Franklin - Photo Apple TV+
Franklin – Photo Apple TV+

“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 winning in their armed rebellion, this eight-part series chronicles how Franklin, 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 (Thibault de Montalembert), 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 American 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.

The Fall Guy -- Photo Universal Pictures

After appearing on many TV talk shows, it’s obvious that Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt are playful co-stars and had great fun filming their new action comedy “The Fall Guy.” 

So it’s too bad that the film kind of fizzles.

Loosely based on a similarly titled TV series, it revolves around the trials and tribulations of movie stuntman Colt Seavers (Gosling), who has been working for years doubling for Hollywood superstar Tom Ryder, (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who claims he does all his own death-defying stunts. 

(Despite disclaimers, it’s obvious whom Tom is meant to satirize.)

Colt is madly in love with camera operator Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt), who yearns to be a director. But after Colt breaks his back during a precarious jump from atop a building, he becomes a bitter recluse, ignoring Jody and other friends.

18 months later, Colt gets a call from Tom’s producer, Gail Meyer (Hannah Waddingham from “Ted Lasso”), offering him a job in Australia on “Metalstorm,” a new sci-fi action picture directed by Jody, who is finally getting her big break.

Hoping to re-ignite their romance, Colt arrives on the set only to discover that Jody is still furious at him for alienating himself from her during his recovery. 

Meanwhile, Gail tasks Colt with locating Tom, who has disappeared. If the studio discovers he’s missing, they’ll pull the plug on the already-over budget film. The plot twists even more when Colt discovers a dead body in Tom’s bathtub and  becomes a murder suspect in a sinister conspiracy.

Scripted by Drew Pearce as a screwball romance, it’s directed by David Leitch (“Bullet Train”), who has stunt doubled for Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Jean-Claude Van Damme, among others. So the over-the-top action sequences work well, particularly a spectacular boat chase around Sydney harbor. 

The timing is right – since the Academy is considering adding a new Oscar category for stunt work, and Ryan Gosling had four stunt doubles (Ben Jenkins, Justin Eaton, Logan Holladay, Troy Brown) creating his daredevil antics.

FYI: The CBS-TV series (1981-86) starred Lee Majors, who does a bit with Heather Thomas during the closing credits. Plus there are other ‘surprise’ cameos. 

On the Granger Gauge, “The Fall Guy” is a slick, superficial, nonsensical 6, playing in local theaters.

Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See all her reviews at www.susangranger.com.