Friday, August 15, 2014

Franklin & Bash: The Curse of Hor-Aha Review


Jared and Peter Up In Smoke...

Let us take a moment to mourn the late Jared Franklin and Peter Bash, who were killed by bad writing, bad acting, and the hubris of their creators, Kevin Falls and Bill Chais.  The Curse of Hor-Aha, the season premiere of Season Four of Franklin & Bash, is the worst episode of the show's history since the abysmal Freck.  Though perhaps nothing really will ever take Freck's place as perhaps the worst single episode of Franklin & Bash (and gives Love & Monsters from Doctor Who a good run for its money as one of the worst episodes from any television show), this was simply the worst way to begin a new series, shoehorning in 'wacky' characters, dumping the good ones, and giving us really dumb cases, dumb even for Jared & Peter.

Rachel King has left in disgrace, a fugitive from justice for embezzlement.  However, it appears she had an inside man as an accomplice.  To everyone's surprise, it appears it's Stanton Infeld (Malcolm McDowell).  Apparently, even Infeld is surprise he's the accomplice.  With nary a fare thee well to everyone, including new Infeld Daniels attorney Ellen Swatello (Rhee Seehorn), who was once Jared's sparring/sex partner, Infeld leaves the firm in capable hands.

If you're thinking his long-suffering nephew Damien Karp (Reed Diamond), you must be new to Franklin & Bash.  Of course he's not going to put someone capable and sane in charge.  He obviously will put Franklin & Bash in charge!  Good thing too, since the boys just won their case thanks to their new investigator Danny Mundy (Anthony Ordonez) pretending to be a zombie storming the court.  With said zombie, they prove that some amusement park rides, which are advertised as 'scary', may be too scary, causing pain and emotional distress.

Already just writing that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Well, at least his drawings
are good...

Well, it's four months later and Infeld Daniels, Los Angeles division, is all but dead.  Now THERE'S a shock!  Franklin & Bash are forced to rent out space to a plastic surgeon, and at least 11 partners have left.  Swatello, who is disliked back at the D.A.'s office, pretty much has to stay there, though as the only sane one she sees what a mess the place is.  Still, in these desperate times a case comes the boys' way.  Mason Trolley (Kevin Christy) needs their help in keeping what he has in storage, which he hasn't paid.  He's an archaeologist (thrilling the Indiana Jones-loving Jared, though perhaps River Song would be a better fanboy fixation), who claims to have the death mask of the Pharaoh Hor-Aha in his possession.  It must not fall into the wrong hands, for he believes there is a curse upon it.  Hor-Aha's name must NOT be spoken twelve times in a minute, or else an army of the undead will rampage the world.

Yes, he does believe this.

Money is money, so the boys take the case.  Facing off against them is...Damien Karp, who is still bitter about everything to do with them, right down to how they got to be in charge when Infeld, now working as a mechanic due to his disbarment, left.  He points out he was devoted to both his uncle and the law firm for decades, then these two clowns waltz in and in three years are put in charge.  In order to prove their case, which is hard given that they really don't have one, they must convince the court that Mason Trolley is crazy.  Therein lies their entire case: because Mason is bonkers, he was in no position to make any binding agreements, including the storage lease.

Swatello is put to work on a case she openly despises.  She must work to keep The Bone (Rhys Coiro), a 'medicinal marijuana' dispenser who 'prescribes' something for Jared's aches and pains, from having his business closed.  The Bone, who calls himself with a perfectly straight face, "The Gandhi of Weed", is facing a most curious threat.  Who wants to close it?  A sweet couple who wants to open a daycare across the street.  At the deposition (where a clearly stoned The Bone does not help), Swatello notices the couple use very interesting prison lingo against him.  Quick investigation by Danny finds the couple are really pot growers themselves, who are using the daycare as a way to close The Bone down so they could take over.  Things are looking 'high' up for them all when they come to an understanding.  To Swatello's horror and fury, the conference room is full up with marijuana smoke, and in the midst of the mist are her bosses, high as kites and laughing like all good 40-year-old men who still smoke pot for kicks. 

Still under the influence, they interview Anita Haskins (Toni Trucks), who basically bullies her way to joining the firm so that she can start trying cases immediately rather than take more lucrative offers from other firms and have to 'pay her dues'.  Franklin & Bash are pretty eager (and high) to take her on.

How'd we get stuck in this sh*t?

From the very beginning of The Curse of Hor-Aha, when the zombie storms the court to show how the client was too scared to be rational about going on a scary ride, I thought the whole thing was awful.  It all sank from this blatant stupidity (no judge in his right mind would have allowed this, and no opposing counsel would have settled after this stunt that would have made the jury burst out laughing rather than shock them into submission), and nothing in The Curse of Hor-Aha made me care about any of it.

Falls and Chais did what they did last year: write off characters, but this time really give us no explanation for their absence.  Hanna Linden was written off at the beginning of Season Three, but at least we heard she joined a more prestigious law firm.  Here, how characters were executed was hopelessly haphazard.  Rachel King was embezzling and fled to Croatia?  OK...

It's the mass exodus from Franklin & Bash that just is so frustrating, surprising, and unexplained.  Dana Davis' Carmen and Kumail Nanjiani's Pindar are now both gone with no real explanation as to how or why they left (possible theories include career opportunities, being fired, or realizing what a disaster Franklin & Bash is left before they sank further into the mire).  Even Damien Karp is now going to be a figure that kind of just floats around, not serving as full-on antagonist to Jared and Peter.

Instead, what we have now is Danny Mundy, Anita Haskins, and Ellen Swatello, and frankly, Franklin, they are all pretty poor substitutes.  Part of me dislikes bashing on Ordonez, particularly since I have been advocating seeing more Hispanics on television, and it's nice to see him play a non-Hispanic (or at least, a non-stereotypical Hispanic).  However, either Ordonez is a bad actor (which I don't think) or he is doing the best he can with such lousy material to work with (the more probable solution).   Danny doesn't come off as 'quirky'.  He comes off as psychotic, almost stalker-like. 

Carmen actually did some investigative work, and part of the fun was in watching Davis show that she was intelligent in how she went about getting the information.  We saw her do the footwork.  Danny, on the other hand, seems to just get his information from out of thin air.  We never see him doing anything, apart from listening in on his bosses by rigging their phones and looking up things online (Danny must be a Master Googler).   That whole 'quirky' bit about him sleeping with both eyes open was just lazy and nowhere near as funny as Chais and Falls envisioned it.  Despite Ordonez, Meyer, and Gosselaar's best, it came across as idiotic and boring.

Please Cancel Me...

Trucks had a few minutes, but her Haskins was only slightly better.  She too came off as horrible: pushy and belligerent when shrewd and calculating could have done more to make us, well, like her.  I really feel for both Seehorn and Diamond, who simply deserve to be on a better show.  Seehorn's Swatello is now the Karp stand-in, but frankly she like Karp has the misfortune of playing a character who is simply too sane to be anywhere near this.  She is the only one to have actual human reactions to all this.  Swatello is the professional, and as such seeing her humiliated by being surrounded by pot smoke (and her bosses getting second-hand high) just seems so awful.

As a side note, this juvenile schtick Franklin and Bash have going has grown stale and actually quite sad.  In real life, Meyer and Gosselaar have wives and kids and are 40 years old.  Seeing Jared Franklin and Peter Bash stubbornly refuse to grow up now just makes them look pathetic.  It doesn't make them look cool, or hip, or fun.  It makes them look sad and really objects of pity.  How is it that Infeld Daniels never had random drug tests (which the still pot-smoking Jared would have failed and I imagine be disbarred for)?  You know guys, 40-year-old bachelors who live together, still smoke pot, play video games, have an Indiana Jones fixation to where Jared I think giggles at having an archaeologist in the office, and use 'the walking dead' to win cases while watching their law firm disintegrate are not objects of male wish-fulfillment.  They are losers, plain and simple.

As I mentioned, one really feels for Diamond, who seems stuck in this nightmare (FIRE YOUR AGENT, STAT!).  The Curse of Hor-Aha doesn't make sense in so many ways.  The thing about Karp's deposition in the Rachel King fiasco (and as a side note, Heather Locklear's entire season and participation in it was a fiasco) is a case in point.  Am I suppose to really believe that no one at the two-day deposition noticed that Karp was a.) wearing the same clothes, b.) disheveled, c.) hung over if not still drunk, and d.) basically repeating what he said the day before (the dialogue Diamond says in what is suppose to be Day One and Day Two sounding very similar)?  We also have Infeld being arrested...again.  Snoozer Alert, Snoozer Alert.  Add to all this the following question.

Wasn't Infeld Daniels a major law firm with a New York office?  Doesn't the New York office, which had such a powerful role a season or two back to where Franklin and Bash were almost fired by them, have any sway or say in who actually gets to run the Los Angeles branch?  Would they, who were so trepidatious about Jared and Peter, rubber-stamp Infeld's decision to let these two run the firm?  Wouldn't they either send someone from New York to run things (I doubt they'd let Damien, who escaped a murder rap, take the reins).  Still, it's hard to believe that a major law firm like Infeld Daniels with branches around the world let these two run the firm (unless they want to let them run it...into the ground). 

About the only things to recommend this episode are Christy as Trolley (who is amusing in his straightforward acknowledgment of disliking the Indiana Jones films except for Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls) and a quick Doctor Who reference.  Trolley wasn't as convincing when he called Jared and Peter 'dream-killers' for insinuating that a man was mentally unstable for believing in curses, but more often than not made the best of the material.  As for Doctor Who, the boys give Karp a new witness opposing counsel hasn't heard of: a Doctor Hor-Aha.  A smarmy Jared asks, "Doctor Who?"

The Curse of Hor-Aha is just a lousy way to start a season.  It's beyond stupid.  It makes one root for the opposing counsel.  It doesn't really take time to acknowledge the wide cast changes (sorry, Trucks and Ordonez, I don't think you'll be as beloved as Carmen, who was one of the best things in the show, or even Pindar, who had his fans but his detractors as well).  The dynamic and interplay between the characters is gone, replaced by new characters that already gotten off on the wrong foot and who really are not interesting or funny.  Try as they might, Ordonez and Trucks are no Nanjiani and Davis, and their loss is highly felt in this chaotic rubbish heap of an episode.  Peculiar quirks don't interesting characters make (hence why Ordonez's Mundy fell flat so quickly and disastrously). 

With The Curse of Hor-Aha, Kevin Falls and Bill Chais have performed a television miracle.  They have made the season premiere of Franklin & Bash the worst episode of the season, because it's hard to imagine anything being as horrible as this.

Then again, season's just beginning...



Next Episode: Kershaw vs. Lincecum

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