“We’re totally lawyers.”
Legal shows are a dime a dozen. It’s difficult to find a new take on a well-worn concept and Franklin & Bash doesn’t break new ground. The idea of streetwise characters coming into a rather staid environment and shaking things up isn’t new. Lawyers who don’t exactly play by the rules are certainly characters we’ve seen before. But taking a chance on this show quickly dispels any and all concerns, leaving its audience happy and laughing.
Peter Bash (Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Saved by the Bell) and Jared Franklin (Breckin Meyer, Robot Chicken) are confident and cocky lawyers who share every aspect of their lives. They move from their own firm to Stanton Infeld’s (Malcolm McDowell, Metalocalypse) and proceed to show the existing lawyers a new way of winning cases.
Supernatural. Psych. Rizzoli & Isles. What do these shows have in common? They’re examples of “buddy” shows and Franklin & Bash proudly joins their ranks. Like its peers, the show works because of the chemistry between Gosselaar and Meyer. In fact, the show falters when the two aren’t working together, but thankfully that’s a rarity.
The performances are spot on, enhanced by the writing and editing, which gives the show a fast pace not only visually but audibly. Franklin and Bash are fast-talking lawyers with a give-and-take that could be easily weighed down or lost in the hands of a less skilled team. Instead, Gosselaar and Meyer are given exactly what they need in order to deliver their best. One thing that helps sell these characters are their reactions. Seriously, their non-vocal expressions make for some of the show’s finest moments. Sure, they have witty banter and fluid interactions, but I found myself believing these were more than two-dimensional characters.
But there’s more to Franklin & Bash than Gosselaar and Meyer, surrounded by a cast of characters who more than hold their own. Malcolm McDowell’s Stanton Infeld is the epitome of crazy-like-a-fox, sharing his duties with Reed Diamond (Bones) and Garcelle Beauvais (State of Georgia), whose by-the-book lawyers find themselves challenged by the titular pair. Rounding out the ensemble are Dana Davis (Motorcity) and Kumail Nanjiani (The Five-Year Engagement) as our heroes’ ex-con and agoraphobic assistants, respectively, providing much of the show’s heart and humor.
While everything requires a certain suspension of disbelief, the show’s charm is never so far out of left field that it circumvents reason. However unlikely, these things could and do happen, asking us “what would be fun to see in court?” and then crafting a plausible explanation for those cases to exist. My favorite aspect of Franklin & Bash is that we actually see these guys working. They’re not slackers who rely on others to do their work, and I appreciated the effort to show them as competent (if a bit unorthodox) lawyers who genuinely care about their clients.
Presented in standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the transfer is defect free but the palette offers nothing special. For a brand new series, it’s surprising to find the Dolby 5.1 Surround mix struggling to hold on to those bon mots Franklin & and Bash toss out, but it only aids with the show’s realism. These are characters who talk like real people and don’t worry that every word is perfectly enunciated.
Bonus features features include a gag reel, some behind-the-scenes featurettes, and a handful of inventive mock commercials for the law firm which are merely hinted at during the show but are presented fully here.
I do have one criticism. Featuring two leads of the same sex (often) eliminates the tired “will-they-or-won’t-they?” sexual tension which plagues so many shows. In its place, we have to deal with “Can anyone ever come between them?” The first season gives us “the obstacle” to their friendship in the form of Janie (Claire Coffee, Grimm), Peter Bash’s ex-girlfriend who happens to work in the DA’s office and tries cases against the boys. The problem is the noticeable lack of chemistry between Gosselaar and Coffee. While he convincingly plays a man pining for a lost love, Coffee’s Janie never gives any indication she still harbors any feelings for him. At most, she comes across as a woman who doesn’t want him, but doesn’t want anyone else to have him either. That’s not very compelling television…unless she tries to kill him.
Franklin & Bash‘s writing is fresh, the acting is dynamic, and there are countless cases ahead for this dynamic duo. Those still waiting for Mark-Paul Gosselaar to outgrow his career-defining role as Zack Morris may have reached their tipping point.