Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pilot Review: Franklin & Bash

Franklin & Bash (Wednesdays at 9:00 on TNT)

I'm a little late to the game on this one, considering Franklin & Bash just aired its third episode last night; but since this is one of the few new scripted shows on my radar this summer, I figured I'd give it a shot.

Franklin & Bash has been on and off my "To Watch" list since it was ordered to series at the beginning of the year. I love Mark Paul Gosselaar and Breckin Meyer, but I hate legal dramas. There's no better way to torture me than to make me sit through an episode of The Practice when I could be watching something frothy and fun instead. So I debated whether or not to even give this series a chance; the commercials and clips convinced me to give it a shot, and I'm glad I did.

The series opens with Jared Franklin (Breckin Meyer) and Peter Bash (Mark Paul Gosselaar) attempting to get a man acquitted of a vehicular crime the two lawyers believe was caused by an advertisement which features a pair of large breasts and therefore distracts male motorists. They win the case by bending the rules and charming the jury, and the head of a large law firm (Malcolm McDowell) takes notice. He offers them jobs, and now the pair must prove themselves as competent lawyers who can win based on merit and not just audacity.

This is absolutely not a perfect show, nor is it even all that good. The court cases are sloppy and mostly stupid (so far), and the writing is confusing. I understand exactly who Franklin and Bash are as characters; I think I can safely attribute that more to the performances from Meyer and Gosselaar than to the writing, but the dialogue for these two main characters is just on a different level than the writing for the other characters and for the stories.

When it comes to the supporting players, Franklin and Bash's assistants get the best material to work with. They're both funny enough to be believable as sidekicks for their two outrageous bosses, but still with some human flaws that make you realize why they're working with such unconventional and underappreciative people. Malcolm McDowell's character confuses me; I'm not quite sure if he takes himself too seriously, or if everyone else in the law firm takes him so seriously and therin lies the joke. Either way, he's just a little bit too much on a show where the truly over-the-top characters should only be the ones in the title.

My biggest issue so far is lazy storytelling. Yes, it was fun to watch Meyer and Gosselaar do their back and forth thing. But as of the second episode, the show doesn't make much sense. Why would Franklin and Bash take this job in the first place? They pride themselves on finding ways to bend the rules without breaking them, to win cases by any means possible whether it is deserved or not. Why would they take a job at a snooty law firm? The money? There's also a plot twist late in the premiere where we discover that the duo's direct competition at the firm, the owner's nephew, is extorting a witness in order to win a case. And yet instead of being fired and permanently disbarred, he is back in the second episode being snarky right alongside Franklin and Bash. Say what?

Despite it all, Franklin & Bash is still a success in my eyes. I don't think the creators set out to reinvent the wheel, and they certainly didn't. But they have succeeded in being entertaining, as long as you don't think too much. And what more can you ask for when it comes to summer programming?

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