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'Sons of Liberty' review: A Revolution minus modern overtones

General Gage (Marton Csokas) in

General Gage (Marton Csokas) in "Sons of Liberty." Photo Credit: History / Ollie Upton

THE MINISERIES "Sons of Liberty"

WHEN | WHERE Starts Sunday at 9 p.m. on History

WHAT IT'S ABOUT This three-night, six-hour miniseries with an all-star cast begins in Boston, 1775. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson (Sean Gilder) wants Sam Adams (Ben Barnes) arrested for fomenting unrest and failing to collect taxes. "Sons" follows this band of brothers, known as the Sons of Liberty, as they begin the long fight for independence. They include: Dr. Joseph Warren (Ryan Eggold); Paul Revere (Michael Raymond-James); John Hancock (Rafe Spall); John Adams (Henry Thomas); George Washington (Jason O'Mara); and Ben Franklin (Dean Norris). Then, there is Gen. Gage (Marton Csokas), who is sent by London to stop the unrest. As a History news release says: This "is historical fiction, not a documentary. The goal of our miniseries is to capture the spirit of the time . . ."

Only Sunday's opening two hours were sent out for review.

MY SAY "Sons of Liberty" will probably be a big hit for History. After all, this has -- in fancy TV critic-speak -- the frisson of current events. Taxation. Unhappy citizenry. Tea parties.

This is the stuff of "Sons of Liberty" and also the stuff of modern American politics. But those viewers seeking overt parallels between Then and Now, or even subversive hints that the spirit of the boys of Boston lives on, will be disappointed. "Sons" doesn't really go there -- "there" being political overtones or insinuations. This is standard-issue historical docudrama fare that is much more aligned with Hollywood imperatives than Main Street America ones.

It's a cut above boilerplate, with good production values and decent performances. Spall's Hancock is the fun surprise. He starts off as an oddly diffident space cadet whose intensity and mission grow.

But is "Sons of Liberty" even a rough approximation of the real Boston circa 1775 -- with a heroically agile Sam Adams who leaps from roof to roof as dexterously as Batman? And where are the women (they are here, mostly hidden) or African-Americans who would have thronged the streets back then, too? That's right -- free African-Americans may not have been members of the Sons of Liberty group, but they would have filled these streets too, and subsequently play a vital role in the Revolution. You'll see none in the streets here, which is a genuine historic oversight that I wish "Sons" had gone to the trouble of correcting.

BOTTOM LINE Certainly a cut above boilerplate, this good production plays to our idealized conception of what happened.


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