Kent Eanes, Hbo
Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney star in HBO's "John Adams."

John Adams looks like something that ought to be on PBS, not HBO.

That's both high praise and a bit of criticism.

The seven-part series that chronicles the life of the second president of the U.S. is lush, lavish and, at times, almost epic in scale.

It's paced more like a British production on PBS's "Masterpiece," however — which means slow. Particularly in the first couple of episodes, which take a while to get rolling.

Once "John Adams" does get going, however, it's hard to turn away. This is fascinating stuff, beautifully acted and directed and handsomely mounted.

Part historical epic, part personal drama, part love story, "John Adams" (Sunday, 9 p.m., HBO) opens in 1770 in the wake of the Boston Massacre. Adams (Paul Giamatti) defends the British soldiers accused of murdering innocent colonists and gets them off, which doesn't help his personal popularity.

Part 2 also airs Sunday (10:10 p.m., HBO), and we see the often prickly Adams as one of the driving forces behind the move for American independence.

Part 3 (March 23) and Part 4 (March 30) follow Adams as he's appointed as an ambassador to France and then, following the American victory for independence, to Great Britain. Adams is elected the nation's first vice president, and Parts 5, 6 and 7 (not yet provided to critics) will follow his presidency, his rivalry with former close friend Thomas Jefferson (Steven Dillane) and their eventual rapprochement.

Giamatti is masterful, and Laura Linney — who never seems less than great in anything she does — is wonderful as Abigail.

Other historical figures — from George Washington (David Morse) to Benjamin Franklin (Tom Wilkinson) — come to life as real people, albeit not exactly the people of popular legend.

This is HBO, but there is no R-rated language, no nudity (with the exception of a brief scene of a tar-and-feathering that's anything but erotic) and, compared to most police shows on network TV, the violence is minimal.

Be prepared, however, for some horrific scenes involving smallpox.

"John Adams" is not completely true to David McCullough's masterful biography on which it's based, but it's close. And, if you have the patience to sit through the first episode and a half, it will reward you for doing so.

IN KTVX'S LATEST effort to juice up its news ratings, Ch. 4 recently moved its early evening newscast from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The station has made a number of similar switches over the years.

The early returns aren't real good. For the week of March 3-7, Ch. 4's 6 p.m. newscast was not only a weak third behind newscasts on KSL and KUTV but was actually fifth in the time slot.

Here are the five-day averages of households that either watched programming live or on DVRs within a 24-hour period of the telecasts:

Ch. 5 (local news), 65,500; Ch. 2 (local news), 49,000; Ch. 13 ("The Simpsons"), 36,000; Ch. 30 ("Two and a Half Men") 21,000; Ch. 4 (local news), 17,500; Ch. 14 ("Friends"), 7,000.


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