Friday, November 9, 2012

Franklin & Bash: Strange Brew Review


They'll Drink To That. They'll Drink to Anything...

We now premiere the second season premiere of Franklin & Bash, and we get some of the hijinks from our fellows that we know and love, and we also get a set up for the season finale (or at least something that will definitely play into this season) and some hints about the secondary players.  What we also get, unfortunately, is some major cop-outs that all but absolve our leads of what little responsibility they might take for their actions.  Strange Brew gives us what we expect a good Franklin & Bash episode to have, but it lost out on some good character-building chances.

We start with Jerod Franklin (Breckin Meyer) and Peter Bash (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) doing what they do best: make fools out of the court.  Jerod is inside a Chinese water torture tank while Peter is attempting to convince the court that the device was defective.  As is the case, they manage to use their antics to win.

We now move on to their boss, Stanton Infield (Malcolm McDowell), who has decided that "the little experiment with Franklin & Bash is at an end".  Infield opts to offer our Dynamic Duo full partnership at Stanton Infield.  Naturally, Infield's nephew/Franklin & Bash's nemesis Damien Carp (Reed Diamond) is not pleased at this turn of events, while Carp's ex-lover/law partner Hanna Linden (Garcelle Beauvais) stays oddly silent.  Jerod and Peter are thrilled, but know that not all of the partners will vote them in (wonder who doesn't want them).  Infield suggests they land a major client, and that will bring the reluctant partners to their side. 

To that end they go for Lawrence Reynolds (Kevin Neelon), a major wheeler-dealer who loves to have a good time.  Obviously, our boys hit it off with Reynolds.

Now we have a few cases thrown in: there's Reynolds suit against a local brewery where the actual owners of the brew is in dispute (hence, Strange Brew) and a case involving our boys' friend Robbie (Eddie Jemison), who faces the loss of his job due to a charge of resisting arrest.  He had been highly intoxicated on the beach when Officer Cowell (Kat Foster) was eventually forced to taser him when he kept escaping from her grasps.  Seeing as it was a party (I suspect Halloween but can't recall) Robbie thought the officer was merely a hot woman in a sexy police woman's costume hitting on him.

While Bash wins the police suit (and manages to charm if not the pants off at least charm her into going out with him) Franklin at first appears close to losing his brewery case.  While he finds a way to win it also could mean that Reynolds has found a way to shut the brewer's business down.  Franklin & Bash find there is a price to be paid for corporate success, and while at first they refuse to counter sue eventually we find they do. 

However, all's well that ends well: Reynolds has a last-minute change and they are voted in.  However, while Hanna is the swing vote she does inform Carp that she noticed there's a morality clause in all partner's contracts, and now Carp and Hanna have a way to keep track of their shenanigans to be used at a later date.

Already we have two or three things in Matt McGuinness' script that lead to some interesting future notes.  First, we know that the 'morals clause' will be vital in Season Two: you don't introduce something without at the end of an episode without it being important later on.  Second, you see that Peter Bash can get any woman.  Third, you see that Franklin & Bash, at least so far, won't allow our boys to grow up.

The idea that our fun-loving bros may actually cause someone genuine pain is an interesting, even fascinating one.  Joan Ackermann (Melora Walters) is a genuinely sweet brewer/restaurateur who did up to a point outsmart Franklin by showing that her late father, as a result of contest rules, was simply too incapacitated with drink to make a sound decision selling off his rights to Reynolds' company.  She certainly isn't greedy: she only wants to keep her brew in the family.  However, once we get to see that Reynolds is casually about to ruin her, this would be a good time for our fellows to pause and recognize that their cleverness and fun-loving ways do bear consequences for others.

It would have been interesting to see the ramifications of knowing they shut down a business, an unintended consequence of their easy success.  It might have even allowed for a story arc (perhaps Joan could have made a return appearance looking for a job or even revenge), where Jerod and Peter might start accepting that the good times ain't so good for others.

However, that would spoil all the fun, so we have this deux ex machina of Reynolds' reversal.  With that, Jerod and Peter are cleansed: they now have no guilt because there is nothing to be guilty of.  Even while watching I thought the last-minute change was far too convenient, as if the show didn't want to push these guys into accepting the consequences of their actions.  After pondering it, I feel this one moment was just too easy, allowing them to escape when perhaps seeing how they dealt with the pressure to be more corporate-minded versus more frivolous.

That above all else is what pushed Strange Brew down and made it a weak season opener.  Strange Brew isn't a terrible episode, but I also feel it's a bit of a cheat to let these guys off so easy.  They didn't have to live with their actions, they didn't even have to do anything: it was done for them.  That doesn't allow either of them to grow as people. 

I know, we watch Franklin & Bash to see two adult men behave like kids (early on it does boggle the mind that these two are taken seriously, even by someone like Infield, who is six degrees of separation from reality), but when a show about those with extreme cases of Peter Pan Syndrome allows them to get off scot-free, it doesn't ring true.

Moreover, one wonders how intelligent Officer Cowell is if she so readily agrees to go out with Peter merely because he looks like Zack from Saved By the Bell.   Would she go out with him if she knew Peter doesn't know the difference between Jimmy Stewart and Jimmy Carter?

That was one of the funnier moments in Strange Brew (when Jared shows contempt for Joan's attorney by doing a faux-Jimmy Stewart impression only to have Peter comment how good his version of 'the peanut farmer' was).  Here, I thought the sarcasm Jerod showed was more snobbish and disdainful than witty and clever.  However, when the 6' tall Gosselaar remarks to the 5'5" Meyer, "May be the first time you've been called Goliath" in regards to the Joan vs. Reynolds suit as a 'David and Goliath' case, it was genuinely funny and a sign of how good Gosselaar and Meyer work together. 

While I also liked the phrase "sexile" (which means to be forced to leave a place so someone else can have sex, and one I had never heard of before), it was a sign that Franklin & Bash's loyal (and I'd argue, saner) crew of Dana Davis' Carmen and Kumail Nanjiani's Pindar didn't have as much to do with the cases as they did in the past.  They had good moments together and we saw a deeper connection between them with Carmen trying to help Pindar overcome his myriad of phobias.  Sadly, more time was spent with Officer Cowell than with Carmen and Pindar.

On the whole I wasn't overwhelmed with Strange Brew.  You had funny moments and good interplay between Gosselaar and Meyer.  However, the cases weren't as odd or as funny as the ones I remember from last season, and it had that fatal flaw of attempting to make them accept negative situations to their shrewdness only to take it away without them having to face the consequences.

That is what I found the strangest thing of Strange Brew.           


Next Episode: Viper

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