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- Robin wiggs From Friday, Apple TV+


Why did Michael Douglas (far right) want to play the writer, inventor and American Founding Father Benjamin Franklin? ‘I wanted to see how I look in tights,’ quips the 79-year-old Hollywood icon. He looks rather good in case you were wondering, but then, with a career in acting that spans seven decades and includes two Oscars, five Golden Globes and an Emmy for playing Liberace (in HBO’S Behind The

Candelabra), this is a man who can pull anything off, even tights in his late seventies.

There’s a sense of that dauntless ability about Franklin, too. Apple’s eight-parter opens in 1776 when the then-70-yearold American arrives in France, just as the US faces defeat in its Revolution­ary War against Britain. If Franklin, a man with zero diplomatic experience, fails to secure the support of the French monarchy for his fledgling democracy, the US will die in its infancy. It’s not a spoiler to say he pulls it off but, as with all great historical drama – and drama, in general – it’s the how and why that keep you watching and the show is in safe hands in that regard.

Based on Pulitzer Prizewinne­r Stacy Schiff’s history book A Great Improvisat­ion: Franklin, France, And The Birth Of America, and directed by

Tim Van Patten (The Pacific), the series packs in far more than Franklin’s political mission over the eight years it covers. It’s also an

ambitious costume piece, filming with up to 500 extras a day, and has the feel of a spy thriller, a family drama and a coming-of-age tale, those last two elements courtesy of Franklin’s teenage grandson, Temple, who travels with his grandfathe­r to France and has quite the learning journey. Temple is played by British actor Noah Jupe (A Quiet Place), who sounds like he had an eyeopening time off camera, too (‘We can’t talk too much about it, but basically I was 17 in Paris for a year’). In between all this, the show also manages to be funny – Douglas has always had a twinkly-eyed way with a line, and his Franklin is an expert at dissolving tension with humour and being, as Douglas puts it, ‘a bit of a rascal’.

Among the wider cast, Jupe isn’t the only Brit. Eddie Marsan plays John Adams and Line Of Duty’s Daniel Mays, who plays Franklin’s ally Edward Bancroft, describes the show as ‘up there with the finest work I’ve been part of’. Actors are rather prone to hyperbole but, when you watch, it’s hard to disagree.

Michael Douglas has always had a twinkly-eyed way with a line, and his Franklin is, as he puts it, ‘a bit of a rascal’

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