It is probably already difficult for the youth of today to imagine a time when a television miniseries required you to actually stay home at a given time to watch it. In this time of DVDs and Netflix and “On Demand,” it may be hard to imagine a time when you could not binge watch an entire season of your favorite television show, or the entirety of a mini-series, in one snowy weekend. However, such was the case in 1984 when James Flexner’s four-volume biography was brought to life on prime time television, starring Barry Bostwick, with Patty Duke as Mary Washington and Jaclyn Smith as Sally Fairfax.
Of course, there are a few teeth-grinding moments during this series. There is the always-painful aspect of a man in his mid-thirties attempting to play a teenager. Jaclyn Smith’s portrayal of Sally is pretty painful too, particularly her party-banter about “the language of the fan.” Ugh.
Still, this is the only series on Washington out there, and it does a pretty good job of trying to humanize a character who, for far too many people, was a walking statue or, worse, the grumpy looking man who stares back at us dispassionately from our dollar bills.
For the most part they get things right. The series was actually two different ones – the first, produced in 1984, dealt with Washington’s childhood through the Revolution, and the second one, produced in 1988, deals with the Presidency.
Another teeth-grinding part of the series, though, involves a less than honest portrayal of Washington and slavery. Particularly distressing is the writers’ decision to spread Washington’s old canard that Oney Judge had been seduced by a Frenchman and that his only reason for trying to capture her – he set up a plan to have her kidnapped and shipped back to Mount Vernon – was his concern for her safety.
For those interested in the true story of Washington, we suggest Bow Tie Tours’ Washington Tours. We offer both Washington’s Steps, involving George Washington in Philadelphia, and a tour of Valley Forge, which delves into George Washington’s military career.