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TV Court Is Now In Session: Franklin & Bash vs. Suits

Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer

Summer TV is about to kick back into action , so CC2K takes a look at back at Phoebe Raven’s comparison of lawyer shows Franklin & Bash and Suits, both of which are premiering their second seasons in the coming weeks.

This summer I didn’t make as much of an effort to watch all the new summer shows as I have in previous years, I focused more on returning shows like Hawthorne, Royal Pains, Louie, Haven, The Glades etc. But of the new shows I caught, two were legal dramas starring lawyers, USA’s Suits and TNT’s Franklin & Bash. I like one more than the other and it has to do with how these shows paint their lawyers.

Suits is about a young guy, Mike, who has such a good memory that he specializes in taking tests for other people, be it the SATs or the bar exam, while he himself has dropped out of college. And for some reason he lands himself a job as a low-level lawyer (do you call them interns, like in medicine?) as the assistant of the hottest lawyer in NYC, Harvey Specter. I forget how exactly this comes to be, but does it really matter? (It had something to do with Mike fleeing from some drug thugs and ending up in the ballroom of a hotel where interviews for the new lawyer interns were being held.)
Harvey knows Mike is not a real lawyer, but the rest of the firm doesn’t. And then you have the Cases of the Week and your formula is complete.

Franklin & Bash is about two misfit lawyers – Jared Franklin and Peter Bash – who used to work on their own, taking on any weird and outlandish case they could find. But their innovative courtroom tactics quickly get them noticed by a big law firm and so they are hired there to handle the especially weird, complicated or tricky cases. Peter used to date one of the State Attorneys, but they broke up and now she is marrying someone else. And Franklin & Bash also employ two other misfits, Pindar, who has a phobia of everything and hates to go outside, and Carmen, who wants to become a lawyer but has a criminal record. Add in an eccentric boss at the big law firm and your formula is once again complete.

So what distinguishes these two shows and makes one a pleasure to watch while the other one reminds you just exactly why lawyers have a bad reputation?

Franklin & Bash is a fun, light, summer show. The two lead actors Breckin Meyer and Mark-Paul Gosselaar have great brotherly chemistry between them that works well for all the witty, geeky banter they have to throw around. These two dudes have a routine, they have inside jokes and they host awesome parties at their bachelor pad every week (including sexy ladies in the pool). If they think it’ll work in their favor, they’ll bring light sabers into the courtroom as a means of demonstration. They think outside the box, they get themselves in trouble, but at the end of the day, you want these two guys in your corner.

Suits can’t decide what it wants to be. It wavers between a highly stylized version of a legal procedural and a college drama about friends stuck in a situation they are trying to get out of (Mike’s best friend is involved in dealing drugs and keeps dragging Mike into trouble). Mike’s boss Harvey Specter is like the poor man’s Don Draper, as in he has the gelled hair and the sharp suits, but he has only a fraction of the panache, and that’s not a result of him not being allowed to drink and smoke on the job. While Don Draper does a lot of non-chivalrous things on Mad Men, he has two excuses: for one thing, it’s the Sixties and men were still allowed/expected to be chauvinistic playboys and two, Don Draper hides a melancholic heart behind his devilish good looks. Suits’ Harvey Specter on the other hand tries his damndest to come off as if he couldn’t care less, he’s unsympathetic towards his clients and he loves making deals that get him a lot of money, even if they might be morally iffy.
He might be just as brilliant in his respective field as Don Draper is and in the way he has taken Mike under his wing he displays a little bit of good will, but generally Harvey Specter is an unlikable bully and a sleazeball – exactly the kind of big, corporate lawyer in expensive suits who give all other lawyers a bad name.

Furthermore, as much as actors Gabriel Macht (Harvey Specter) and Patrick J. Adams (Mike Ross) try, their chemistry just doesn’t come off as effortless as the one Meyer and Gosselaar have in Franklin & Bash. Part of that is owed to the fact that Suits deals with a boss – assistant relationship, while Franklin & Bash stars two equal partners, but that is not the whole answer to the problem. If Suits included a little more about Harvey’s background, it would alleviate a lot of the problems I have with this show. Right now I don’t care about Harvey one bit. Where I always hope and pray that no one finds out Don Draper’s secret and he can keep his job and keep succeeding, I almost want Harvey Specter to fail, because he is arrogant in such an annoying and slimy way, it’s kind of impossible to root for him, no matter how sympathetic one might find his protégé Mike (and he’s not very sympathetic either, I think).

Good times all around.
It also doesn’t help Suits much that it airs en bloc with Burn Notice on Thursdays on USA, since Burn Notice is such a candy-colored, typical summer show, while Suits’ palette is a lot more black, gray and beige tones and the show has an air of “this is serious work we’re doing here, the law is important”.
Franklin & Bash doesn’t try to be anything more than what it is designed to be and even though high stakes cases are portrayed here as well, this fact isn’t stressed add infinitum. Also, the opening credits theme song on Franklin & Bash (“Mixture” by Pete) takes the cake for “Favorite New TV Theme of the Season besides Game of Thrones”.

So if you only have time for one more legal procedural on your TV dance card, pencil in Franklin & Bash and leave Suits hanging in the closet.





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