Michael Douglas plays Franklin in a new series about a trip that changed US history

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Michael Douglas fits the bill as Ben Franklin in “Franklin,” an eight-part series premiering April 12 on Apple TV+.
“Franklin” tells the story of 70-year-old Ben Franklin’s secret diplomatic mission to France in 1776 to gain French support (money, arms) for America’s fight against the British in the Revolutionary War.
There are a lot of moving parts here, so viewers would be apprised to pay attention as Franklin navigates French high society — and politics — in an effort to achieve his goal.
The series is based on the book “A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America” by Pulitzer Prize-winner Stacy Schiff.
As the series opens, Franklin — commissioned by Congress to undertake his clandestine journey across the Atlantic — has no diplomatic experience.
Franklin lands in France in December 1776 and makes his way to Paris with that monumental task ahead of him.
King Louis wants nothing to do with Franklin, nor does his right-hand-man, French Foreign Minister Vergennes (Thibault de Montalembert).
Douglas is excellent as Ben Franklin in his first role in a period piece and even looks the part (which helps) and just seems to get better with age (he’s 80), exuding an authority befitting Franklin’s status.

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As Ben Franklin in “Franklin,” an eight-part series that debuts on Apple TV+ on April 12, Michael Douglas is a good fit.

In “Franklin,” the 70-year-old Ben Franklin recounts his clandestine diplomatic trip to France in 1776 to secure French financial and military assistance for the United States’ Revolutionary War battle against the British. Viewers should be aware that there are a lot of moving pieces in this scene as Franklin maneuvers through politics and French high society to accomplish his objective.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stacy Schiff’s book “A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America” served as the basis for the television show.

Franklin has no prior diplomatic experience when the show begins. He is sent by Congress on a covert mission across the Atlantic. As the US finds itself in a precarious position, losing the war, the British are gaining ground with several routs, including Fort Washington, which takes over New York and other territories. His grandson, Temple Franklin (Noah Jupe), joins him on his journey. George Washington even admits, saying, “I think the game is pretty near up.”. “.

Franklin has the duty of persuading King Louis of France to support America in its fight against the British, who have annexated much of the French-occupied US. That enormous undertaking awaits Franklin when he arrives in France in December 1776 and travels to Paris. His likeness appears on coins, oil paintings of his face are painted, and people quickly realize how famous he is. The public even copies the fur hat he wears. It will take some time, two years, for him to make history.

Douglas, like Franklin’s French peers, approaches a challenging role with earnestness, good humor, and an elan that matches theirs. Franklin says, “You are what the role requires you to be.” These peers are fascinated by this multifaceted, extremely intelligent American who is an author, inventor, raconteur, and now a statesman.

The series does not hold back from highlighting Franklin’s transgressions. Having been widowed for three years, he persistently engages in sexual relations with the wives of French nobility and the intelligentsia. Following a dinner, he rapturously expounds on “the passing of wind” and how it can rectify one’s constitution.

The introductory segments of “Franklin” established the framework for the undertaking that lies ahead. Franklin is someone that neither King Louis nor his deputy, French Foreign Minister Vergennes (Thibault de Montalembert), wish to deal with. While battling French spies, saboteurs, and other evil parties out to destroy the United States and Franklin’s mission to save his country, Franklin comes up with cunning plans to get around the King and his goons. Franklin knows he must secure French funding for the war because, in his words, “The United States will end before it’s begun.”.

In order to help fight the British, Franklin approaches wealthy arms dealer Leray de Chaumont (Olivier Claverie). Chaumont invites Franklin to stay on his estate with Temple, and it is from this that Franklin develops his often-failed strategy and rejects a condescending British peace offer.

It can be challenging to follow the details and all the characters in “Franklin,” as previously mentioned, because there are numerous narrative threads to keep track of. There are a couple of distracting subplots, one of which revolves around Temple’s romantic interests and friendship with Theodore Pellerin’s character, the Marquis de Lafayette, but I suppose that’s just to appeal to younger audiences.

Despite being eighty years old, Douglas looks the part, which helps. He plays Ben Franklin brilliantly in his first period piece and exudes an authority that fits Franklin’s stature. Doug is in good hands with director Tim Van Patten (“The Sopranos,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “The Wire,” and many more), as the seven-month production was shot entirely in France (an additional plus).

My recommendation is to take a seat back and enjoy Douglas’s masterful handling of the landscape as he transforms a complex individual into a single-minded American historical hero — albeit with a few hiccups in between.

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