Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Franklin and Bash Remember Their First Time


FRANKLIN & BASH: WAITING ON A FRIEND

We now have in Waiting on a Friend another Franklin & Bash episode which is less about the case than about the characters, specifically in how "Jared" Franklin (Breckin Meyer, and the quotes will be explained later) and Peter Bash (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) came to be these lifelong friends who have never moved away from their decades-long bromance.  Perhaps I'm softening to how Franklin & Bash is no longer the show I remembered: one where the juvenile antics of our titular heroes was balanced by their relationship versus to this season where they are just two stupid men who find that either others or a little bit of luck can bail them out of things.  However, while Waiting on a Friend was predictable at every turn, in this case familiarity didn't breed contempt.

The New York office has come to Los Angeles, in particular one Richard Tafflinger (David Constabile, and even the character's name makes him sound villainous).  Whenever he's around, the firm knows he's after someone to fire.   This time, the targets are Jared and Peter.  A former client from their ambulance-chasing days, Tammi Sutton (Carla Gallo) has accused them of giving her money to skip trial.  To help investigate them Tafflinger brings Emily Adams (Shiri Appleby, whom I'll always remember from Roswell, a show cancelled far too soon, but I digress).

With Tafflinger in charge, he soon starts questioning those who work for Jared and Peter: their aide Pindar Singh (Kumail Nanjiani) and investigator Carmen Phillips (Dana Davis).  Of course, this really is nothing more than an excuse to flashback to when they first met.  We are also treated to when Jared and Peter first met, in 1988 when both were in elementary school.  Here's a shocker: Jared was the taller of the two back then, and Peter was a short, fat fellow! 

Whatever are the odds?

Pindar met them in 2000, when all were in law school and he was playing his panophobia to make himself a player-type.  Carmen met them seven years later when they worked her case and found her skills helpful.

Tafflinger selects Damien Karp (Reed Diamond) to defend them against Tammi, much to the consternation of all three of them. 

As the investigation goes on, we find that Franklin & Bash can't be constricted by Karp's limitations.  His inability to introduce Tammi's breasts (in particular, a tattoo over her left breast) into evidence gets him fired by our boys.  They now have to find their own way of winning their case even as the odds continue piling up against them.  We need only go back to their first case (which earned them the first of their 47 contempt charges) to see that their behavior, as dubious as it may be, got them results.  In their first case (mind you, they were cited for contempt on their first case, two days into it to boot), they were suing a theme park for causing trauma to a little boy who had the misfortune of seeing his favorite character remove his kangaroo head and take a drag.

It doesn't look like they are likely to win, and Peter isn't too keen on what Jared cooked up for him.  However, being a shockingly weak-willed individual, the taller of the two goes along with the midget's scheme: to burst into the courtroom wearing a kangaroo suit while dangling a cigarette from his mouth.  The little boy screams in terror, the judge throws them both in jail, and the theme park notifies them they want to settle.

In regards to Tammi, they discover that she had once worked on a roller derby team, one where the girls wore a rather revealing tube top.  Being the case, the judge overturns his previous decision and admits the breast into evidence.  We see that far from being bad lawyers, Franklin and Bash had actually been quite helpful to her, and that the tats she had were all related to her criminal past.  That includes that breast tattoo which showed she had indeed made a boob out of herself.

With Franklin and Bash vindicated, their jobs are not threatened...for now.  Jared, whom we discover is really named Elmo (a family name he says), also turns out to have won, successfully using his leprechaun charms to win Emily over.



It's a curious thing to me that Waiting on a Friend went back into the past to see how our anti-heroes first met because this flashback idea usually doesn't come so early in a series.  All television programs either start with the characters first meeting or have an episode where we see how it all started.  In that respect, Waiting on a Friend's screenplay by Pat Sheehan and co-creator Bill Chais doesn't stray from the formula.  It even gives us rather unsurprising scenarios (wouldn't it be HILARIOUS if the character played by the eventually 5'5" Meyer started out as taller than the one the eventually 6' Gosselaar plays, they might have thought, or how about when we 'first see' Pindar, he's a smooth ladies' man rather than the frightened individual we've come to know and love).

In that respect, going back to when our team got together, I find nothing wrong with Waiting on a Friend.   However, because we have this flashback set-up, we are in a sense robbed of a good opportunity to really develop how the relationship Jared and Peter have with Pindar or Carmen or even each other started, let alone grew to what it would become. 

So these two met at a park where they both feared being picked last (been there, done that).  However, in what circumstance did they really meet?  It's doubtful that the wealthy Franklin and the working-class Bash would have gone to the same school together (in Bachelor Party, a previous episode from last season, we've established that Jared went to a rather posh private school that would have been way out of the Bash family budget).  So how did they end up at the same park?  How did they keep in contact over all those years at different schools?  Would Leonard Franklin, knowing him like we do, have tolerated this kid from the wrong side of the tracks being best friends with his son?  What about Mrs. Bash? Why did they both decide to attend law school and go to the same law school together?

Yes, perhaps I am overthinking all this, but Waiting on a Friend pushes me to.  It gives us the scenario of how rich Jared and poor Peter first met, so given that they've been lifelong friends we have to figure out how things go on.  At least one thing is established: Peter appears to be the weaker of the two.  Despite his height Jared is the more dominant one because Peter, not Jared, burst into court wearing the kangaroo suit.  Ever since they were boys Jared has been the one to get Peter to do things, and even now Peter doesn't appear able to get Jared to grow up (again, not a Breckin Meyer short joke).  It looks like Peter WANTS to be the more mature one but at the same time can't cut off someone who doesn't shrink (again, not a short joke) from skipping out on meetings so as to satisfy his need for a special breakfast and amble into work whenever he wants to.

If anything, the relationship between Franklin and Bash now seems almost dangerous than beneficial to Peter's career/life, and it almost looks like they've grown psychologically dependent on each other, which is different than having an actual deep friendship.  It's a curious twist that in an episode that is meant to show how it all got started, to show the whimsy behind the men, it succeeds in making their bromance more depressing than amusing.

One thing that I did like was that Appleby has returned to the screen.  I've always thought she was a better actress than most and one that needs a genuine chance to showcase herself, and Waiting on a Friend shows that she can play smart (certainly smarter than either Jared or Peter).  The fact that she is there to give Jared a romance is almost moot: it was about time he had someone to sleep with.  Of course, given that both of Peter's girls this season (Officer Wendy Cowell and Assistant Prosecutor Janie) have been dropped and not heard from since perhaps Emily should not think about setting up shop. 

Moreover, given that Jared is the less mature of the two, why would we give him a long-term romance? 

In terms of the backstories of both Pindar and Carmen, like I've said it's unfortunate that both were sacrificed to just give us their very first encounters and leave it at that.  It might have been nice to have seen whole episodes on their 'first times', and they might have been good stories to explore.  However, this probably will not be.

It is nice to see Nanjiani play against type at first, but given that in an earlier episode we find that he began his phobias by being a 'sexile' unknown to both Franklin or Bash it does make one wonder how to tie it all together.  The first two episodes were devoted to a character arc about how Pindar became the fearful phobic germ-averse person he grew to be, but now we have a section of another episode devoted to how he managed to fool his classmates that he was in a four-year leg cast?  Somehow, I'm not buying any of it.

One thing that I thought was a lost opportunity was in having Karp defend them.  Perhaps this would have allowed both sides to show a mutual (albeit grudging) respect for each other that would have built up future stories.  We couldn't have that.  Instead, we had to dump Karp to show that our boys could still handle things themselves.  Whatever flaws Damien Karp has, he is not a stupid or incompetent lawyer, and the suggestion that he would have thrown the case is almost unfair. 

In regards to the actual case, given their antics it is amazing that this charge is what caught New York's attention.   Furthermore, the 'case file' Hanna and Karp had been building against them did play a small part in Waiting on a Friend, but was ultimately dropped to where they might not have bothered keeping a list at all.  Why introduce something if you're not going to use it?

Ultimately, while I'm slowly tiring of Franklin & Bash and would like the show I saw first season back, Waiting on a Friend wasn't all that bad.   Either that, or I've grown softer as the season winds down.   




I wonder if Waiting on a Friend was inspired in part by The Math Patrol...

5/10

Next Episode: 6:50 to SLC

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