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Franklin (Apple TV+) Series Premiere Review 

A close up of Michael Douglas in the series premiere of Franklin

With its three-episode series premiere, Apple TV+’s Franklin is off to a good start, allowing the audience to travel back to 1770s France. 

As a biographical drama about a famous historical figure, Franklin immediately intrigued me. This is also because the series is attached to Apple TV+, which has had an excellent track record with TV shows recently. Lessons in Chemistry is just one of the many examples of the quality of series produced by the company. Whether you know him as one of the Founding Fathers or for his electrical experiments, Benjamin Franklin is a name many have probably heard before. As someone who listened to the Hamilton soundtrack more times than I want to admit, I would like to think I know a little about the American Revolution. And yet, there is a lot I still had to learn about Benjamin Franklin from the show’s series premiere. 

Based on the non-fiction book “A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of Amera” by Stacy Schiff, the series focuses on its titular character, Benjamin Franklin (Michael Douglas). Franklin’s series premiere takes us back in time to 1776 France, as the intertitles very helpfully tell us, where Franklin arrives in the country with his grandson William Temple Franklin (Noah Jupe). While the revolution is in full swing on the other side of the ocean, Franklin embarks on a secret mission to France to find support for the American cause abroad. Although Franklin is far from the actual revolution, the fate of American independence lies in his hands.

From the very beginning of the series premiere, the visual aspect of the show is particularly impressive. The lighting and shots are both beautiful and fundamental to tell the story, from the opening scene when Franklin lands in a dark and stormy France to the sunny and warm gardens we see in episode 3. Although I wish the camera moved a little bit more rather than remaining static for the vast majority of Franklin, I thought that the directing was one of the best elements of the entire show. 

I also loved the production design. Every detail in Franklin creates the atmosphere of the time and allows us to understand its characters as every set piece helps us immerse ourselves in 18th-century France. In particular, Franklin himself comes to mind as he is often portrayed in the series premiere with his printing press. As the character clearly states in the show, the printing press is more than a simple object as it represents his power and his voice. Other than giving us a better understanding of the character, the printing press is also key to creating – and reminding the audience of – the historical setting of the time.

Noah Jupe and Michael Douglas use the printing press in the series premiere of Franklin
Noah Jupe and Michael Douglas in the series premiere of Franklin (Courtesy of Apple TV)

The costumes in Franklin are equally impressive. Not only are they also key to representing the historical moment in which the show is set but, much like the previously discussed set pieces, they also visually tell the story. From the beginning of the series premiere, the costume design helps us understand key information about the characters, such as which social class they are in. Significantly, they also reveal where they are from as the American characters are dressed very differently from their French counterparts. After all, as we see in the first episode, fashion is just one of the many examples of how Americans stand out in this foreign country.  

The show is at its best when it focuses on the titular character and his grandson. Its biggest strengths are the family dynamics, with all the backstories they come with, and connections to the United States rather than the romantic plotlines that the series premiere constantly wants to present us with. Sometimes, the show seems to want to do too much and include too many plotlines, losing its main focus too much. This is also true for its characters: Franklin is populated with supporting characters whose names we barely know. Most of the characters are not introduced in a successful or impressive manner, which makes the audience not remember nor care much about them as the episodes go on.

From a storytelling perspective, I wish the conflict and stakes were better conveyed in this series premiere. The biggest issue is that we see next to nothing of the actual conflict in the United States, as Franklin is entirely set in France. But it is hard for the audience to care about Franklin’s mission, which is so reliant on the developments of the American Revolution if we only hear about the various battles rather than see them for ourselves. When we do witness the conflict on the other side of the ocean, as Lafayette (Théodore Pellerin) becomes personally involved, the audience gets a glimpse of this completely different world that is only spoken about. 

Franklin is a product you will love if you want to know more about this much-discussed historical figure. It is the perfect show for the generation of people who grew up with the Hamilton musical and similar historical dramatic retellings that have become so popular in recent years. The series premiere is far from perfect, especially from a screenwriting perspective, but it is definitely a good start and one that makes me want to watch more of the show in the coming weeks and find out a lot more about both Benjamin and Temple Franklin, who are undoubtedly the focus of the show. 

Watch on Apple TV

The series premiere of Franklin (episodes 1-3) is now available to watch on AppleTV+. Read our review of episode 4 of Franklin.

Franklin (Apple TV+) Episode 4 Review  – Loud And Clear Reviews
With higher stakes, episode 4 of Franklin goes to the heart of 18th-century politics as an exciting continuation to the Apple TV+ show.

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