It's some years since I saw the series, but I clearly recall making the comparison with 'To Kill A Mockingbird' at the time - and unfavourably, too.
The problem was that the series was unable to tell the truth, that, at the time in which the series was set, almost all white folk in the South, liberals and conservatives alike, believed strongly in segregation. And were not in the least ashamed of the thousand small, everyday ways in which Jim Crow, social perhaps even more than legal, gave them a position of superiority.
In 'Mockingbird', the Gregory Peck character was just about right: he was sympathetic to, and worked hard for, the man unjustly accused and his family - and was shown bitterly opposed to lynch law.
But he scrupulously refrained from calling any Negro 'Mr' or 'Mrs'. And none were shown entering his house by the front door.
In 'I'll Fly Away', however, one constantly got the feeling that the producers wished to deny that their hero could combine a desire for justice with a revulsion for integration.
The relationship with the Negro maid was another difference between film and TV: however great a role Calpurnia - you remember that name! - played in the Finch household, both she and Finch knew the boundaries and stuck to them. Without discomfort on either side.
But they couldn't show the Waterston character comfortable with employing a second class citizen, so they introduced a false, apologetic note into his relationship with his maid, to the detriment of the drama.
The essence of which should have been the tension between the man's professed beliefs, in equality under the law, the Constitution, etc, and what he actually did. What Myrdal famously called 'The American Dilemma'.
The series was made not long after the release of another, better known, screen treatment of desegregation - 'Mississippi Burning'. This was, of course, also a historical travesty, and pretty poor drama, too - but it got me (and lots more) interested in the Philadelphia, Miss murders, and that period in general.
I had been hoping that IFA - given its lead actor, for one thing - would be able to capture the feeling of living in a society whose mores and institutions seemed almost as distant as the Civil War. I was sadly disappointed.
(I liked, when eventually I got it, the reference in the Waterston character's name, though - to the founder of the first Klan!)
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