"SPLENDID MISERY."

That was Thomas Jefferson's description of the job of the presidency.

I would say for some occupants of the White House -- the current inhabitant, for instance -- it might just be "miserable misery."

I CAME across the above quote re-reading parts of David McCullough's masterpiece "John Adams." I was inspired to do this after being hypnotized by a July Fourth HBO marathon of the 2009 miniseries based on McCullough's book. Whatever gripes one might have about some HBO broadcasting (too much sex and nudity), when the network pulls out the stops for quality, nobody can beat them.

I came across a number of quotes that I underlined and will share here. They are most apt for 2014. From John Adams: "There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. ... There are divisions and sentiments over everything. This might tie the hands and destroy the influence of honest men with a desire to serve the public good. How few aim at the good of the whole, without aiming too much at the prosperity of parts!"

More from the second president of the United States: "No man who ever held the office of president would congratulate a friend on obtaining it."

And this -- so very current -- "Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war." (Although the proponents of the last unnecessary war don't seem too guilty. Or maybe they are, and what we see is a form of irrational denial that is really guilt.)

"John Adams" is one of the great biographies of our time. His wife, Abigail Adams, was a woman ahead of her time and one of our history's most important Americans.

SPEAKING OF HBO, last week in reviewing that network's "The Leftovers," I praised the quality and the daring of HBO, but wondered if a series dealing with depression and acting-out after a cataclysmic "departing/Rapturing" of millions, could sustain? Well, after watching the second episode, I think it might. We know there will be no resolution to why it happened. So, why not sink into the dramatic repercussions?

OK. Melissa McCarthy has made her point. Comic women can be as outrageous and gross and sloppy as any man. She is to be commended for going for broke with her characters. She is a very talented actor.

But the poor reviews and so-so box office reception of "Tammy" should be McCarthy's farewell to this aspect of her career and image.

It's time to temper the vulgarity and stupidity of the persona that (no denying) has made her a big movie star. But every film since "Bridesmaids," which garnered an Oscar nod for her, has been a step down. "Tammy" is the nadir. I won't -- I couldn't -- criticize her as ruthlessly as some, because I do see her charm. However, every star who has a good sense of how the wind blows, realizes that change is often a good thing, after one has stamped a formidable screen image.

It doesn't have to be radical -- I'm not suggesting Melissa abandon her sense of fun. After all, she began her career as a stand-up comedienne. That's always going to be a part of her. A return to the gentler humor of the TV show "Gilmore Girls," or even her current series "Mike and Molly" (although that, too, is rife with comedy on bodily functions, etc.), wouldn't be a bad idea.

She is strong and immensely appealing. Melissa should choose her next roles with some realization that in this world of hyper, super-instant everything, people become bored much sooner. With gadgets, with music, with fashion and with stars.

WELL, IF nothing else, Joan Rivers walking off a CNN interview over the weekend was fascinating TV.

I thought anchor Fredricka Whitfield seemed quite jolly and complimentary of Joan, but a couple of questions that Joan took as "negative" turned Rivers into a tsunami of anger -- replete with a reminder to Fredricka that she had been put on earth to make people laugh.

Some people have questioned whether this is a stunt to promote her wicked book, "Diary of a Mad Diva." (Rivers has flooded the airwaves with more than her usual brand of humor, including her remarks about President and Mrs. Obama.) Joan told the Hollywood Reporter: "I have never in my life pulled a PR stunt. The person interviewing me didn't seem to understand that this was not The Nuremberg Trials!"

Joan Rivers -- the Energizer Bunny of the Outrageous.

LOVE THIS. Dolly Parton will likely adopt a fluffy white dog abandoned at the singer's sensationally successful concert at the Glastonbury Festival in South England. The dog, which Dolly described as a "sweet-natured older lady" is being treated for an ear infection. If the owner doesn't surface, the dog will be carried back to Tennessee, and live out its life amongst Dolly's wigs -- which might be either confusing or comforting!

I bet Betty White and Doris Day -- Hollywood's two major animal lovers/rescuers -- have already sent Dolly their love and support.

(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com.)

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