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Review: TNT's 'Franklin & Bash' Lays Down the Dude Law

by Maureen Ryan, posted Jun 1st 2011 11:45AM
'Franklin & Bash' (9PM ET Wednesday, TNT) has at least one thing going for it -- it's not nearly as dour and clunky as the last TNT legal drama Mark-Paul Gosselaar appeared in, Steven Bochco's 'Raising the Bar.'

On that show, Gosselaar played an idealistic lawyer whose long hair was meant to signify that he was not a tool of the Man. On the new show, Gosselaar's locks are tidily trimmed, but his character, Peter Bash, and Bash's law partner, Jared Franklin (Breckin Meyer) are supposed to be "offbeat," in the words of a TNT press release.

The trouble is, that word doesn't mean what TNT appears to think it means.

Lots of cable dramas these days allegedly feature "offbeat" characters, but let's face it, we've come a long way from the days of Adrian Monk's diagnosable issues. Now almost every person on a whole host of formulaic cable shows is allegedly "offbeat," but having one or two personal quirks does not a "character" make. If someone who photocopies their posterior at work or acts like a high-school horndog is "offbeat," the definition of the word has become hopelessly vague.

There are mild differences between Franklin and Bash (both are party-hearty dudes, but the former has daddy issues while the latter strums a guitar and carries a torch for his ex), but they're cut from the same conventional "rebel" cloth. Despite having thriving law careers, Franklin and Bash are arrested adolescents, constantly goofing off and scoffing at society's uptight rules. When they apply themselves to their jobs, they win cases using questionable yet just-barely ethical methods, yada yada.

All of that might be all right -- in a predictable sort of way -- if the law cases were decent on this show, but 'Franklin & Bash' doesn't do anything even remotely interesting with the legal-drama format. 'The Good Wife' has proven that creative character development and frisky cases of the week can indeed go hand in hand, but 'Franklin & Bash's' slavish devotion to conventional (if not dated) TV-lawyer storytelling is far from "offbeat." In the episodes I watched, it wasn't hard to guess where things were headed at any point in the proceedings.

Perhaps we're supposed to be entertained not by the cases but by the way that Franklin and Bash shake things up at the conventional legal firm that hires the pair, or by their scrappy support staff (one of whom has agoraphobia), but even by the lightweight standards of summer-cable fare, there's little of interest to latch on to here. Meyer and Gosselaar have a certain laid-back rapport, and Gosselaar is able to hint at his character's romantic side, but it's hard to warm up to a drama that contains lines like "We're getting out of the scumbag business!"

Malcolm McDowell's hamminess has been pretty endearing on a variety of TV programs, but his 'Franklin & Bash' character -- the head of the law firm that hires the duo -- is all over the map. In some scenes, he's an eccentric, New Age-y rich guy, but if the plot requires him to be a brilliant, focused lawyer, he changes gears entirely. Reed Diamond plays the typical Reed Diamond character -- an uptight, condescending jerk whose prickliness allows the lead characters seem more likable.

'Franklin & Bash' isn't so much offbeat as a celebration of frat-boy culture, but that's not the show's biggest issue. The problem is that the cases that the lead duo take on aren't offbeat enough, and Gosselaar's appealing qualities aren't enough to make up for 'Franklin & Bash's' other shortcomings.


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teeandgi

I saw it and thought it was funny some of the time. Some stuff was just stupid. But with any show there's always going to be some stuff that's good and funny and some stuff that is just plain stupid. I'll give it a few more episodes before I decide if it will make it into the rotation.

June 08 2011 at 1:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bemassey120

I completely disagree, I think this show is very fun and humorful. Don't get me wrong, I think there's a lot of room for improvement-- Bash's relationship drama isn't heartwarming or romantic at all, and Franklin seems to have no character beyond frat boy. But this was a pilot, so it's not like we can get an accurate assessment from 44 minutes. This show is a lot more comedy than drama, which is probably why I like it so much, and it honestly reminded me a little of USA's detective drama "Psych" in the pacing and chemistry between the leads.

Malcolm Mcdowell is supposed to represent the duo a few decades into the future-- he's the biglaw guy that still has morals and a sense of humor, hence he's still a capable lawyer, even if he rarely shows it. He seems kind of like a less insane version of Christian Slater's character in "Breaking In". I don't see that character as being "all over the place", just well developed and not confined to a specific niche. The same for Mcdowell's Stanton Infield.

The other characters don't mesh nearly as well with each other or the main duo as Franklin & Bash themselves mesh, but with the possible exception of Garcelle Beauvais-Nillon (Did I spell all three of her names incorrectly?), I think they fit with the series overall and I'm looking forward to seeing them get more screen time.

I was also pleased that the show didn't try and craft these vertiginous, groan inducing, moral dilemma laden cases and instead presented more "normal" cases where the characters were the driving forces towards their satisfactory resolution. Not that I dislike shows like "Law & Order", but those intense cases wouldn't fit well into this type of show anyway. Biglaw that provides big laughs-- if you ask me, this show is just what the law genre needs. At the very least I'm sure it'll become more amusing as the summer progresses.

June 02 2011 at 2:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
RayShields

The show stinks! Its boorish, flat and the actors are walk throughs. Very disappointing to say the least. A complete waste of 1 hour . . . the best part was the sign off. Lets hope this show does not last more than 3 episodes! Terrible.

June 01 2011 at 11:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
cgeye

Once, just once, I'd like a series with such fratboy clowns facing an opposing attorney who yells, "I'll have you disbarred!" -- then go ahead and show that process.

If they're going to be bad boys, be bad boys -- but like better shows that I even hesitate to name in the same sentence (The Shield) show the consequences, then explore whether the risks they take (for rich or lucky people) are worth it. We're a schizo society, loving men who break the rules yet crave absolute law-n-order....

June 01 2011 at 2:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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