When it comes to television, people think of summer as a time of slumming through reruns and waiting for the new fall season. Last year, Mark Clamen in Critics at Large suggested that there's some summer fare to keep you happy until the leaves start to fall.
If you’ve been spending this summer catching up on all the television you didn’t get the chance to watch during the year, you’ve likely been missing out on new episodes of the best shows currently in production:Breaking Bad on AMC, Curb Your Enthusiasm and True Blood on HBO, and the sublimely brilliant Louie on FX. (And, for our Canadian readers, Showcase has been airing the much anticipated second season of the endlessly original British sci-fi import Misfits since early June.) And there was a lot of serious, dramatic, and important television that aired in the past year.
But if I’m being honest, what I often really want to watch at the end of a long summer day should be as easy to digest as summer reading – the televisual equivalent of a new Sue Grafton novel. In this era of dark comedy and intense psychological drama, it is sometimes easy to forget that great television can often be simply diverting, escapist, and just plain entertaining. After all, NBC’s Parks and Recreation is not only one of the most good-natured shows on television: it’s also one of its funniest.
Over the past several weeks, two new shows and one returning favourite have populated the television equivalent of my beach reading list: Franklin & Bash, Suits, and Warehouse 13. What these shows may lack in gravitas, they more than make up for in sheer fun.
|Breckin Meyer and Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Franklin & Bash|
Malcolm McDowell, who plays Stanton Infeld, the managing partner of the upscale law firm the two join in the opening episode, is having the time of his life playing an eminently likeable and big-hearted version of his recurring character on Entourage. The firm also includes Infeld’s nephew, Damien (Reed Diamond, familiar from his recurring roles on 24 and Dollhouse), whose immediate dislike of the young duo sets up the show’s primary internal conflict, a tension only exacerbated when Franklin beds Damian’s love interest, fellow attorney Hanna (Garcelle Beauvais) in the show’s pilot episode. But to be fair to the show, there’s a lot of bedding going on – along with a lot of beer, side bets, hot-tubbing, even a little Lucha Libre thrown in for good measure.
In the end, Jared and Peter’s carefree but sincere friendship is the real star of the show, and the chemistry between Meyer and Gosselaar is spot-on. The show is light on law and heavy on clever banter, with regular laugh out loud moments. The easy charm of its cast, alongside its consequence-free narrative, makes Franklin & Bach the perfect summer show. It has already been renewed for a second season.
|Patrick J. Adams and Gabriel Macht in Suits|
|Gabriel Macht and Gina Torres|
In the end, the real fun of Suits doesn’t come from watching Mike out-lawyer the lawyers or pulling that one right name from a 1000-page document, but in the easy, comfortable relationship that develops between Harvey and Mike. Harvey, who clearly scares most people away with his swagger and confidence, lets his guard down with Mike (due in part to the partners-in-crime aspect of their shared secret). This comfortable back-and-forth of the two characters is the backbone of the show. The premise of Suits is too thin to really survive much scrutiny (the dagger hanging over Mike’s head might otherwise become a little too distracting, especially once Mike steps into the courtroom), but the energy of the show more than makes us for what it lacks in logic. Don’t think about it too much, and just sit back and enjoy. In Canada, both Suits and Franklin & Bash premiere on Bravo! on August 22.
|Eddie McClintock, Saul Rubinek, and Joanne Kelly|
Co-created by Hugo Award winning Buffy writer/producer Jane Espenson, Warehouse 13 comes complete with campy special effects and a charming cast of characters, including Saul Rubinek as Artie Neilsen, the rumpled leader of the Warehouse where the artifacts are neutralized and stored. Rubinek is one of my favourite Canadian actors, and true to form, Artie is the source of many of the show’s funniest and sweetest moments. (If you’ve been wondering how an archetypal Jewish character actor ends up with a Scandinavian surname, this was memorably addressed early in the show’s first season.)
Despite initially coming off as X-Files lite, Warehouse 13 has been pleasantly devoid of sexual tension or subtext, and the team works together as a surprisingly functional, if goofy, workplace family, with Artie as the reluctant father figure. The two leads’ adult sibling chemistry is one of the best things about the show, and the series would lose a lot of its unique charm if the Pete/Myka shippers get their way, but fortunately the writers seem to know that too. Light-hearted science fiction (from Farscape to Andromeda) may often get a bad rap from diehards, but Warehouse 13 has got the formula down and never mistakes fun for sloppy. Warehouse 13’s third season continues until early October.
-originally published on August 10, 2011 in Critics at Large.