Friday, August 15, 2014

Graceland, Burn Notice and Franklin and Bash--a break for pop culture heads to the beachfront bungalows

Franklin and Bash

Goofaholics rejoice—Franklin and Bash are back on TNT! Starting off their 4th season with episode one last night, Franklin and Bash brings a little nutty legalese to lighten up your week. Packed with offbeat courtroom jests and antics, this dynamic duo of nontraditional attorneys (played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Breckin Meyer) battle for justice and to win their (weekly plotline) court cases. Their entourage is no less eccentric, including  in past seasons ex-convict parolee Carmen Philips (played by (my fellow Iowan!) DanaDavis), their agoraphobic (with many other phobias to boot) lawyer Pindar Sindh (played by the hilarious Kumail Nanjiani) who serves both as legal assistant and tech analyst to the team, Carmen and Pindar's new replacement in season 4, Dan, a narcoleptic with a lot of social quirks but who appears to be a spot-on researcher (played by Anthony Ordonez) or their new-age boss always ready with a farfetched tale of some caper from his past, Stanton Infeld (played by the ever-dynamic English actor Malcolm McDowell) who, as season 4 opens, has been disbarred and is working in a garage. Opposing them is their nemesis: a lawyer who is always hoping they’ll normalize or get fired and who is always struggling to beat them out for clients and the approbation of Stanton—the mostly straight and narrow attorney Damien Karp (played by Reed Diamond) who as season 4 begins has joined a rival firm and plans on taking them down in court as often as possible. All in all, this legal drama has a nice in-house endearing familial struggle within this law firm feel—with a bit of that Cain (as Daniel) vs Franklin and Bash as an Abel duo. Everyone seeks connections, affections and approbations with or from Stanton but also with/from other vacillating members of the firm team and each attorney’s personal entourage as well. Do support and kindness or distrust and underhandedness make for better lawyers? Certainly Stanton seems to play his attorneys against each other like pawns for his own bemusement and to perhaps answer this question. But why put this show into my beachfront Triptych? Although it was originally to be shot in Atlanta, the crew was in the end taken to LA—and not just to the highrise flashy center of the city's courtrooms. In fact, much of the show takes place along the LA coastline with scenes like the one pictured above out on Franklin and Bash’s beachfront deck, or during after- (or/and before-) hours parties. Keys to winning cases often pop into Franklin or Bash’s mind while they are strumming their guitar, arguing about something or mulling their problems and sense of purpose over while seated on the sand or high above it on their deck. Of course, given Pindar’s agoraphobia, this duo finds their work is quite literally tied to their beachfront home. In the end, though, despite seemingly goofing off nonstop, Franklin and Bash get the work done with flair, pizazz and a contagious love of life that is reflected in or by that beachfront location. A fun, funny, sweet, enjoyable, crazy silly show to watch—making us wish perhaps that our life could be just a little bit more insane, like theirs is.


Season 1 of USA TV's Graceland was a hit—filmed with sultry light including many scenes out on the boardwalk or beachfront giving viewers a taste of that salty air, leaving the grit of the sand in their teeth, and luring them back with an enticing plot line. It brilliantly developed its characters and lured viewers back as they sought to understand the mysterious covert past of Briggs (played by Daniel Sunjata) and decide whether or not Mike (played by Aaron Tveit) and the house should trust him. Overall, the plot arc of season 1 traced a single culprit (Jangles) while unveiling a layer of deception within the Graceland house itself. Season 2 has unfortunately been more caught up with issues of political power (Mikey as the one in charge with a DC connection, Paige struggling to get anyone official to sign off on bringing down the human trafficking ring and Dale flailing as he tries to win his battle against the child custody system and his ex). Although season 2 has explored a bit more some of the minor characters—really giving Johnny (and actor Manny Montana) the opportunity to shine and strut his stuff as he goes undercover with Carlito and family then takes that undercover life into his own personal life and thus his mother’s home—it has failed to develop the alluring options set up in season one. Even the filming of season 2 has been more generic cop show than the overpretty (and thus unexpected and unusual) aesthetic of the first season. My greatest criticism would be that the writers of Season 2 seem to have lost the opportunity to focus on and expand their exploration of the Briggs-Mike dynamic which nourishes the enticing question of “What are the moral and immoral choices ‘we’ would allow on the path to putting the baddest guys behind bars, thus in the name of ‘good’ or ‘right’?”. If I were to rate this on a star system, I’d give this 4.5 stars out of 5 for season 1, and 2.5 out of 5 for season 2. Note: I do hope to see USA give a green light for a season 3 but only if the writers return to the dynamics of season one and latch onto the Briggs-Mike, Briggs-Paige, Briggs-Dale trust and plot lines they’ve left on the sidelines this summer.

Burn Notice

The recenty concluded, action-packed Burn Notice was 7 seasons of great fun—chock full of screeching car chase scenes, plots and capers galore and of course explosions on par with the first RoboCop or Terminator films (after all, Fiona loves to make things go BOOM). Burn Notice also had the added aesthetic bonus of being set in the scenic beauty of Miami along its beach seascapes. Colorful faux Cuban bars were the perfect location. Meetings and planning the myriad of capers to be undertaken by this bedraggled handful of good baddies with their little quirks and their propensity for helping out the underdogs were often had round an exotic cocktail, a good ol’ fashioned gin and tonic or a cold beer. And what's not to like about a spy show with a mom who comes to save the day once in a while? Michael’s mom (character Madeline Weston played by Sharon Gless) added a lot of needed lightness and humor as she kept everyone on an even keel. The main character, Michael Weston (played by Jeffrey Donovan almost always sporting his Oliver People's sunglasses plus some sort of stylish, well-cut Armani suit despite the Miami heat), along with his band of misfit ex-spies, ex-terrorists and ex-SF military—Sam, Fiona and Jesse (played by Bruce Campbell in bright colored Tommy Bahama Hawaiian shirts, Gabrielle Anwar in sultry summer dresses accesorized with weapons stashed in the trunk of her car and Coby Bell with his ever-at-the ready T-shit casual military look)—is a fabulous invention that made 7 seasons fly past and left viewers wishing this series had gone on forever. If you have not watched it, you are in for a treat. If you have? Well, summer is a great time for a little re-viewing before the rentrée begins!

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