I figure the factor that decides whether or not you like a lawyer show is whether you like the actor playing the lawyer. Spader and Shatner made “Boston Legal,” and I liked Marx Paul Gosselaar on “Raising the Bar.” Gosselaar was my way into TNT’s latest courtroom drama “Franklin & Bash” (he’s Bash).
The pilot works really hard in the introduction to drop as many references as it can to illustrate what wild cards Jared Franklin (Breckin Meyer) and Peter Bash are. They talk about Van Damme marathons, hitting on Marisa Tomei, Ali/Frasier and even The Notebook. Their home office is adorned with movie posters, all Sony movies which is the only explanation why S.W.A.T. is in the running. I can buy Zombieland, even Blue Thunder, but S.W.A.T.?
Don’t worry about that pop culture overload. It pays off later. The courtroom antics start big and get deeper too. The boys have a mattress model (Mircea Monroe) strip to her bra in court to prove that her video billboard is a distraction to drivers on the road. It works because even the court reporter was too distracted to take down testimony. That’s how they roll, but later you’ll see they have hearts too.
The big firm Infeld and Daniels hires Franklin & Bash to bring their wild card to their stodgy old firm. Infeld’s (Malcolm McDowell) nephew Damien Karp (Reed Diamond) is like the crusty old dean who’ll always be thwarted by young punks Franklin and Bash. Karp’s blatant anger at a press conference is entertaining because it’s so not going to help him or his clients. He’ll be ripe for a legal pantsing every week.
Franklin and Bash shake things up right away. They tear down a wall to turn their individual offices into one, because they’re a team, man. They bring their kooky paralegals on board. Agoraphobic techno-perv Pindar (Kumal Nanjiani) will get old, so hopefully they don’t overplay that. Franklin and Bash will go so far as to stage a fistfight at a press conference to distract from the scandal, and they do.
Now that we like the lawyers, it’s time to make the cases interesting. Bash represents a dominatrix accused of prostitution. He turns the case into a sympathetic heartbreak. You really believe that the professional dominatrix thought her client loved her. In the second episode, the case begins as a joke about an ugly duckling fired from a fashion magazine. By the end it becomes about the daddy issues of the publisher’s daughter. I’m sold. They’ve got a hook and they’ve got heart.
For now, there are hints that Bash takes to the corporate life a little too well and Franklin keeps it real. Franklin has turned down work at his dad’s firm though, so he’s overcompensating. Their pop culture knowledge constantly works to their advantage. Bash can quote The Breakfast Club to trap a witness. It seems like this is the outrageous, but not too highbrow, courtroom drama “The Defenders” wanted to be.