acquaintances unite to take down a common enemy in History’s Revolutionary War drama Sons of Liberty, and — to paraphrase a famous quotation from the era — it’s a time that tries even the most patient TV viewer’s soul.

The opening installment of the cable channel’s scripted miniseries, which premiered Sunday and continues through Tuesday, covers one of the most exciting epochs in American history: the years right before the colonies turned against British rule and decided to go to war for independence.

It was a time of great unrest, violence and intrigue… so why does Sons of Liberty‘s first few hours feel so slow?

The fault isn’t in the cast, led by Ben Barnes (The Chronicles of Narnia) as Sam Adams, whom we meet in Boston in 1765. Adams has collected taxes for the British and then redistributed the wealth among his friends, making him persona non grata with the Crown. When Redcoats come looking for him at the beginning of the movie, his escape — and the subsequent chase through the city — looks and feels like something out of Assassin’s Creed.

But when that excitement is over, the miniseries falls into a plodding examination of the events leading to war. We see the foppish John Hancock (Rafe Spall, Black Mirror) move incrementally from complete collusion with the British overlords to revolutionary-in-the-making, thanks in part to Adams’ influence. We meet John Adams (Henry Thomas, E.T.), who initially discourages his grieving hot mess of a cousin Sam from doing anything to draw attention to himself. We watch Dr. Joseph Warren (Ryan Eggold, The Blacklist) hang about the edges of the action (though he’ll have more to do in subsequent nights, as will Breaking Bad alum Dean Norris as Benjamin Franklin).

The first installment comes to a climax in February, 1770, when a scuffle between angry colonials and outnumbered British troops turns into the Boston Massacre — and of course Adams is there in the melee, cracking skulls as the snow falls. (Desmond Miles would be proud.)

A few other items that are irksome throughout: Why do some of the colonists have accents, while others don’t? And did people of that era really say — as Hancock does at one point —  the slangy, “I get what you’re doing”?

Anyway, now it’s your turn. What did you think of the miniseries’ opening? Grade the premiere in the poll below, then hit the comments to elaborate on your pick.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. will says:

    Loved it!

  2. trenton says:

    Where was ichabod!!!!!!!

  3. Lisa says:

    Completely disagree with the negativity in this article. As a history lover (and major) I LOVED it. It’s very difficult to do a different dramatic take on something that has been done over and over again, but History completely succeeded with this. It made me want to learn all the more about side figures who I only gave a cursory glance at before. Never did I expect to come out of this all abuzz over John Hancock, but that is exactly what happened. Cannot wait until tomorrow night.

    • Mo says:

      Oh goodness, John Hancock! And I agree with the different take… I felt like that different perspective was the thing that drew me in. I am not a history lover, so I appreciated watching something that didn’t remind me of those educational films we had to sit (or sleep) through in school.

    • Harry Birkenhead says:

      Lisa, I too am a history major and how anyone who appreciates the truth of the past can even recommend this debacle is beyond me. Twisting history for the sake of entertainment is uneccessary. Hancock and Adams were thieves and smugglers both so disasterous in their business they were forced to highjack goods from the British. A Revolution to them would be advantageous since they were wanted by the British and would have been hung anyway.

    • Mike says:

      Good lord, you loved this series and you are a HISTORY MAJOR????? You should change major….maybe take up script writing for Hollywood…. or maybe CNBC. Ridiculous just isn’t strong enough of a word, both for you and this utterly stupid miniseries.

  4. Charlie Brown says:

    Why can’t Hollywood make the true events interesting and correct and stop taking artistic licensure

    • You are correct. The true events and the real story of the characters involved is much more interesting than this fantasy some script writers concocted. I have worked on numerous film projects and see this happen all the time. It is sad they wasted money on this. The same actors could have portrayed the real characters quite well if they had a good script to work with.

  5. Barbara McDonald says:

    A little too slow for my taste – hope tomorrow night is better.

  6. Gigi says:

    I really enjoyed watching today’s episode. It was a bit slow yes, but to me that it even more intriguing leaving wanting more of tomorrow night. Overall, the history is great And also great cast. Ryan Eggold is everywhere, also in the Blacklist!!

  7. Mary says:

    I was very impressed with the cast – especially Rafe Spall who was a complete surprise to me.

  8. Vincent says:

    In 1770 Samuel Adams would have been 48 years old I think they should have age progressed the actor a bit.

  9. Trey says:

    What a surprise. A “writer” that uses the phrase “hot mess” to describe one of the fathers of her nation doesn’t think there is enough action in a miniseries on the History Channel. How about commenting on if it was historically accurate or had any educational value? Which, years ago, was the History Channel’s intent. They have lost their way lately with ridiculous shows that have nothing to do with history, so I was happy to actually see a little history on the History Channel. Maybe one day Jean Claude Van Damme and Michael Bay will make a mindless, action packed movie of the Revolutionary War that will not bog you down with storyline. Several of us, however, enjoy a little story with the violence.

  10. C. Walls says:

    In 1770 Alexander Hamilton would only have been 15 at most. He was born in 1755 or 1757 depending on the source. He was a bit of a prodigy but the movie portrays his story all wrong. Some historical accuracy would have made for an even more compelling story. The truth is always more incredible than fiction!

    • moonbeams 62 says:

      I don’t recall Hamilton figuring in to this mini-series in any major way. Didn’t he get his start through being an aide to General Washington? He’d have been 18-20 tears old.

      Also want to say that I adore Ben Barnes and Ryan Eggold. On general I thought they did a great job casting this. I read up on Sr. Joseph Warren after I watched it and he was a tragic digure. Gage did make his soldiers mutilate the body.

  11. Imzadi says:

    Love, love, love Ben Barnes, and am looking forward to seeing Seventh Son (so is my grown daughter!). I was amazed by Henry Thomas in Betrayal (he & James Cromwell were just about the only good things in it!), and of course Neal from Once Upon a Time and Big Jim Rennie from Under the Dome are in it, too!

  12. Jim says:

    Anything on TV that helps to educate Americans to our history is welcome. I would guess that before this show aired, more people associated the name John Adams with a beer than with the American revolution. And who knew that behind the John Hancock signature was an actual person? This is good stuff.

    • Nell on Wheels says:

      How old are you?

      “Who knew that behind the John Hancock signature was an actual person?” I do hope that was sarcasm.

    • Jenny L. Smith says:

      I believe you mean Sam Adams on tation to beer not John

      • Fred Tetreault says:

        I Think your getting close to the reality of revoultionary history as it is presented today.There are well educated historians,that know every facit of it. On the other hand there millions and millions that have no knowledge or are completely disinteresred in what it is all about. Keep telling our beaitiful histroy story in an old manner you will end up (as is almost the case today) where only historians will hold the true story, the accurate, correct model of our Revolutionary History. Ask almost any american who made the fisrt flag – there will tell you right off – why – Betsy – what`s her name!

  13. Gary says:

    Garbage in garbage out. The “H” channel is at least consistent with turning out poor programing.

  14. JB says:

    I really enjoyed it!

  15. John Smith says:

    Take notice are we there again

  16. tom says:

    Show was OK,but really… 8 minutes of shew and 5 minutes of commercials. Will not watch next parts.

  17. Confed says:

    This show was a-typical. Nothing but hyped up nonsense created for brain dead people who think everything should be bar fights and battles. Sam Adams was no drunk who hung around in bars. He graduated from Harvard in 1743 & yes he was no business man he did run & write for a newspaper. His father was also a rich planter & brewer, but the History Channel no longer lets history get in the way, so when are Ancient Aliens going to intervene in the Revolution!

  18. Patriot First says:

    The production, storyline and build up was exceptional- the delivery, redirection and abuse of marketing destroyed the movie. The amount of advertising really disrupted the flow and got so annoying that I wound up switching between other shows and flipping back. At one point my attention was drawn away and I failed to see the ending of episode one. Now, I have resided to wait until I can OnDemand the series and FF through the ads. I get the need for advertising, but to deluge people with the same ads more frequent that the norm you lose. Quite ironic that our revolution was spurred on shameless greed and same goes for trying to tell the story……

  19. Mike Geeeeeeee says:

    This is typical of the History Channel bring out a good mini series and kill us with commercials. They seemed to come on about every 2 minutes and lasted 2 minutes

  20. Uncle Charlie says:

    Switched OFF after the 24th commercial in as many minutes. A one hour program stretched to two hours is not my mug of Samuel Adams or cup of Boston tea.

  21. NANCY says:

    Not as good as JOHN ADAMS

  22. Amy says:

    It’s better than aliens, mermaids, Hitler, or the slew of reality TV that History/Discoery Networks shows as of late.

  23. ABC says:

    Producers are taking great liberties with the story. John Hancock was actually 14 years younger than Sam Adams and was his protégé. Adams was not the ‘near do well rapscalion portrayed in this series but a prominent politician around the same age as his cousin John Adams. All that said, I am really enjoying the fact that producers chose Brits (Ben Barnes, Rafe Spall) to play Founding Fathers. Would imagine the actors themselves fancy the irony.

  24. MichaelC says:

    Slow, the story is set during the 18th century. Less people, population density much lower, communication was incredibly slower, if you noticed when the Governor wrote his Report letter and sent it back to England, how many months did it take, a while. What do you want Michael Bay type explosions and special effects all over the place. If it wasn’t slow then something would be wrong with the story telling. Slow is a good tempo pace for the time period. Not sure what exactly people are expecting. Maybe if anybody learns anything from this maybe, not necessarily historical facts vs TV drama, is that persective was totally different back then. I bet allot of people didnt realize that the confronation between the British soliders and Boston citizens that resulted in a shotings was the portrayal of the Boston Massacre. I overall liked it and would definitely enjoy if it became a regular TV series. It would be nice if the writers in the credits of the show, showed there source material for each episode so people could go and look up for themselves the written history vs TV enchanced drama.

  25. maggie grover says:

    If you don’t know anything about American history, you might enjoy this. If you do know about the real history, you might find this show disgustingly vapid and inaccurate. The History Channel has finished its transformation into The Historically Inaccurate Channel.

  26. Mark says:

    Great show and good education material for the now generation that needs to see how difficult our beginnings actually were for the greatest free country in the world. I hope they stay with the historical facts.

  27. Marc Hohenstein says:

    I read 18th century American History constantly. This was more of an attempt to put action figures over real people. John Hancock had very bad gout and wrapped his feet in towels to prevent banging-probably from all the wine he drank. The real characters are far more interesting than this fictionalized recreation. Go to the Constitution Center web site for more real facts about these fabulous people who little by little came to see liberty from the English as the last thing that they must do to achieve their “pursuit of happiness.”
    Samuel Adams was 45-48 years old in 1765 and did not cavort on rooftops. John Adams was younger than Sam, his cousin, and graduated Harvard. He was an attorney and a rather irascible individual. There are far more interesting things if you read Pauline Maier, Joseph Ellis, or Robert Ketchum.

  28. Joe says:

    As a history buff, I only took a colonial American course at a local university, I was disappointed to hear contractions and way too much over action on the main characters parts. Sam Adams escaping capture looked like something out of the Jason Bourne series. I know they need to fill in what may have occurred but try to keep it in context and facts. I also do not believe Paul Revere went riding through the country side yelling the British are coming, were they not all subjects of Great Britain.

    • You are correct. Paul Revere first had to row across the Charles River and meet Deacon Larkin. Dawes previously set out across Boston neck. They did not say the British are coming, because they were British. Contemporary accounts said, they called, “The Regulars are Coming.” That meant the Regular Crown Forces as opposed to the local or Provincial Militia, which most people were members of, some wearing Redcoats.

  29. One thing wrong: Sam Adams was motivated by his Puritan heritage. Converted in the Great Awakening of 1741 he vowed to create in America a “Christian Sparta” His motivation was more religious than economic. THe series makes him out to be more like us when he was really a zealous Puritan trying to help the New ENgland Israel break away from the Egyptian England. THe antagonism with England was a religious division over a hundred years old. That context is important.

    • You are quite correct on that. It is too bad every character in this series was presented in a way that was total fantasy with no regard for who they were or what they did. It was entertaining but it is a total misrepresentation, not just a twist.

  30. john says:

    when I turned it on I thought I missed the beging then about 8 minutes it started the credits very fast at the beging and then it slowed down will see how it goes

  31. Amanda says:

    I liked the first part and the miniseries so far. Does have a lot a actors I already like in it. I know it’s not historically accurate but a lot of biopics, including ones about celebs and musicians, aren’t always. It has been years since I’ve had a history class but I do remember the basics and seems like we’ll be getting that. About the accents does make sense there would be colonists with Irish, English, Scottish, and Welsh accents but not the American we know now, or even the Boston one Michael Raymond James seems to have as Paul Revere. I guess maybe the producers thought it’d be better if the Americans sounded more American but they still should’ve had their ancestors accents. From what I remember reading it took over a hundred years before the American accents formed.

  32. Jeff says:

    The series portraits how our fore fathers fought for Liberty, rights and justice with blood, sweat and tears. How they decided they had enough of the kings taxes and underhandedness. I see a pattern as of todays government affairs. Very good production.

  33. Carl says:

    I have re-enated the Massacre and The Tea Party many times. Sam Adams did not run across roof tops, and did not smash heads at the massacre. What the History Channel has done is spin history. It is HISTORICAL FICTION based VERY LOOSELY on what really happened. names are accurate. Gage was NOT a brutish barbarian. He was , believe it or not, somewhat sympathetic toward the colonists. His wife may have given away something, but it wasn’t information. There is no evidence that she was a spy for the colonists. The clothing and wigs are barely tolerable. This part of history is very rarely, if ever, portrayed correctly.

  34. Ted says:

    I am an avid student of the American Revolution era and couldn’t wait for Sons of Liberty. How sad that they make these great men seem like a bunch of beer guzzling rabble instead of the highly educated and well spoken framers of our great country. But I guess if it gets the younger generation interested in our history then maybe there is something to be gained by this mostly fictional story.

    • Susan says:

      Most of them weren’t educated men. They were farmers and blacksmiths and so on. You are placing too much importance on them being bigger than they were. They were average men fighting for their freedom. That in and of itself is a miracle.

      • Ted says:

        The leaders of the Sons Of Liberty were all educated and for the most part accomplished businessmen. Sam Adams was well into his forties at the start of the war and of puritan heritage which would not conform to this TV image of a young, hip, beer drinking troublemaker. John Adams actually defended the British soldiers who were charged with murder after the Boston massacre and got them aquitted of any wrong doing. Also as per another posted comment here General Gage was not a brutal iron fisted unfealing brute as depicted. He was sent to quell the protests not foment hatred for the king.

    • You are correct in your summary. Hopefully people will see this and get interested in history and check out the facts. Of course, they will find this whole production was total fantasy which totally misrepresented the characters and which got the details of every event as well as the uniforms and weapons all wrong. It is too bad. It could have been very good. The actors did well with what they were given. The blame for this falls on the producers for allowing such a poorly written script, such inaccurate hideous costumes, wrong weapons and totally wrong military drills. Reminds me of when I worked on a project with the History Channel and the armorer on the set was having the actors use Civil War drill for Rev War. They are quite different. They probably used a graphic novelist for an historical adviser. No historical adviser would have sanctioned anything in this production. Oh yes, by the way, I am an historical adviser for films and for other projects which have aired on the History Channel.

      • David Ashton says:

        Larry, I totally agree. Inaccuracies abounded in this series. I live in the city of Salem, MA, and you would not believe what passes as local history when it comes to the media. Talk about separate universes. That said, and having a history major myself, I realize that times have REALLY changed, and in order to capture the attention, and advertising dollars of our Kardashian Nation, a lot of reality needs to be bent…if not broken entirely. People today lose interest quite quickly if something doesn’t blow up…have sex…or gratuitously kill other people, non-stop. This movie was filmed in Romania, for peat’s sake.

        On the other hand, my (somewhat feeble) hope is that perhaps a few folks, young people even, may see this woefully inaccurate production, and perhaps become intrigued enough to pick up a history book (if they still exist) or google some of the historical figures and learn something accurate. If even one soul is saved, perhaps it was worth the effort.

        I did find the acting to be pretty good. How did Ben Barnes learn to nail his contemporary American accent? The actors were handsome/pretty to look at, and the production values were not too bad. I would equivocate this mini series to the WGN melodrama Salem. At least they shoot that in the USA. Cheers!

  35. Susan says:

    I would have missed it if I wasn’t a channel surfer. I had no advance warning since I don’t sit on this channel all of the time. If they want to be a success at these miniseries… ADVERTISE. That is a no brainer.

    Otherwise I enjoyed it.

  36. PaulD says:

    My only complaint about the first episode was the feeling they were channeling “Gangs of New York”. And why do most of the rebels sound Irish? Were there “Southies” in Boston back then?

    I’ll watch ep 2 tonight and see how it goes.

  37. Harry Birkenhead says:

    After viewing the opening episode and watching Sam Adams leap over tall building in asigle bound, I realized this is something better left to science fiction rather than real history. Sam was in his mid-forties by this time, hardly vigourous enough to leap over roof tops. I’m passing on the remaining episodes since this is so outlandish it is almost a farce.

  38. Harry Birkenhead says:

    The producer actually should have taken notice of a series like Downton Abbey where history was researched and acurate.

  39. Ruth Rankin says:

    The script play fast and loose with historical accuracy, and some words and expressions seem more 21st century than 18th. However, congratulations to the script writer who made sure that Paul Revere said “the redcoats (not “the British”) are coming!

    Mrs. Gates is ridiculous, while, on the other hand, Ben Barnes lights up every scene he is in!

  40. Randy says:

    Too many commercials. It frustrated me so much that I stopped watching it

  41. The actors did a good job with the scripts they were given, and the cinematography was great. BUT the costumes were the worst, historically inaccurate costumes I have ever seen in any production. I am a professional historian and adviser and costumer. People did not dress the way they were portrayed in this show. The military uniforms were so bad. Looks like they bought most of the items at a 75% off sale after Halloween from a bad costume shop. I have seen those hats many of the men wore in this production on eBay from some bad costume shops. There were a mix of India Pattern Muskets (ca. 1812) and French Muskets (which were not in the colonies). The black scarves on the soldiers were horrendous. No such item was worn by the Crown Forces. And their was more historical inaccuracy than accuracy. None of the events were portrayed correctly. One of the worst (in the first 2 nights) was the way they portrayed the Sons of Liberty as having assembled an army at Lexington. No such thing happened. It was all fought by Local Militia and they stood along the side of the road in a non-confrontational way. This was really really bad. If it had been a fictional account of a history of a world in another galaxy then it would have been enjoyable thanks to the cast and cinematography, but to portray this as being historical people and actual historical events and to misrepresent it so is horrible.

  42. tshryock says:

    The battle scenes were a mess with historical inaccuracies too many to count. It’s a shame the History Channel couldn’t hire a history professor to get things right. The slangy, modern dialogue was also irksome and out of place. It’s a shame, because I thought the cast did a good job acting and the “feel” was right, but too many errors to overlook or take it seriously.

  43. Stephen Packard says:

    Everything on TV exists to make money. With that in mind, Sons of Liberty does a fairly good job of teaching American History while holding the interest of enough non-historian viewers to make a profit.

  44. Hunter says:

    Is there a season two???

  45. Molly says:

    Hope the continue the series. This show got my third grader interested in American History!!!

  46. Kristy says:

    I loved it! This show lit a passion in me that I almost forgot I have. I like how it’s relatable with its modernized dialogue. I really hope it continues.

  47. Though it was a 6 part series…if only 3 parts…part 3 ended abruptly

  48. anthony pye says:

    It really pissed me off that the story ended too quickly!
    I wanted to see the battles against the British up to Cornwallis’s surrender.
    What a bummer–only part of the story was told!

  49. Arlene P says:

    About time that our history of independence is deplicted so everyone can see how our country pushed foward. Read books before but seeing the characters come to life was magnetic. It helps that they were handsome as well.

    Our country struggled and fought for our independence and July 4th is more than fireworks. Thank you, history channel.