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Franklin & Bash – Why creators Bill Chais and Kevin Falls got slightly anarchic and subversive for TNT

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Franklin & Bash - Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Malcolm McDowell and Breckin Meyer
Steven Bash (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), Stanton Infeld (Malcolm McDowell) and Jared Franklin (Breckin Meyer) ©: 2011 TNT

Executive Producer and Co-Creator of Franklin & Bash, Bill Chais, worked as an attorney for 10 years, both a public defender and a private criminal defense attorney. He has paired up with Kevin Falls, whom he worked with on TV’s Shark, to create this new series for TNT.

The offbeat legal show, stars Breckin Meyer as Jared Franklin and Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Peter Bash, two nontraditional lawyers who are shaking up the buttoned-down law firm of Infeld Daniels in Los Angeles.

Given TNT seems to be very much into law-and-order and lawyer shows, did you tailor this series toward the network?

Franklin & Bash - Mark-Paul Gosselaar
Steven Bash (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) ©: 2011 TNT

Bill Chais: We felt like this was a very good fit for TNT from when we first started pitching it. There’s obviously a strong procedural component to it. I used to be a lawyer, so I’m very comfortable in that genre. And when Kevin and I started talking, we’re big fans of the ‘bromance’ genre, the kind of Judd-Apatow-ish slightly anarchic, subversive kind of quality that you can really run with on a cable show.

While we didn’t specifically say this is a cable or a network show, very early on Turner was the first people we met with and we just all hit if off so beautifully. It does feel like a cable show to us, and did from the very beginning. And we feel very fortunate to have that kind of freedom.

You have the two characters refer to movies and cultural icons that we all know. Are you worried that will date the episodes?

Bill: There is a little bit of lag time. Just taking one example that was super cutting edge current when we wrote the pilot, the Susan Boyle reference when we air might not be as current. But it’s something that we think about and try to do, as we think that it’s great for their characters.

The show is very humor-filled. Are we going to see more drama coming in?

Kevin Falls: I think the drama’s subversive. It sneaks up on you. I think sometimes you’re watching a comedy and we’ll have a dramatic moment. We have dramatic episodes that are coming.

Bill: And we always need to tie the humor to the guys being smart. It can’t just be isn’t it funny to have a woman take her shirt off in court? It actually has to help the case, so we are mindful of that.

The title can connote just about anything. It could be a cop show, a doctor show. How do you come up with titles like this? Do you feel this really addresses what the show is?

Franklin & Bash - Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Breckin Meyer
Steven Bash (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) and Jared Franklin (Breckin Meyer) ©: 2011 TNT

Bill: I think so. It’s the name of the guys. We came up with that title early on, and it seemed to fit for us. I don’t think any of us are big fans of legal double entendre-type stuff, and so we feel great about it, as titles go.

Do you worry about the 10-episode order that cable asks for, where broadcast networks do 22-episodes?

Bill: It has its upside and downside. This is my first foray into cable. I’m used to these 22-episode order which, in a way, are cool, but they’re just so exhausting. And it was really hard to come up with all the stories and the scripts that we came with for this.

The shorter order suited me just fine. But I think it’s a legitimate thing to mention that, there’s a long time off between when an episode airs and, if you’re fortunate enough to get a second season, when it airs again.

Kevin: It’s great working in cable. The freedom we’re afforded from Turner was the most librating experience I’ve had writing and working. It puts the pressure on you to make sure all those episode are good, because there’s no excuses of trying to feed that furnace when you’re always trying to come up with stories.

We better come up with nine good ones, and we’re confident that we did. But it’s been a great place to work. I don’t want to go back.

With The Defenders, when the lawyers were older, their behavior seemed a little sleazy sometimes. Because these two lawyers are so young, they can play it a little looser and it’s not offensive. Do you see it like that?

Kevin: Yeah. I think it helps having these types of lawyers. Part of the story and part of the DNA of the characters is that one of them, Mark-Paul’s character, wants to make the next step and grow up a little bit and is pressured by his ex-fiance, whereas Brekin’s character is more like, ‘No, this is who we are. Let’s have fun. Let’s don’t grow up.’

And so they bring that conflict into the workplace. So I think it allows us to be with them as they try to go through these growing pains of trying to adapt to this firm. So maybe it does allow you some leeway, because we actually go home with our characters.  I think The Defenders is a little bit more of a formula show.

Bill: I also am not sure I agree that what we have to do is sleazy. In a system that’s sort of stacked against them, they occasionally do the wrong thing to get the right result.

This is not an ambulance chasing show. Perhaps the first scene of the first episode is a little ambulance chasing. But we try really hard to have cases where you’re rooting for the people and they’re not sleazy cases. They’re just cases that mainstream lawyers wouldn’t take because the obvious pot of gold isn’t there.