Saturday, December 7, 2013

Franklin & Bash: Control Review


Lawyers Loaded, Jared & Peter Strike Out...

ANY Franklin & Bash episode HAD to be better than Freck, and Control was a step above.  It was also typical Franklin & Bash fare: light story, dim guys, a case that I solved a good twenty minutes before our two leading himbos did, but with a remarkably ugly ending that belies the idea that Franklin & Bash is a breezy affair.  Still, at least we don't get Pindar, so that's a plus...

Zack Harbin (Aaron Hill) is a pitcher for a minor-league team (didn't know they had those in California) who has been getting a hard time from a particularly nasty heckler named Teddy Lazlo (Lance Barber).  Teddy is not just obnoxious, he veers dangerously close to being a stalker (at every home game, he even has a trailer next to the stadium where he stays).  The boys first attempt to get a restraining order against Teddy, going so far as to attempt to show how a heckler can so upset someone that they become a nuisance by piping themselves heckling a judge.

No dice, Zack is going to have to endure the heckler.  However, when Teddy makes a crack about Zack being "The Cupcake Queen" and taunts his chances of going pro, it is one too far.  Zack loses control and goes after Teddy with a bat.  While Teddy opts not to press charges, the publicity gets Zack suspended.  With him turning 29, the window to him going to the Big Show is closing.

However, someone else is waiting in the wings, Zack's teammate Trent Wisnewski (Matt D'Elia).  If Zack falters, perhaps the scouts will turn their eyes to Trent "The Franchise" Wisnewski. 

In the subplots, Rachel King (Heather Locklear) defends her brother in a case her brother Hugh (Sam Hennings) is bringing against a company, charging that the cattle rancher was sold ruined semen.  Rachel, however, knows her brother is up to some tricks, and we discover that she herself should know how duplicity runs in the family.  This revelation involves the Junior Miss Alabama Pageant that Rachel won, which allowed her to gain a scholarship.

The second subplot involves Damien Karp (Reed Diamond) and his efforts to butter up eccentric judge Henry Dinsdale (Buck Henry).  Dinsdale holds out an endorsement for Karp's dream to replace him on the bench, but Karp's general ineptness at golf irritates the Judge.  Dinsdale's taunts go one too far, making Karp show backbone and let him know he won't kiss up to him anymore.  Rather than being angry, Dinsdale is delighted that Karp has finally taken a stand and promises to endorse him.

Pity Karp ended up killing Dinsdale on the golf course...

Big Unit Meets His Smallest Fans...

I can't say Control is dreadful (at least given some of the truly awful Franklin & Bash episodes) but there are two or three things I particularly disliked about it.  First, the shenanigans Jared & Peter go through to 'win' their case is so bad and embarrassing.  Honestly, 'heckling' the court via remote-control radio to show that a semi-pro baseball player can suffer emotional stress?  I can say that I can't feel much sympathy for athletes who appear to think that being heckled isn't part of the deal.  Tom Brady, a person I have no fondness for, was viciously heckled when he lost Super Bowl XLVI (his wife complaining that he couldn't throw and catch the ball at the same time...I cleaned it up for family reading).  Heckling is part of the sport.  It's not pretty or pleasant, but if Zack can't hack the heckler in the minor leagues, how would he do in the Majors?

In any case, I digress.

I couldn't believe that A.) Franklin and Bash could not even try to win their case without trying to pull some stunt, and B.) any judge would not have given them another contempt charge for it. 

Let's keep chronicling what else was wrong with Control.  Was Jamie Pachino and Matt McGuinness' script suppose to be painfully obvious as to who the villain was?  Once the team announcer pointed out that "The Franchise" would benefit from Harbin's exclusion, I instantly zeroed in on him and knew what these two 'brilliant' lawyers could not until later in the episode: PRIME SUSPECT THERE!  I even wrote in my notes, 'Please don't let it be teammate', because it would be just too obvious.  If I were Jared & Peter, I would have had my investigator Carmen look into The Wiz's purchases since Teddy could not afford the trailer he was living in.  A purchase that large could not go unnoticed, and I figure looking into Wiz's purchase history would yield interesting results.

Instead, the confirmation of Wiznewski's conspiracy comes about in the easiest, laziest way: an open mike and Teddy's raging against him exposes the villain. 

Same with the subplot of Rachel's revelation that she, Miss Tuscaloosa, cheated to win over Miss Chattahoochee (or was it the other way around).  In open court, she reveals this to get her brother to admit or suggest that the semen he'd bought was good, but that he sold that batch at a profit, used poor semen, and attempted to pass that off as the one he originally bought.  The judge ordered Rachel to make an apology for her actions of twenty or thirty-plus years ago, but of course we weren't going to see her humbled or Miss Chattahoochee's reaction to this.  That would have made a beautiful and rare moment of drama for Franklin & Bash.  Instead, we lost a good chance to see people behave like people.

As for the Karp subplot, it was great to see Reed show that he is the best thing about Franklin & Bash, but by having him inadvertently kill Judge Dinsdale, we only get a nod to the prediction from Captain Johnny that Karp would be in prison.  I loved it when Reed as Karp finally blows up and stands up for himself, so to see that undercut by this killing (and already I suspect it was accidental rather than intentional, Karp being many things but a murderer not one of them) cheapens the frivolous nature of the series, a bit like having a serial killer turn up on The Golden Girls and slit Rose's throat.

There are also two minor subplots: that of the faltering romance between Peter and his next-door neighbor Charlie Elwin (Nicky Whelan) to where Peter takes her to small-claims court to get her to talk to him, and Peter's regrets about an abortive baseball career (getting his non-sexual partner to bring baseball great Randy Johnson to cameo in the episode).  These story threads are touched on but don't add up to anything.

These little details adding up to nothing is a good description of Control: far too convenient escapes to resolve the issues. 

One last thought...Peter Bash, frustrated ex-baseball jock, must have a tremendous ego to go up against Big Unit and think he could get the better of the future Hall of Famer.

The Search for a Good Episode Continues...

Next Episode: Out of the Blue

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