Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Shorter the Skirt, The Thinner the Plot





FRANKLIN & BASH:
DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY
 
And we're back to Franklin & Bash's slide into embarrassment to all concerned save for Reed Diamond.  Dance the Night Away has some familiar F&B tropes: oddball cases, a far-fetched resolution, dimwitted leads, vague suggestions of homosexual relations between said leads, and strippers!  Excuse me, exotic dancers.
 
We also get a few things we weren't expecting: a real, genuine human relationship for once acted out as if characters were real adults, the more obnoxious of our two main characters receiving a royal title, and same obnoxious character making out with his best friend's mom.

The main case is brought to you by Colleen Bash (Jane Seymour), Peter's mother the sex surrogate.  She has a friend, Cindy (Diora Baird), who dances at Candy's Strip Bar.  She injured herself when the pole she was performing a particularly difficult routine broke, sending her flying into the lap of a I'm sure extremely pleased customer.  Her knee was injured and she received cuts from broken glass but now not only does the new manager, Cliff (James Remar), refuses to pay for her medical bills, but wants HER to pay for the broken pole as well!  After some discussion, consisting of Peter Bash (Mark-Paul Gossellaar) telling Mommie Dearest they'll discuss taking the case, and Jared Franklin (Breckin Meyer) immediately saying they'll take the case, they take the case.
 
Oddly, the opposing counsel is none other than Damien Karp (Diamond), who appears to have taken a shine to the boy's new lawyer, Anita Haskins (Toni Trucks), a shine that appears reciprocated.  To the shock of Franklin and Bash, at one point Karp actually manages to beat them in court, pointing out that Cindy was not technically an employee of Candy's, but an 'independent contractor' and thus does not fall under Wrongful Termination protection.  As she worked as a private workout instructor, she had outside work.

Mark-Paul Goasselaar pole dances shirtless in "Franklin and  Bash"Mark-Paul Goasselaar shirtless in "Franklin and  Bash"


Things look bleak for the boys, who appear to have finally reached a dangerous point: not only have they been unable to score with strippers, but may have to do actual work!  The SR-17 Business Tax Forms they are required to fill out are not to their liking, and for once they fondly recall how Karp apparently not only loved doing the forms, but was highly efficient at it.  Could they genuinely miss their nemesis? 

One person who genuinely misses him is his uncle, Stanton Infeld (Malcolm McDowell), whose frosty relationship with his nephew appears to be undergoing a thaw on both sides. 

In true Franklin & Bash style, they find a way to win their case the way they normally do: set up a bizarre stunt and get others to do the leg work.  While Peter and Jared come up with the idea of unionizing strippers, it is Toni who comes up with the actual union to sponsor them.  The court, in particular Karp, is astonished that even by "Bash and Franklin" standards as he puts it, the idea of having a union of puppeteers sponsor them is idiotic.  As always, they manage to pull everything off.  Not only do they win the case, they manage to get Karp back to the firm, though he comes with conditions...and Peter's mom, who scolds Jared, Peter, and Stanton for how they've treated Damien.


In what can be rightly called a last gasp of desperation to make things 'wacky', due to plot contrivances that stretch the bounds of believability (even by 'Bash and Franklin standards'),  Jared accepts a royal title in lieu of payment.  Apparently in exchange for forgiving legal fees from a Scotsman, Jared Franklin is now, and I'm not kidding, His Royal Highness The Duke of Landingshire. 
 
In his honor, I shall now refer to Elmo 'Jared' Franklin as HRH. 
 
HRH's purchase of the title infuriates Peter, who worked on the case as well and got nothing out of it.  Stanton is delighted, recalling his own youthful trysts with "Lizzie" at Buckingham Palace and offering to throw HRH a Royal Coming-Out party.  However, one person who isn't thrilled is Albert Doherty, Duke of Wetting (Kevin McKidd), who owns property back on the island next to HRH.  He wants HRH to put a stop to Landingshire's cattle getting on his property.  I think in the end all works well between our two Scottish lairds, because at the end of Dance the Night Away my DVR informed me that the image was lost due to signal loss.
 
That also meant I didn't see HRH making out with Colleen, with the Bash puppet's mouth agape at what was going on, while the HRH puppet merely observing.
 
Honestly, if it weren't primarily for the Karp/Infeld subplot and particular for Reed Diamond, Dance the Night Away would have been almost as appallingly bad as The Curse of Hor-Aha.  Franklin & Bash co-creator Bill Chais wrote and directed Dance the Night Away, and I can't help marvel at how someone could have created an episode where a lot was predictable and even insulting to our intelligence.
 
Take for example when Karp objects to having a demonstration of what a strip club would look like if OSHA safety standards were strictly observed.  The 'entrance' of the girls, complete with smoke, seemed something like out a bizarre dream sequence.  Even more idiotic was HRH and Peter's 'climatic' speech about how unionizing 'exotic dancers' and join them with puppeteers was what America was all about (complete with faux-patriotic music in the background, as if to emphasize the idiocy of it all). 
 
"When our four fathers came to this country..." at one point Peter says, using his hand to indicate what a genuinely shocked Karp asked him: "Wait, did you just say 'FOUR fathers?'"  I know that Jared and Peter are always shown to be a bit dumb (Peter didn't know FDR was in a wheelchair, HRH unaware of how 'Deep Throat' was connected to journalism).  This, however, may be the most appalling case of the show's 'they're himbos with law degrees' storyline. One wonders what must have gone on in Peter's brain when he first heard about a 'four-skin'...
 
Peter's Mom/Has Got it Going On...
 
Speaking of 'four-skin', what possible point could there be for HRH to be getting involved with his best friend's mom (who is old enough to be HIS mom)?  Emotional Transference?  Proof that HRH is indeed heterosexual, not the 'homosexual in denial' he's shown himself to be for about three seasons?  HRH being a genuinely repulsive man who, not satisfied with being a dick of a Duke to his best friend, his lovers, and his co-workers, now decides to take his selfishness to even more depraved levels?  HRH had always been snarky about Colleen: how hot she was (even inviting her and Cindy to the hot tub the boys were planning to use for another pair of women, which leads to the odd situation of having the four of them naked and making out within touching distance of each other...really), how she was a hooker (Colleen having been arrested for not having a 'sex surrogate' license at the time).  This, however, may be the lowest thing he's ever done, so naturally Peter will resort to type and let HRH get away with it.
 
Somehow, this too seems to be something a show bereft of ideas would try, for nothing spices up weak shows like stunts.  Colleen should know better.  HRH should know better.  The production team should know better.  We the audience deserve better.
 
Now, in the shambles of a once-great show, we find that Reed Diamond is the best thing on it.  When HRH and Peter are trying to get him to come back, they go about it in a curious way.  "You're an ass****", HRH tells Karp, "and I mean that with love".  They make this big deal about how Karp needs them to keep him sharp, all I could think of was the show needs him to be their antagonist, the object they must constantly fight against.  Whether Chais and co-creator Kevin Falls planned to keep him off for a few episodes to test the waters of a show without Karp or merely to shake things up a bit the whole thing of having Karp out of the office did harm to Franklin & Bash's dynamics.
 
However, Diamond was excellent throughout Dance the Night Away.  Whether it was in his scenes with McDowell (the first time they are allowed to tone down the nutty and behave like a real uncle and nephew reconciling), doing battle with two people he openly and genuinely loathes, or even flirting awkwardly with Anita, Diamond excels and shows what an excellent actor he is, and that he is so far above the material.  His scene with Seymour, where for once Karp uses a Franklin & Bash-style stunt to put his hated rivals in their place, is pitch-perfect: his gleeful smile at having finally out Franklin & Bashed Peter and HRH is a delight.  He manages to both mock their penchant for idiocy while using it at the same time.
 
Even here, Meyer can't help spoil things...
 
A poor, poor decision was to give Diamond and Kevin McKidd the briefest of scenes.  Here was a golden opportunity to have some fun with having the two former Journeyman co-stars reunite.  Certainly Chais' script acknowledges this: Diamond's Karp staring at the Scottish laird and commenting he looked really familiar.  After Wetting threatens Karp, Damien just says, "Hey brother, I'm on your side".  On the time-travelling show, they played brothers.
 
Sadly though, McKidd (using his native Scottish accent rather than the perfect American one he had on Journeyman) and Diamond had a total of a minute together, and worse, I don't recall them actually sharing the screen.  Again, a sign of how little thought there was when we could have had better inside jokes and a great scene.
 
How I wish Journeyman had a.) lasted longer and b.) been released on DVD already. 
 
Fortunately, McKidd, like his Journeyman co-star, are simply so much better than what they're given, and McKidd at least is smart enough to play the cartoonish character he's given as just that without being all-bonkers. 
 
There were good lines in Dance the Night Away (on Infeld's offer to have a 'royal coming-out party', the normally quip-free Peter says, "Ah, you're finally coming out") and amusing moments (the Franklin and Bash puppets were making out at the hands of their puppet-master, yet another sly nod to the 'people think HRH and Peter are lovers' undercurrent on the show).  However, if it weren't for Reed Diamond (who in a fair world would be the star of this show, where Damien Karp has to endure two idiots who are always one step from bringing down the firm), we would have had another car overturned in this train wreck of a show.               
 
4/10
 
Next Episode: Honor Thy Mother

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