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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

FRANKLIN & BASH "Alive" Again



Article first published as FRANKLIN & BASH "Alive" Again on TheTVKing.

TNT’s FRANKLIN & BASH is pretty much exactly what people mean when they talk about summer fluff television. Similar to the old USA shows, FRANKLIN & BASH follows two silly, fast-talking lawyers, Jared Franklin (Breckin Meyer) and Peter Bash (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), as they charmingly get into trouble, then show true compassion as they win emotionally-charged cases.

Season three kicks off this week with two new hours, “Coffee and Cream” and “Dead and Alive.” I can’t really say there is anything startling about the case-of-the-week in either. They are pretty typical of FRANKLIN & BASH installments, with the boys having to color outside the lines, but in the end, helping their clients. In the first, twin magicians want the guys to keep their secret while avoiding legal charges, and in the second, they must prove a man is still alive when a clerical error considers him dead.

These episodes are fun enough, and what fans of the show expect. They don’t stretch reality much further than other courtroom dramadies have done, and there are enough humorous moments to keep viewers entertained. A drop by Piers Morgan’s (guesting as himself) show seems slightly outrageous, but allows a nice introduction of a new character.

The problem is, the titular duo just don’t go far enough anymore. When the series first premiered, they seemed completely goofy, off in left field. As the show has gone on, their actions just aren’t shocking. Maybe we’ve grown used to their antics, or maybe the writers have just run out of ways to top themselves, but it’s more ‘business-as-usual’ than ‘wow!’ by now.

Luckily, while mostly procedural, there is a little bit more than that going on, and this third year may just be the one where everything changes. The most obvious development is the introduction of Rachel King (Heather Locklear) as the new boss. She immediately rebuilds the wall between Franklin and Bash’s offices, and cracks down harder on the rules than previous leadership.

The thing is, though, she isn’t that huge an adjustment. She lets Bash and Franklin do what they do, but just wants to keep better tabs on them. Maybe she’s evaluating the circumstances before taking much drastic action, or maybe she sees the benefit of their behavior. She is definitely a long-game player, which means her motivations won’t become clear for some time. Yet, her hindrance of the pair is more for show than making any real impact in the dynamic.

Lest anyone fear the eccentric head of the firm, Stanton Infeld (Malcolm McDowell) is gone, worry not. He may hand over the reins to King, who is actually Hanna’s (Garcelle Beauvais) replacement in the cast, but he’s still present. He has just decided that he isn’t a firm enough hand for the guys, and so is letting someone else do the dirty work.

What’s interesting to me about Rachel’s arrival is how Damien (Reed Diamond) is affected. At first, he is upset that Uncle Stanton is letting someone else take over the business, but then Rachel helps Damien prepare for an eventual judgeship. Who is Stanton grooming? He’s moving around a lot of pieces, and it looks like only he and Rachel may know what’s going on for now.

Besides the professional developments, Bash also gets a serious love interest. We know he isn’t a womanizer, at least not completely, and is open to love. But it’s nice to see someone brought in via a natural development who can turn his head and whom Bash doesn’t immediately figure out. This gal is introduced as someone who can hold her own, strong, but with a sense of humor. They have a nice chemistry, and I really hope this goes somewhere.

Pindar (Kumail Nanjiani) and Carmen (Dana Davis) are still around, too. In fact, the former has a very important story in “Coffee and Cream” that affects the entire team, drastically changing one element of the show, which I won’t spoil. It’s both hilarious and heart breaking, going a little darker than the series has before, but forcing evolution in a way that feels right.

There are definitely signs in both “Coffee and Cream” and “Dead and Alive” that the series and its main players are growing and changing, even while the central plot remains predictable and rote. There are some strong characters here, and should the more serial arcs be pursued, there could really be some movement in the coming weeks, which would be welcome. Otherwise, it remains the television equivalent of the summer blockbuster: a nice way to pass the time, but neither filling nor deep.

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