TNT’s newest series is Franklin & Bash, a legal dramaedy about two men named, well, Franklin and Bash. Jared Franklin (Breckin Meyer, Robot Chicken, Road Trip) is a goofball who refuses to sell out or work for his father. Peter Bash (Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Saved By the Bell, Raising the Bar) plays much closer to the rules than Franklin, and yearns for some real income. They are assisted by Carmen Phillips (Dana Davis, Heroes, The Nine), an ex-con, and Pindar Singh (Kumail Nanjiani, Michael and Michael Have Issues), who lives with them, and is afraid to leave the house. This works out OK, because Franklin & Bash work out of their home, until they are recruited by Stanton Infeld (Malcolm McDowell, Entourage, Heroes). At his firm, they meet the uptight and slightly sleazy Damien Karp (Reed Diamond, Dollhouse, 24), and the sexy Hannah Linden (Garcelle Beauvais, NYPD Blue, The Jamie Foxx Show).
While the last thing TV needs is another legal procedural, Franklin & Bash is a lot more fun that Gosselaar’s previous short-lived TNT legal drama, Raising the Bar. Perhaps this indicates a willingness by the network to push the envelope, and try something new. With a pilot like this, it is extremely hard to tell how good the series will be, as much of the screen time is devoted to setting up the scenario that the show will spring from. Not only that, but there is a lot going on in this first hour.
In “Pilot,” there are three separate legal cases playing out, quite a bit for any law show to handle, let alone in a first episode. In the first case, Franklin and Bash represent a man who got into a car wreck because of a distracting advertisement. They go up against, and get a settlement from, Infeld & Daniels LLC, which is why Stanton Infeld recruits them after watching them in action. Then the pair split off. Franklin, while not assigned to the case, works to help an airline pilot that Karp is assisting the airline company in tossing all their blame on. Bash clears a woman accused of being a prostitute. Between all of that, they also settle into their new offices and throw a party. How is there time in the day?
It is a little unclear why Stanton wants Franklin and Bash. Is it for their enthusiasm and antics? That’s what they demonstrate in court in front of him. But later in the episode, he sides with Franklin against Karp because he likes how Franklin stands up for what he believes in. These seem to be two conflicting ideas. Are viewers expected to believe Stanton sensed the righteousness behind the stunts right away? Or that he likes how they operate, and the morals are just bonus?
Equally confusing is just what kind of man Karp is. He sticks to the rules so much that Hanna dumps him for not sleeping with her because it is against company policy. Yet, he is more than willing to sell out the little man to keep a big client for the firm. So he follows the guidelines of the place he works for, but not the law? Is he only choosing self preservation and his career over Hannah? Again, two completely different sides, at odds with each other. Is he a stick in the mud or a sleaze ball?
Then there’s the side bit where Hanna almost sleeps with Franklin, her ex Karp’s polar opposite. Just what kinds of guys does Hanna go for? Is she just going to have sex with Franklin because she knows it will tick off Karp royally and get under his skin? If so, that does not bode well for her character. Which is a shame, because Franklin is a nice guy and he seems interested in her. Of course, Franklin’s sole criteria for finding a woman attractive is hotness, so he, at least, makes sense.
What is Pindar’s illness? He says he is germophobic, but is fine with a huge party and lots of strangers at his home. Yeah, he takes three showers, but he doesn’t hide from everyone. He pukes in Carmen’s car, when it’s just the two of them, but holds it together on a crowded city bus with a man sneezing right next to him. Franklin and Bash treat him like he’s perfectly fine, laying a heavy guilt trip on him if he fails to show up in court, and they know him well, which points to him not being too severely sick. He overcomes his phobias to save the day, so assumedly, he has gotten over whatever ails him, and can now report to work normally. Why even put those things in in the first place when he can beat them so easily? Viewers cannot be expected to feel for Pindar is he suddenly is paralyzed by the same fears again next week.
Finally, Carmen seems at odds with her description of “ex-con.” What is her crime? Depending on what she has done, she may be sympathetic. Best guess for why Franklin and Bash hire her is that she is smart, pretty, and can put up with them. They seem to have a soft spot for good people stuck in bad situations, so that likely describes her. Hopefully some sort of flashback will show exactly what she was involved in.
Franklin and Bash themselves are the only really defined characters in “Pilot.” They are tons of fun, whether demanding a wall be taken out between their offices, or talking about sleeping with celebrities at a lunch counter. These two are the stars, and they fit the bill nicely. Both actors can do comedy or drama, and both are veterans of the industry. Great casting move on two counts. It’s like a better version of The Defenders, the already canceled freshman show from earlier this year.
Really, the cast is terrific all around, but the writing is confusing. I guess we are supposed to be distracted by the crazy things the characters do and not to think too much about who they are. And it mostly works for one episode. Which means only time will tell if the series is any good or not, depending on how they move forward. Should the contradictions be sorted out, it could be a very interesting, funny series. Should the writing continue to be weak and make little sense, or the plots fall into a typical procedural, it will not remain on my TiVo. They deserve one more chance.
Franklin & Bash airs Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. ET on TNT.