Stars: Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Breckin Meyer, Malcolm McDowell, Claire Coffee, Garcelle Beauvais, Kumail Nanjani, Dana Davis, Reed Diamond
Bill Chais & Kevin Falls
Jason Ensler
TNT, Wednesdays @ 9 PM
June 1, 2011

There’s no law saying that legal dramas have to be (insert LAW & ORDER’s signature chong-chong sound here) dead serious. The annals of television are full of courtroom jesters, from the days of NIGHT COURT to the much of the canon of David E. Kelley. So there shouldn’t be a problem with FRANKLIN & BASH, TNT’s new hour-long buddy lawyer show, trying to add to this hallowed tradition.

It’s just that, if the pilot episode is anything to go by, it tries so hard that it bypasses being funny and shoots over the top, time and again.

Breckin Meyer and Mark-Paul Gosselaar star as the title team, best friends who don’t even wait for the ambulance before giving chase to potential clients when cars collide. Jared Franklin is the son of a famous lawyer who didn’t want to go into his Dad’s firm, preferring to team up with buddy Peter Bash (please note – IMDB calls the character Steven Bash, but it’s Peter on the screener) in their freewheeling firm. Then Stanton Infeld, senior partner of the massive firm Stanton Daniels, offers our heroes pretty much whatever they want to work for him. This doesn’t sit well with some of the other attorneys at Stanton Daniels, especially when Franklin and Bash come to the legal aid of a heroic pilot who is being trashed in order to save the airline from a massive lawsuit.

This could go any number of ways, but an early sequence where Franklin, not yet under Infeld’s wing, gets a witness to strip down to her bra in court is immediately too much. For one thing, it tells us we’re in a fantasy, yet at other points, the show tries to be naturalistic. Worse, the scene has the jury and courtroom onlookers being impressed. It’s okay to introduce a character by giving him an action that is funny and impressive (if indeed he is either or both). It’s another to insist that he has these qualities by having other people onscreen essentially tell us that he is funny and impressive.

It works against the heightened reality to have the protagonists making speeches about the evils of corporate behavior, even when they have a point. Also, while graphic vomiting scenes sometimes work humorously in movies, they tend not to be quite so funny on TV.

On the plus side, Gosselaar and Meyer have undeniably great chemistry together; we believe in the bond between these two. McDowell is twinkly and enjoyable, and is given a few bits of business that are genuinely amusing.

FRANKLIN & BASH may yet settle into being worthwhile – shows with less to go on than the good cast and rapport here have lasted for ages. However, it needs to get a grip on what world it is taking place in and to just let events unfold without telling us how we ought to react.

Click on link to read AX’s Exclusive Interview with FRANKLIN & BASH stars Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Breckin Meyer


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