Let's Hear It for the Bros
If you've been watching and writing about TV as long as I have, you develop a sixth sense about new series that cross your desk. Still, sometimes I'm surprised, as I was by new TNT series Franklin & Bash. My first reaction was: "What, another series about lawyers? Shoot me." But I enjoyed Franklin & Bash, not for its borderline frat-boy humor but because of the chemistry between its leads.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar (NYPD Blue) stars as Peter Bash; Breckin Meyer (Road Trip) plays his buddy and law partner, Jared Franklin. Long-time friends, they are the lawyers whose ads are plastered on bus stop benches. They prefer diner grub to expensed lunches and happily work out of their "man cave," a sweet crib that serves as a law office by day and a party palace at night. Their approach in the courtroom is brash and unconventional. As you might expect, their cash flow isn't always flush – though there never seems to be a shortage of food and drink back at the party house. So, when Stanton Infeld (Malcolm McDowell), the senior partner of a prestigious law firm, approaches them to join his team, the pair is intrigued. What would an old-school law firm want with a couple of irreverent party boys like them? Turns out, Infeld is a vintage party boy, now aged into an eccentric patriarch. He thinks they could freshen his firm, Infeld & Daniels.
Franklin and Bash are the polar opposites of Infeld's two lead lawyers: the ambitious Damien Karp (Journeyman's Reed Diamond), who is also Infeld's nephew, and the beautiful and cunning Hanna Linden (Garcelle Beauvais, also late of NYPD Blue). Franklin and Bash are all about fun and winning one for the little guy. Karp and Linden think winning is everything. So when Franklin and Bash join the firm, Karp in particular is unnerved, while Linden ... well, after six episodes, I'm not sure what she has up her silk sleeve, but she's obviously willing to do anything to get her way.
Throwing the party boys together with the overly starched to see what fireworks happen is the basic premise of Franklin & Bash, but what makes the series buzz is the aforementioned chemistry between Gosselaar and Meyer, which reveals itself in effortless, often very funny banter. There is also great chemistry between Gosselaar and Meyer with McDowell, as well as with Diamond.
Even though they play the flinty-eyed stuffed shirts, Karp and Linden remain appealing. Karp could be wholly unlikable, except that his Achilles' heel is his anxious wish to be something beyond the boss' nephew. Linden could be nothing more than the beautiful ice queen, but she gets a chance to soften when a less stunning client charms her. When the two camps come to blows, Infeld steps in to referee without being a buzzkill.
If this sounds like another version of David E. Kelley's Boston Legal, I would say that comparison is not too far-fetched. The cases in Franklin & Bash can be just as loopy – as in the "Jennifer of Troy" episode in which a plain woman brings a wrongful termination suit against her employer. The reason for her dismissal: She was too beautiful. While Kelley's courtroom pontifications are absent from F&B, the deeper questions do surface (e.g., who defines beauty?) but are only bandied about briefly.
Franklin & Bash episodes also begin and end similarly to Boston Legal. Instead of enjoying cocktails on the terrace at the end of each episode, Franklin and Bash are at their favorite diner, commiserating on what they would endure to bed various female celebrities. Sigh. Perhaps I've regressed to an adolescent boy, but what the hell: Franklin & Bash is sick.
Franklin & Bash premieres Wednesday, June 1, at 8pm on TNT, followed by the third season premiere of the Peabody Award-winning Men of a Certain Age at 9pm.