Fastlane: Shootouts, Naked Women, Fast Cars
Sometimes I find myself asking why TV shows from this genre don’t air on cable television, or better: pay TV. Instead of teasing how hot women in Los Angeles actually are, the producers could show the bigger picture: having some undercover cops working in a dirty business, letting them deal with hot chicks, shooting bad guys in the head – CounterStrike style included. Fastlane was a short-lived action blockbuster, which dealt with two undercover cops, doing their jobs among bad people and naked women (the ones they fuck within an episode and which were never heard of in later episodes), aired on FOX during the 2002/2003 TV season, paying a lot of homages to Miami Vice, at the end canceled because of low ratings and high production costs – after all, supercars, guest appearances, licenced soundtracks and the unusual cinematography for a network television series were too much for the production companies Warner Bros. and FOX, paying close to three million dollar per episode (which is really a lot for a series in its first season). What follows now is a little review of the 45-minute pilot episode, before I am getting hot with the other 21 episodes of the season. So, buckle up, because it is going fast.
The first episode doesn’t deliver much, which could be considered as an intelligent series with characters and an interesting story. It is pretty much a 21st-Century-updated version of Miami Vice, relocated to Los Angeles, filled with a bit more humor between the buddy-comedy genre and the car action, filled with a few shootouts and teased sex scenes. I remember having seen some butts on NYPD Blue once, which aired on ABC in the 90s (which is kinda not allowed anymore today), and I was surprised to see that Fastlane even went so far to tease all the sex and nakedness in the pilot episode: one quarter of a butt, women with open legs, in general women who probably jumped out of a porn movie for this episode.
The series starts with a stereotype story: Undercover cops Donovan ‘Van’ Ray (Peter Facinelli) and Andre Hayes (Vondie Curtis-Hall) are about to catch a whatever-dealer, who is pretty much a very bad man. Unfortunately, the undercover stint on a race track goes haywire, and Andre gets killed, while the deal is canceled, because of the arriving of LAPD’s special finest. Andre’s brother Deaqon (Bill Bellamy), himself an undercover cop, is pissed about his brother’s dead and wants revenge. Wilhelmina ‘Billie’ Chambers (Tiffani Thiessen) brings the two undercover cops together to work for her in the “Candy Store” – a very “expensive” undercover department of the LAPD, filled with lots of hot two- and four-wheelers to be used for future undercover stints. Billie needs “a face that can get past the rope of a nightclub, and a body good to go at it all night. We spend all our time going after foot soldiers. I want the generals. I’m talking about access. Resources. Doing it from the inside. The ultimate backstage pass.” And since Van and Deaq seem to be the only two cops in L.A., who fit the description, they are taking their new job and go on their first mission: catching Andrew Kane (Craig Sheffer), who killed Andre and is still interested in the deal – as well as killing cops.
I don’t know if the series was advertised with its unusual cinematography, hot soundtrack, hot women and movie-like action in television. But the pilot definitely delivers what I just wrote here. Maybe it is a bit over the top in some scenes, maybe it could deliver a bit more, especially during the final confrontation, but the episode had only 45 minutes. With a bit more time, the producers would have used it with some explosions, two more shootouts and probably five more cars doing a salto in the air. But maybe the producers did the right thing not to bore the audience with 60 minutes of sometimes-dumb action, followed by 20 minutes of naked women and ten minutes of trying to write in some character depth for our three heroes.
The characters are written alright for a pilot episode like this. Van gets his “troubled” moments, after Andre gets killed, Deaq gets the reason why he actually was introduced to us in this episode – nothing more, nothing less. Billie seems to be the pretty much hot leader of the new undercover department, but she doesn’t have anything to offer, except bringing the two male muscles together. Billie doesn’t work as an in-betweener in the pilot, doesn’t even have much dialog and only looks hot. Kinda surprising for an actress like Tiffany Thiessen, not to have anything to do in her first main acting stunt after Beverly Hills, 90210. And more characters doesn’t have the pilot, which is good too: not to remember so many names, so many characters with so much trouble. All three of them don’t really have time to go to Andre’s funeral, instead Van is knee-deep in Cassidy Shaw (Jennifer Sky), trying to save her from the bad man and using her for his job, and Deaq is rather interested in killing that son of a bitch, who killed his brother, instead of showing some grief.
To burn the budget the producers had, they spent the best part of it in the soundtrack (with a few of the hot songs from the early 2000s, like Depeche Mode’s “Dream On” or Limb Bizkit’s “Rollin’”), in getting Isaac Hayes in doing a guest stint, and showing two cars making a flip in the air. Both look nice, and both reminded me of the German Autobahn action-TV-show “Alarm für Cobra 11″ (did some non-Germans actually watch that show?), which kinda lives forever by showing the same stunt over and over. At least Fastlane managed to show the flips in two different laces, and having a car flip at the beach looks way cooler than it actually sounds. The two shootouts the episode had were nice; one time it brought the female audience to see Peter Facinelli doing a hot stunt while he was jumping over a car’s hood, the other one showed that Bill Bellamy might be an action star. The rest of the action brought the two to show their upper bodies (without a shirt on) and some shining muscles.
Fastlane never said to be intellectual, intelligent and having a soft spot for characters. FOX wanted to have a simple action show, filled with fuel, hot cars, hot women, hot muscles, and they probably had a contract with Tiffany Thiessen giving her another role in a TV show after the end of Beverly Hills, 90210 – otherwise I can’t explain why she was even casted for this show. It didn’t need a known name, it just needed a hot chick in the middle of the two guys, and since Tiffany Thiessen was never really busy during the show’s short life, I am asking myself if she was bored in some episodes or if she had her fun (at the sides of two attractive male leads). And FOX obviously wanted both audience groups with Fastlane; having the women watch it for Peter and Bill, having the men watch it for the action and cars. The history is known, it didn’t work. Which is kinda unfortunate, because it would have been interesting to see, how the 21st-Century-update of Miami Vice would have done over the years. I still remember a few storylines, when I was watching Fastlane in German television, and there definitely was some potential for character-based storylines in later episodes.Only the first season never really picked up on that, and so, the 22 episodes are filled with non-stop shootouts, naked women, fast cars – sometimes less of it, sometimes more of it. And I definitely don’t have a problem with it.
The pilot gets satisfied 7 out of 10 points from me. I never expected much, I always want to see what the title of this post says. And as long as I am getting those three things, the series is entertaining for the summer weeks – nothing more, nothing less.