Breckin Meyer, Mark-Paul Gosselaar series isn't satisfying as comedy or legal drama
Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Malcolm McDowell and Breckin Meyer of 'Franklin & Bash'
As part of the upfront chaos that peaked last month, the Big 5 networks (or Big 4 + The CW, depending on how you keep track) canceled dozens upon dozens of shows to make room for dozens upon dozens of fresh-faced pilots, as part of the reliable The Devil You Don't Know Could Draw Higher Ratings Than The Devil You Do Know ethos that fuels the industry unless you happen to be "Fringe" or "Chuck."
Many of the departed shows had fans, vocal fans, people willing to spew great gouts of vitriol in the direction of anonymous network suits for having the temerity to cancel a "Chicago Code" or a "V." Although it was among the most empirically popular shows to get the axe -- using Nielsen measurement, because otherwise we're relying purely on anecdote -- "The Defenders" has inspired minimal lamentation.
"The Defenders" wasn't a great show and it didn't re-write the rules of the legal procedural, but it was a surprisingly pleasant dramedy about two likable rogues (Jim Belushi and Jerry O'Connell) who practiced law on the edge. Half ambulance chasers, half bleeding hearts, they took an oddball assortment of cases tied to no particular branch of legal expertise and they reliably won, because they were willing to do whatever was necessary to help their clients. They wouldn't exactly break the law, but they'd definitely push the edge of the legal envelop, turning every case into the sort of circus that probably had real lawyers in the audience cringing. Sometimes the cases were interesting and occasionally the Vegas setting added value (even if they stopped shooting in Sin City after the pilot), but what carried "The Defenders" was the strong chemistry between Belushi and O'Connell, the -- God, I hate this word and its rampant overuse -- "bromance" between the two characters, a mixture of bickering and mutual respect which, in a show with mixed-gender leads, would have spawned endless will-they/won't-they speculation. Like I said, "The Defenders" wasn't the sort of show that I'd ever get worked up enough over to truly mourn its passing (much less write about on a regular basis), but it was in a category with "Castle" and "Hawaii Five-0" of network procedurals I DVR and contentedly watched while doing a couple other things.
Plowing through five episodes of TNT
's "Franklin & Bash," including rewatching the pilot and third episodes that I first watched back in December, the thought that most frequently came to my mind was, "Geez. This is making me miss 'The Defenders.'"
All of the things that "The Defenders," and specifically Belushi and O'Connell, did to downplay the annoying and superficially quirky aspects of the main characters and their practice, "Franklin & Bash" eschews. It's "The Defenders" shot through what the writers hope will come across as a youthful filter. It doesn't work.Too many of the characters in "Franklin & Bash" are stuck in obnoxious ruts and the cases-of-the-week aren't fresh enough to compensate. The result is a broad, sloppy series that actually would have played better on TNT's corporate sibling TBS. You know what would have played better on TNT? That's right. "The Defenders."
More on "Franklin & Bash" after the break...