Since time immemorial (or “the 1950s,” depending on how far back your memory actually reaches), the holy trinity of TV show characters has been composed of cops, doctors and lawyers. Those three occupations have formed the backbone of every television network’s prime-time schedule since the creation of the cathode ray. Police officers, medical professionals and public defenders are always with us. The only variation on the theme seems to be: serious or wacky? Are these dramatic cops (“Adam-12”) or kooky cops (“Barney Miller”)? Intense docs (“ER”) or quirky docs (“Scrubs”)? Conscientious lawyers (“Perry Mason”) or nutty lawyers (“Ally McBeal”)?
TNT’s new hour-long lawyer series “Franklin & Bash” is tailor-made to fit in our final category, that of the crazy, colorful, frequently comedic lawyer show. Place it alongside CBS’ “The Defenders” or NBC’s “Harry’s Law,” and you’ve got a match made in prime time.
The show stars Breckin Meyer (Road Trip, Garfield) as the lawyer before the ampersand and Mark-Paul Gosselaar (famous for “Saved by the Bell” and fresh off TNT’s last lawyer dramedy “Raising the Bar”) as the post-ampersand litigator Peter Bash. They’re a pair of hot-and-happening young turks tearing up the L.A. legal scene, dating the nearest sexy females and hanging out at their favorite hot dog stand. These two besties even live together in an awesome man-cave filled with movie posters, frozen Margarita machines and hot tubs. If only they weren’t so broke all the time. (Hollywood broke, mind you, not real-life broke—which frequently precludes hot tubs.)
Life changes for the legal partners, though, after they win a high-profile class-action lawsuit and are headhunted by the prestigious Infield & Daniels law firm. Mr. Infield (cult actor Malcolm McDowell) is an Asian-culture-worshipping gadfly who wants this pair of rogues to shake up his stolid firm. This, apparently, involves karaoke machines and lots of in-court hijinks.
“Franklin & Bash” is not one of those legal shows that revolves heavily around questions of jurisprudence. The cases are appropriately wacky—like a boobtacular model whose billboard is causing accidents on L.A. streets, or a family fighting over a cherished baseball. But they aren’t the focus here. Instead, it’s all about personality. Meyer and Gosselaar quickly settle into a genial, back-and-forth, buddy comedy vibe. It feels natural and not quite as forced as the faux bickering between Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan on “Hawaii Five-O.” The supporting cast offers up a few quirks as well. The boys’ researcher, Pindar (Kumail Nanjiani), is a nerdy agoraphobic. Their paralegal, Carmen (Dana Davis), is a street-smart ex-con. Throw in a bunch of potential romantic interests and an archenemy-in-the-making (Mr. Infield’s dickish nephew, more or less channeling Ted McGinley’s evil jock from Revenge of the Nerds) and you’re set for the season.
“Franklin & Bash” doesn’t break any new ground. It’s like “L.A. Law,” only more flippant. It takes a likable, good-looking cast and gives them some colorful, easygoing, low-stakes environments to run around in. It is, in a word, fun. And that, kind men and women of the jury, is no crime.