August 15, 2013



FRANKLIN & BASH made a few cosmetic changes for its third summer on TNT, but nothing to disrupt the show’s basic air of genial dishevelment.  The most high-profile move was bringing in Heather Locklear as new senior partner Rachel King in the show’s law firm of Infeld Daniels King, although once it had her, the writers never really seemed to know what to do with her, and her character vacillated between being mean-but-really-nice and just plain mean.  In addition, Bash (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) was given a more-or-less serious girlfriend in Australian physical therapist Charlie (Nicky Whelan)–Franklin (Breckin Meyer) continued to have a recurring hate-sex-or-is-it-really-love? relationship with Assistant DA Ellen Swatello (Rhea Seehorn, who in the interim has come and gone from Whitney)–and the pair’s home was moved, after a fire, to beachfront property supposedly owned by the firm’s head Stanton Infeld (Malcolm McDowell), presumably so as to include some surfing and bikini scenery.  Also, Rob Lowe proved himself a good sport by serving as the show’s punchline for much of the season as F&B’s dreaded neighbor, showing up for cameos in the last two episodes.

The season finale, written by series co-creator Kevin Falls and directed by Mike Listo, made desultory returns to some of what could be considered the continuing storylines of the season.  An insurance investigator (played by Jay Chandrasekhar, much more visible these days as a busy director of shows like Community and Happy Endings) looked into the fire that burned down our heroes’ old house, which had accidentally been caused by their paralegal Pindar (Kumail Nanjiani), who used to be an agoraphobe but is now merely a germophobe; the investigator being an immoderate fan of St. Elmo’s Fire allowed the story to resolve itself by way of Lowe.  Charlie may or may not have moved away at the episode’s close, and the season-long B-story about firm nemesis Karp (Reed Diamond) angling for a judicial appointment (which included his accidentally killing a horny old judge played by Buck Henry) ended up going nowhere, because although the big reveal was that Rachel had been scheming to get the post herself, it went to someone else entirely.

But Franklin & Bash isn’t the show to watch for fraught or extended narratives.  It’s a mild summer intoxicant, one that can easily be watched with one eye while checking social networks or surfing the net at the same time.  In every episode, Peter and Jared find a way to do something slightly outrageous in the courtoom (magic tricks, psychic demonstrations, bee attacks, heckling of the judge and opposing attorney, etc–in the finale, Pindar’s drone was flown around the judge, witness and lawyers), and as their foes sputter in exasperation (your honor, this is highly irregular!), they pull off an unlikely victory and throw another party, then come back the next week to do it all again.

It’s hard to believe anyone would miss Franklin & Bash if it were gone, but it’s a harmless enough summer hour.  The addition of Locklear brought little to the mix, and McDowell, at this point, isn’t even phoning in his performance–he’s practically re-tweeting it.  But then, no one works very hard on Franklin & Bash, from the writers to the actors.  It’s lazy, in a mildly pleasant way that lacks both ambition and pretension.  The show’s ratings among 18-49s are in the 0.6-0.7 range, which isn’t much above TNT’s other bubble shows Perception and King & Maxwell, but unlike those, it airs as a self-starter, without any strong lead-in, so its numbers have a bit more weight.  It’ll probably be back for more of the same next year; if Walter White is famously “the one who knocks,” Franklin & Bash is the show that sits on your sofa, puts up its feet and equably drinks your beer.



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."