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Brokaw: Michael Douglas is Ben Franklin in new Apple TV+ limited series

By Francine Brokaw - Special to the Standard-Examiner | May 18, 2024

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"Franklin," an eight-part series starring Michael Douglas, is now showing on Apple TV+. The final episode premiered Friday, May 17, 2024.

“Franklin” is an eight-episode limited series on Apple TV+ starring Michael Douglas. The series is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America” by Stacy Schiff.

With the War of Independence leaning toward defeat for America, Benjamin Franklin travels to France with his grandson Temple (played by Noah June) in hope of getting that country to aid America in the battle with Great Britain. Franklin, then age 70, was a charismatic man of great intelligence and humor. This mission was problematic but resulted in the 1778 Franco-American alliance and the subsequent 1783 peace treaty with England. For eight years, Franklin worked his charm and used his cunning as America’s ambassador whose efforts resulted in the United States of America, a nation of independence and uniqueness on the world stage.

Douglas spoke with the media about this show, which he starred in and executive produced.

“I’m sort of at a point in my career where I’m trying different things,” the veteran actor told the gathered media. “So now in close to a 60-year career, I’ve never done period. So that was an initial attraction to it. Then, of course, Ben Franklin and the possibility of playing it was wonderful. As far as the style in the 18th century and all of that, we had a wonderful, wonderful cast.”

Douglas summed up the story this way. “(Franklin) had an extraordinary career, an extraordinary life, and we knew him in so many ways and he was really a Renaissance man in all senses. But at 70 years old, in the year of our independence, 1776, we all forget that we were in the middle of a major war with the British; we declared our independence. And then, the Continental Congress decided, well, we need Ben, because he was sort of well-known around the world, to do sort of an undercover diplomatic trip to France to try to get their support.” America needed the cash and weapons France could supply in order to survive.

“Without giving too much away,” Douglas chimed in, “we all know Temple was left in France to have a career, part of the French court. He really became more French than anything else. And things were not great for Franklin when he went back (to America). He was 78, 79 when he went back and died pretty soon after that, a few years later.”

Franklin deserves the credit for America’s survival. According to Douglas, who not only was inspired by the story but also enjoyed bringing it to the screen: “Well, for me it was a new appreciation for our Constitution (and) the democracy, realizing how fragile it really was and how close we came to it not coming about. Because realistically, if we did not get the support from the French that we needed, the British would have beaten us and that would have been that. And that would have been the shortest career of democracy that existed.” That was the crux of Franklin’s mission. Without him there undoubtedly would not be an America and a Constitution on which it is based — the foundation of democracy.

Douglas extensively researched the period and Franklin in order to give the performance he does. He continually referenced Franklin’s intelligence and cunning. He also referenced the normality of the man who was just a regular “guy.”

“Franklin” premiered April 12 on Apple TV+ with the first three episodes. The remaining episodes premiered every Friday and wrapped this week.

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