A three-part miniseries for PBS. Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, Northwestern Mutual Life Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts, The Sloan Foundation, The Arthur Vining Davis Foundation, and the Challenge Fund of PBS/CPB.
The story of the life and times of this remarkable man. If George Washington was politically the father of the United States, Franklin – with his earthy humor and extraordinary creativity – is its spiritual creator. He defined his age, an age of experimentation in science, government and human relations. Three hundred years after his birth, he continues to shape our thinking and our values as Americans.
For a behind-the-scenes look at Benjamin Franklin, see our production journal.
Behind the Scenes
Starring: Richard Easton and Dylan Baker
Narrator: Colm Feore
Produced and Directed by Muffie Meyer & Ellen Hovde
Writer: Ronald H. Blumer
Executive Producer: Catherine Allan
Editors: Donna Marino, Sharon Sachs, Eric Davies
Director of Photography: Tom Hurwitz
Original Music Composed by: Richard Einhorn
Line Producer: Charles Darby
Director of Research: Jennifer Raikes
Production Designer: Andrew Jackness
Costume Designer: Candice Donnelly
Post Production Supervisor: Avra Scher
Associate Producers: Laura Madden, Julia Morrison
Lighting: Ned Hallick
Key Hair: Wayne Herndon
Key Make-up Artist: Leslie Fuller
…Benjamin Franklin the film, like Benjamin Franklin the man, is classy, clever, inspired and playful – a perfect rejoinder to those who can’t seem to find anything worth watching in their TV listings.
John Levesque, Television Critic, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
…expect smirky wit as well as gravity…Benjamin Franklin makes history flat-out fun.
Howard Rosenberg, Los Angeles Times
The program elevates itself above most television biographies by mixing the usual experts with actors who portray the central characters. The actors do nothing more than recite passages from letters and other documents of Franklin’s day, but they do it with an ease that…feels completely natural.
Neil Genzlinger, The New York Times
…After success as a scientist, author, newspaperman, revolutionary, and diplomat, Benjamin Franklin can add another title to his legacy: talking head. He shames the blowhards and pundits packing the television airwaves.
This improbably but hugely entertaining situation comes courtesy of PBS’ Benjamin Franklin, which airs Tuesday and Wednesday. This delightful documentary presents Franklin, played by two actors, rattling off his ideas. “Have you ever noticed when someone is making a speech which they introduce with the words, ‘Without vanity I may say’, they always say something very vain about themselves right afterward?
This stylish show is more rollicking than a Ken Burns film and sounds strangely contemporary, too, with references to Andre Agassi, John LeCarre and Rupert Murdoch. Franklin probably led the most intriguing life of all the founding fathers. In almost every way, he astonishes….
Hal Boedeker, The Orlando Sentinel & Syndication
…Benjamin Franklin is one of the more fascinating biographies you’ll ever see on TV…this program will have people scrambling for the biographies and histories of the period. It’s a terrific introduction to a terrific character.
Tom Walter, The Memphis Commercial Appeal
The Franklin who emerges from this 3 ½-hour portrait is a towering figure, a scientific and political genius. Yet he’s also a ribald, fun-loving fellow with whom you’d love to sit down and have a drink.
Noel Holston, Newsday
This is no ordinary documentary…The script, the acting and the words of the academics who appear on-screen communicate an exceptional love for Franklin, mingled with astonishment at the variety of his accomplishments and the largeness of his spirit. His faults…are part of the story, but there’’ never any doubt that the people describing his life are in awe of him…
Robert Fulford, The National Post / The Financial Post (Canada)
…Among the performers is Richard Easton…who portrays the older Franklin as a gent of sparkling wit, agile mind and strong backbone. He’s such a charming guest, you’ll want him to stay and dine.
Picks and Pans: Show of the Week, People Magazine
…Extraordinary programming that demonstrates that television, usually an action medium, can shine in the realm of history and ideas…Benjamin Franklin challenges the audience with complex concepts and historical detail while rewarding it with the pleasure of conversation with great men.
Jonathan Storm, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Benjamin Franklin seems to have arrived fully formed – he achieved fame at 16 – it’s hard to see character development or to believe, as Franklin asserts, that he was ever young. But that’s a quibble, and this is a treat.
Susan Stewart’s Hits and Misses, TV Guide