Ellen Gray: TNT's 'offbeat' 'Franklin & Bash' debuts

Mark-Paul Gosselaar (left) & Breckin Meyer star in the new series.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar (left) & Breckin Meyer star in the new series.
Posted: May 31, 2011

FRANKLIN & BASH. 9 p.m. tomorrow, TNT.

MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE. 10 p.m. tomorrow, TNT.

BOYS WILL BE boys tomorrow night on TNT, but I think I'll be sticking with the ones who are at least trying to be men.

At 9 p.m., Breckin Meyer and Mark-Paul Gosselaar go the buddy-comedy route in "Franklin & Bash," a new lawyer show the network's calling an "offbeat drama" - though it's hard to think of something whose beats are this predictable as off-anything - and that leads into the return of "Men of a Certain Age."

Halfway through its second season, the wry and sometimes raw "Men" continues to defy easy classification, but at least now TNT can refer to it as a "Peabody Award-winning series."

If that ever happens with "Franklin & Bash," I'll assume there's been undue influence by Mr. Peabody's boy Sherman.

Not that "Franklin & Bash" is courting high-brow accolades.

Gosselaar's initial "Waterworld" hairstyle was the least of the problems with his last TNT series, "Raising the Bar," a legal drama that felt like something Steven Bochco recycled.

Still, it's not a mistake the actor who plays Peter Bash is repeating. The "Saved by the Bell" star has a great haircut. And when he's not wearing a suit, he might be topless or wandering the office in a shirt and boxers.

So there's that.

Meyer is Jared Franklin, Peter's partner in what would be ambulance-chasing if the duo didn't actually beat ambulances to the scene of accidents.

But when the pair go up against a Major Law Firm, headed by a genial nutjob (Malcolm McDowell), they and their relentlessly quirky associates end up with a gigantic office in a high-rise, annoying the boss' nephew (Reed Diamond) and working the kinds of cases only lawyers on Lifetime's "Drop Dead Diva" or a David E. Kelley show see.

Some may even require their presence in a hot tub.

So, again, there's that.

It's unfair, I realize, to hold "Franklin & Bash" to a higher legal standard than I do "Diva," a genuinely silly show whose main characters include a woman trapped in a dead lawyer's body (Brooke Elliott) and a guardian angel named Fred (Ben Feldman). But if you're going to play the fantasy lawyer game, you've got to sell it.

"Diva," which returns June 19, does that. Jim Belushi and Jerry O'Connell did it, if to no avail, on the CBS-canceled "The Defenders." And however tired I got of the speechifying on Kelley's "Boston Legal," the relationship he crafted between William Shatner and James Spader's characters never grew old.

Lacking that pair's chemistry, Gosselaar and Meyer's bad boys are unlikely to make it past adolescence.

Chemistry's hardly an issue on "Men of a Certain Age," where biology continues to be destiny.

For those just coming in, Ray Romano, who co-created the series with Mike Royce - a former writer for Romano's "Everybody Loves Raymond" - plays Joe, a divorced father of two who owns a party store and dreams of joining the PGA's senior tour.

Andre Braugher ("Homicide: Life on the Street") and Scott Bakula ("Quantum Leap") play his two best friends from college, the happily married Owen and the increasingly unhappily single Terry, who now work together at the car dealership owned by Owen's father (Richard Gant) in an arrangement that sometimes tests their friendship (but makes their continued proximity more believable).

Romano's portrayal of an anxious man whose worries include an equally anxious son (and a gambling problem) is so real it borders on being a cry for help.

Just borders, though. Because at its slightly battered heart, "Men of a Certain Age" is the human comedy, built by humans who understand timing - and the value of a well-earned laugh.

Not loving 'Love Handles'

Wherever you stand on the obesity epidemic - or the BMI continuum - can we all at least agree that public humiliation isn't a necessary element in a weight-loss plan?

You'd never guess that from TV, where the "Biggest Loser" genre is expanding even faster than Americans' waistlines and where last night ABC was debuting "Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition," another show that subjects the super-obese to rigid scale-based challenges that have as much to do with entertainment as health.

(And, by the way, if the numbers on my scale swung up and down by 10, 20 or 30 pounds before settling on a weight, I'd get a new scale. Pronto.)

Lifetime gets into the act at 10 tonight with "Love Handles: Couples in Crisis," which follows the usual prescription - starting with a visit to doctors who'll scare subjects silly and then following up with trainers and nutritionists - but adds a twist: couples counseling.

I don't know when it was decided that televising therapy was a good idea, but watching couples scream at each other, egged on by a shrink?

It's enough to put me off food altogether. *

Send email to graye@phillynews.com.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|