FRANKLIN – Review by Susan Granger

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“A long life has taught me that diplomacy must never be a siege – but a seduction,” observes renowned 70 year-old statesman Benjamin Franklin (Michael Douglas) in Apple TV+’s original docudrama, simply titled Franklin.

Set in 1776, when the American Colonies were losing more battles than they won in their armed rebellion, this eight-part series chronicles how Franklin, as one of the new nation’s Founding Fathers, traveled to France to try to secure that country’s support and financial aid in their fight for Independence from England.

Embarking on a secret Gallic mission that lasted almost nine years, Franklin traveled with his confidant, Dr. Edward Bancroft (Daniel Mays), and his 16 year-old grandson Temple (Noah Jupe).

Franklin assumed Temple’s custody when his (illegitimate) son, William Franklin, the Governor of New Jersey, was imprisoned as a Royalist.

Determined to engage the attention of France’s Foreign Minister, the Comte de Vergennes (Thibalt de Montalmbert), Franklin and his entourage move into the sprawling chateau of savvy international businessman Chaumont (Olivier Claveries) in Passy, west of Paris.

But conspiracies abound as spies and scoundrels are determined to undermine Franklin’s mission. A widower of three years, Franklin flirts openly and outrageously with the wives (Ludivine Sagnier, Jeanne Balibar) of French aristocrats, who were fascinated by his wry wit and philosophical wisdom.

Unfortunately, too much time is wasted in subplots involving impulsive teenage Temple, dawdling in privileged parlors, along with the pomp of King Louis XVI’s court, so it’s a distinct relief when outspoken John Adams (Eddie Marsan) shows up, along with sneering John Jay (Ed Stoppard).

While his tactics were unconventional, charismatic Franklin was eventually able to forge the Franco-American alliance of 1778, which led to a peace treaty with England in 1778 and Independence.

Based on the 2005 book “A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France and the Birth of America” by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stacy Schiff, it was adapted by Kirk Ellis & Howard Korder, directed by Tim Van Patten, and filmed in France.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Franklin” is a visually stunning 7, streaming on Apple TV+ with a new episode each Friday until its finale on May 17.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.