Franklin & Bash: TV Review

It doesn't reinvent or change the genre, but it entertains, just like TNT wanted.

Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Breckin Meyer star as low-rent attorneys who don't like to play by the rules in TNT's latest series, executive produced by Kevin Falls and Bill Chais.

It’s easy to pick on the mostly blue-sky television that TNT churns out. The channel has been very successful with a certain way to do a procedural – keep it light, keep it moving, make it quippy and give the people the ending they want.

And yet, TNT is also home to Men of a Certain Age and Southland, arguably two of the most underappreciated and best written dramas on television. So the all-encompassing pigeon hole doesn’t quite fit anymore. And besides, as it relates to the easily digestible blue sky formula so prevalent with Leverage, Memphis Beat, Rizzoli & Isles, HawthoRNe and The Closer, what’s so wrong about entertaining people?

Beyond that, credit TNT with understanding its audience in a way that only a small number of networks and cable channels truly do.

You’re not going to TNT to get bummed out. Well, OK, if you watch Southland or Men of a Certain Age, that could happen. But given the rest of the schedule, the odds are against it.

Given that, people are probably going to flock to Franklin & Bash, a buddy-lawyer show starring Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Breckin Meyer. It’s quip-heavy, doesn’t complicate things with too much plot, keeps the pacing brisk and litters the TV screen with beautiful people.

In fact, Franklin & Bash is such a throwback to ‘70s television it’s hard to get too upset with either it or TNT, even when the jocularity is ramped up a tad too high and the wild and crazy behavior of the two main characters becomes more outlandish than is normally advisable or tolerable.

Meyer is Jared Franklin and Gosselaar is Peter Bash, a couple of low-rent lawyers who don’t like to play by the rules and use their audacity and charm to win people over and influence juries and judges along the way. They are barely making it but the practice supports Carmen (Dana Davis), an ex-con described as “brilliant, brassy” and Pindar (Kumail Nanjiani), who is both agoraphobic and verminophobic.

As you can tell, it’s an eclectic little outfit.

But Franklin and Bash catch the eye of Stanton Infeld (Malcolm McDowell), of the powerful Infeld Daniels law firm – one of the best in all of Los Angeles (what, you thought this was going to be set in some downer place like Portland?) and he has a fantastically TV-esque idea: Join my firm. He wants both of our frat-boyish lawyers to shake-up the staid working of his firm – in particular his nephew, Damien Karp (Reed Diamond), who immediately dislike both Franklin and Bash and is thus the sourpuss of the set-up.

But the boys say yes to the deal, provided they get all the perks they ask for (like a cool old car) and the ability to bring the lovely Carmen and the nerdy Pindar with them. Infeld says yes, and the wise-cracking duo find themselves in a firm with additional eye candy (Garcelle Beauvais among them).

Blue sky indeed.

Franklin & Bash goes out of its way to show that these carefree buddies don’t take the lawyering thing too seriously, even though they are, ostensibly, better than we’re supposed to think they are. The emphasis is on the bromance angle, with them riffing off of everything, playing video games, talking about which celebrities they’d sleep with and, in the case of Gosselaar, showing off his body all the time. They like the ladies, too. And being on cable allows writer-producers Kevin Falls (JourneymanThe West Wing) and Bill Chais (Dirty Sexy Money) to drop in some swear words and make the content more racy.

The cases in the pilot episode revolve around a dominatrix in one instance and a hero pilot accused of joining the mile high club with a flight attendant (which caused the crash he then saved, becoming said hero). Another episode revolves around a woman who “copulated her husband to death,” or at least that’s the allegation. It allows the prosecuting attorney to say she used her body “orally, vaginally (long pause) and otherwise.” And the coroner says her husband’s body showed signs of “severe penile bruising.”

Got it.

The woman in question, by the way, is played by Justified actress Natalie Zea, who is sexy enough not to need the push-up bra the show sticks on her. But hey, life’s good at TNT.

In the end, Franklin & Bash uses the legal genre to prop up what is mostly a buddy story. There may be bigger reveals ahead and certain daring complications, but no doubt Franklin and Bash will get out of them with their good looks and quick wits. That’s how they roll – mostly – on TNT. Plus, that’s the kind of show this is and, if you’re not looking for something dense and complicated going in, there’s nothing wrong with a little light entertainment, right?

Twitter: @BastardMachine