TNT has come out with a new series trying to corner the market on lawyering (if that’s even a real word!) and the question is, how did the cable station that knows drama do with their freshman show, Franklin & Bash ?
The results are so-so, as ultimately, the show comes down to two things. But before we say what those things are, which, are, as always, subjective… let us first look forth into what didn’t work but has potential to be better.
The show, for those not knowing, is about two renegade laywers; renegade by the sense that they play by their own rules, which usually include half-naked girls, ogling said half-naked girls and getting into fights outside of the court-house which is then posted on youtube. Yes, these lawyers are Jared Franklin and Peter Bash. Malcolm McDowell plays Stanton Infeld, the man responsible for Franklin and Bash’s corporate climb. Apparently, they have been watched for a long time by the older Infeld, and finds they are just what his firm needs.
Enter the guy who is always up in arms about what wacky tactics are used to help the cases, who happens to be Infeld’s nephew no less, named Damian Karp, who is played to annoying perfection by Reed Diamond. Reed might be familiar to us tv-geeks, playing the moody and grumpy yet-doomed ally Laurence Dominic in Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse. Here, he plays the same character, but in a way that makes me feel he is about ready to look at Franklin, Bash or Infeld and scream ‘I’ll get you BETA HOUSE!!!!”
But I digress. McDowell has been around long enough that as a tv or film viewer, he is welcomed no matter what, adding sometimes the only brevity to a project that it can muster. Here, McDowell, whilst refreshing to see, writing-wise, seems to be at a precipice. While I wasn’t a fan of Boston Legal, Denny Crane was a character who was half-insane if he wasn’t genius and was bearable to watch; actually he was funny. Here we get a hint of Infeld leaning more this direction but ultimately the writing backs away from going too far over from this centerpiece. But as sure as Reed’s Karp screams ‘BETA HOUSE’ you can be sure that when Franklin and Bash do something wrong, McDowell’s Infeld just nods his heads and goes ‘You guys” with a shrug and nod at the camera. And while for the pilot it works, it begs the question, will it work for a series run?
Ultimately, the answer in my opinion is no, it will not. But that is my guess. I wasn’t privy to the screeners with the next few episodes, but I will say that the show still comes down, ultimately to two things, which I promised to tell you about. These two things are the leads of Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Breckin Meyer. Personally, as a fan of both men as actors, they are guys I enjoy seeing pop up in a movie. Believe it or not, he made Garfield bareable. He was awesome in Rat Race. Gosselaar for my generation will forever be Zach Morris, but the guy is a good actor. Hello, remember Dead Man On Campus? Hilarious movie. He isn’t just Zach Morris. So I will admit, going in, I was seeing the show just for these two. And to me, the guys sold it. The charism between the two leads sells the show, and in the same way that Romano, Backula and Braugher sell TNT’s other drama Men of a Certain Age.
And sometimes, that can make a break a show and it’s simply a matter of opinion. I know not everyone likes lead actors and it can ruin a show for people. And the concept flies by the seat of the casting. And in this case, it’s simply one of those scenarios where if you like or not like the leads. For me, the leads were funny. They showed great chemistry together. At the end of the episode when Bash was hurting from heartbreak, Franklin knew how to change the subject and it felt like these two guys ‘talked about it’ with out doing so. Now, again, it’s interpretation, but it was a genuine moment, I felt, and that alone made me want to watch episode 2. The real finesse will be if the actors can carry the whole season. As if Franklin and Bash had a wacky eccentric boss, which Infeld seems to be less of, then the show would be a definite must-see.
So overall, final verdict? Give the show a shot. If you dig the leads, then you will probably dig it long term. If you don’t like the leads, the show will come off trying too hard and may be worth a skip.