On that show, Gosselaar played an idealistic lawyer whose long hair was meant to signify that he was not a tool of the Man. On the new show, Gosselaar's locks are tidily trimmed, but his character, Peter Bash, and Bash's law partner, Jared Franklin (Breckin Meyer) are supposed to be "offbeat," in the words of a TNT press release.
The trouble is, that word doesn't mean what TNT appears to think it means.
Lots of cable dramas these days allegedly feature "offbeat" characters, but let's face it, we've come a long way from the days of Adrian Monk's diagnosable issues. Now almost every person on a whole host of formulaic cable shows is allegedly "offbeat," but having one or two personal quirks does not a "character" make. If someone who photocopies their posterior at work or acts like a high-school horndog is "offbeat," the definition of the word has become hopelessly vague.
There are mild differences between Franklin and Bash (both are party-hearty dudes, but the former has daddy issues while the latter strums a guitar and carries a torch for his ex), but they're cut from the same conventional "rebel" cloth. Despite having thriving law careers, Franklin and Bash are arrested adolescents, constantly goofing off and scoffing at society's uptight rules. When they apply themselves to their jobs, they win cases using questionable yet just-barely ethical methods, yada yada.
All of that might be all right -- in a predictable sort of way -- if the law cases were decent on this show, but 'Franklin & Bash' doesn't do anything even remotely interesting with the legal-drama format. 'The Good Wife' has proven that creative character development and frisky cases of the week can indeed go hand in hand, but 'Franklin & Bash's' slavish devotion to conventional (if not dated) TV-lawyer storytelling is far from "offbeat." In the episodes I watched, it wasn't hard to guess where things were headed at any point in the proceedings.
Perhaps we're supposed to be entertained not by the cases but by the way that Franklin and Bash shake things up at the conventional legal firm that hires the pair, or by their scrappy support staff (one of whom has agoraphobia), but even by the lightweight standards of summer-cable fare, there's little of interest to latch on to here. Meyer and Gosselaar have a certain laid-back rapport, and Gosselaar is able to hint at his character's romantic side, but it's hard to warm up to a drama that contains lines like "We're getting out of the scumbag business!"
Malcolm McDowell's hamminess has been pretty endearing on a variety of TV programs, but his 'Franklin & Bash' character -- the head of the law firm that hires the duo -- is all over the map. In some scenes, he's an eccentric, New Age-y rich guy, but if the plot requires him to be a brilliant, focused lawyer, he changes gears entirely. Reed Diamond plays the typical Reed Diamond character -- an uptight, condescending jerk whose prickliness allows the lead characters seem more likable.
'Franklin & Bash' isn't so much offbeat as a celebration of frat-boy culture, but that's not the show's biggest issue. The problem is that the cases that the lead duo take on aren't offbeat enough, and Gosselaar's appealing qualities aren't enough to make up for 'Franklin & Bash's' other shortcomings.
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