L.A.'s Finest Season 1 Review
Bad Girls, Bad Girls, Whatcha Gonna Do?
The Jerry Bruckheimer-produced spin-off from Bad Boys II has already been re-upped for a second season, but that doesn't mean the first is any good.Michael Bay made an impressive directorial debut with the energetic 1995 film Bad Boys, working wonders with a limited budget and hungry stars, converting his music video background to a stylish, adrenaline-fuelled action-comedy which - rather surprisingly - would take some 8 years to enjoy a suitably over-the-top sequel. Even more surprisingly, it's taken 12 years to get to the third film, which has wrapped but still won't release until next year.
Since a further sequel prevents a remake franchise being commissioned for at least, say, a couple of years, the only other direction to go in is clearly sideways, with a TV spin-off featuring one of the secondary characters from the first sequel, Gabrielle Union's Syd Burnett - the sister of Martin Lawrence's Marcus Burnett, and girlfriend of Will Smith's Mike Lowry.
L.A.'s Finest sees Union return (her filmography doesn't reveal anything else of striking quality or commercial success in the years since Bad Boys 2), partnered with Jessica Alba, who appears on the cusp of straight-to-DVD / Netflix hell herself, and it's a worrying sign that NBC - who ordered the pilot in the first place - didn't pick it up for series, instead leaving it to a freshman TV division, Spectrum, to tout it as their flagship vehicle, cementing their stance by picking it up for a sophomore year before the first had even finished airing.
It's a worrying sign that NBC - who ordered the pilot in the first place - didn't pick it up for series
Premiering on Sky's Fox UK (and thus also available on NowTV), the series is airing weekly, but the pilot gives you an idea where this is going, reminiscent of the style and scale of the Lethal Weapon TV series pilot, only with less (effective) humour. It (re-)introduces us to Union's Syd Burnett, who has left the DEA and joined the LAPD, moving from East to West Coast, and partnering up with Alba's step-mom, Nancy McKenna. McKenna has a happy family life, despite her precocious teen step-daughter, and is good at her job, finding it hard to get under the skin of her going-solo partner, who prefers her one night stands - be they male or female - to be gone by the morning, and preferably not speak. Syd's had some kind of trauma since we last saw her, and as the two get caught up protecting a young boy who could be the target of a drug kingpin, she's also playing her own side-gig, trying to get to the big bad guy who previously caused her some harm. It's all in a (couple of) day's work for these bad girls.
Glossy and harmlessly inoffensive, Bad Girls - sorry, LA's Finest - will probably need to up its game in order to justify viewers sticking around, perhaps benefiting from a shorter 13 episode run (22 would be soul-destroying) and thus more likely to have a few give it the full order to see if it comes through in the end.
The very Bad Boys premise is a little outdated, and arguably was even back in 1995, but Smith and Lawrence defined it, making the careers of both, with success living and dying on their chemistry and quick-banter, and on director Michael Bay's propensity to go BIG when it comes to fully destructible environments. The sweaty, violent, action-packed world they lived in doesn't really work so well translated for TV, with language and violence toned down to the point of insignificance. There's still a little style, with hints of slo-mo, the budget to blow a couple of things up, and stage a briefly diverting car crash, but LA's Finest relies very heavily on its lead duo - much like Bad Boys did originally - and it's not enough; at least not so far.
Glossy and harmlessly inoffensive, Bad Girls - sorry, LA's Finest - will probably need to up its game in order to justify viewers sticking around
Both Union and Alba commit - no doubt - with the former gifted a thanklessly one-dimensional role that somehow she manages to run with, even if it needs a hell of a lot of work, whilst Alba's step-mom is painfully vanilla at home (in trying to reverse/repeat the formula of Lawrence's family man and Smith's player, they appear to have forgotten just how much fun Lawrence had with his Power Ranger-infused home life) and much more engaging in action. The two share some chemistry which doesn't feel too forced, replaying a brief greatest hits of the movie interactions - stop off at a store for a banter-driven robbery-in-progress; head to a club to wave some guns around; play good-cop, bad-cop to get information out of a couple of people; go undercover etc. etc. - but there's nothing new here, and nothing that hasn't been done better before, and far too many of the jokes miss (some throwaway comment by Alba about what the nightclub smells like is a really bad put-down which feels like it should have been an outtake).
It's Bad Boys-lite, which is about what you would expect, but where the Lethal Weapon series (at least when Crawford was involved) had some spark to it, LA's Finest has yet to find its mojo. Only time will tell, and at least it's got a whole two seasons for it to hit its stride.
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