By Erin Strecker
Updated July 04, 2012 at 06:00 PM EDT
Credit: Kent Eanes

When was the last time you really thought about the Founding Fathers? During the Independence Day holiday, it seems we watch war movies such as Saving Private Ryan or Pearl Harbor—films about more recent events in our nation’s history.

But this Fourth of July, treat yourself to the 2008 seven-part (You could watch it all in one day!) HBO miniseries John Adams, based on the book John Adams by noted historian David McCullough and starring Paul Giamatti as John Adams and Laura Linney as his wife Abigail. Did we mention the Tom Hooper-directed epic is also the most-Emmy-winning miniseries ever with 13?

Settle in and go back to 1770s Boston and you’ll see why. It kicks off with the Boston Massacre, and other early episodes hit on huge milestones such as the negotiating and signing of the Declaration of Independence, as well as Adams’ relationship with Ben Franklin. The whole show spans essentially all of Adams’ life, so you’ll also see later-in-life moments such as his presidency and his subsequent defeat to Thomas Jefferson.

The whole thing is a great refresher for those of us whose early American history has gotten a little rusty—not to mention the episodes are full of interesting tidbits, such as Adams’ extremely strained relationship with his son John Quincy and enough drama between George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and himself to make an episode of Revenge look peaceful. And for those of you who thought history is kind of boring, think again: This drama shows that at least some of the Founding Fathers knew how to party (We’re looking at you, Franklin).

Fun fact: John Adams died at age 90 on July 4th, on the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. This year, brush up on your Americana nostalgia — Katy Perry singing “Firework” in movie theaters will still be there this weekend.

Who are your favorite patriots on the small screen?

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