Season 1, Episode 1
Date of release: May 13, 2019 (Spectrum)
Did you miss that this show ever existed? Have you looked past the announcement that two of the finest working actresses in Hollywood have been cast as partners in an action-packed police procedural, which is also the television spin-off of a Michael Bay movie franchise? Did you think that the show would be dead forever after NBC decided not to pick up the show after giving a green light for the pilot? I couldn’t even blame you for missing all news about L.A.’S FINEST, because as long as you don’t follow every word outlets like Deadline or Variety are writing, you might hear about the show for the first time right now as a matter of fact. Even I needed to remind myself hard that L.A.’S FINEST was a thing about to premiere on a network I haven’t heard of or didn’t even know existed before, and this after two of the finest working actresses of Hollywood have been cast in the show, and it’s a television spin-off of a Michael Bay movie franchise. Which tends to show you that not even those three big names that are being carried by the show can help to make it more visible to the eyes of potential new viewers.
Jessica Alba and Gabrielle Union are two actors I never mind seeing in an action-packed production. The two women have gotten to an age now where the portrayal of them as action heroes could turn out to be more intriguing, and in general, the idea of placing actresses in their late 30s or early 40s into action production should be an idea worth following up on more often. After THE EXPENDABLES came out with one sequel and then another sequel, there was talks about an all-female spin-off, and I think I already saw some testosterone-laden internet users being heavily disappointed by the fact, even if nothing is being taken away from them, as they would still have three THE EXPENDABLES movies in their collection. Kind of like how I never understood the hatred against Paul Feig’s GHOSTBUSTERS reboot, and how men’s rights activist were suddenly all up in arms about the existence of the film that took nothing away from them, when it comes to the previous existing films. Maybe it’s good for L.A.’S FINEST that it airs on a network I still couldn’t find when my life depends on it, because all of the men’s rights activist won’t even know this show is on. Then again, can anyone be mad about Alba and Union teaming up to kick some seriously evil ass in the city of angels?
Granted, L.A.’S FINEST doesn’t even need to be a BAD BOYS spin-off. Sydney’s past as a DEA agent as depicted in the 2003 sequel isn’t even mentioned, instead the back story of the show goes with events from five years ago that have traumatized the character. Her persons of interests, her brother Marcus and her lover Mike, are mentioned once each, and it didn’t add much to her character back story, even if you could ask yourself whether Sydney was pregnant with Mike’s baby, or if that story had finished long time ago, even before her traumatic experience five years ago, and some time after the events of the 2003 film. You could replace all this back story information with any other random name from the Hollywood name generator, and L.A.’S FINEST would be the same show. The fact that you know who Mike and Marcus are, and how their relationships have played out thanks to the existence of the 2003 film, does not add anything noteworthy or useful to the premiere episode of the spin-off action show. But I can’t help myself feeling giggly and happy about Gabrielle Union being part of the television spin-off. This woman who hasn’t aged a day between her film appearance and this episode gets to continue kick some butt. I am excited about that!
Meanwhile, Sydney’s partner Nancy McKenna didn’t have much to offer either. As expected, she and Sydney are in the same living situations as their male counterparts of the BAD BOYS films. While Sydney takes over Mike’s role as the (wo)manizer, waking up with her latest one night stand, doing things on her own without the assistance of her partner, Nancy is like Marcus Burnett, the family personality, who goes home each day to a husband and stepdaughter, and who has something to lose. Nancy is the one worried about having to go undercover to save a kid, or needing to play the good cop, because someone has to do it, and she knows she will have to do it, because she knows she is the only one who could lose anything when something goes wrong. L.A.’S FINEST managed to copy the initial premise of BAD BOYS quite well, even repeating some of the lines from their counterpart characters directed by Michael Bay (“Some tropical fruit bubblicious.” “And some Skittles.” “Shit just got real.”), which definitely created momentum for the show, although in hindsight I am still wondering whether all of this is even necessary, and whether Alba and Union couldn’t have starred in an original action show, with an original setting, original characters, and a more unique back story for either of them. At the end of the day I am wondering whether this show just exists, because FOX happened to be a little successful with their television reboot of LETHAL WEAPON, and other networks tried to replicate that success by getting any recognized IP ready for a television remake. In fact, L.A.’S FINEST and LETHAL WEAPON could air back-to-back, and the only difference you would notice is that one show features female cops, and the other has male leads. Other than that the shows aren’t really different at all. Which means L.A.’S FINEST will turn out to be just like LETHAL WEAPON: At one point everyone will lose interest, the show gets cancelled, and the writers wasted the potential of a great cast.
But this is just the opinion after one episode of seeing Sydney and Nancy clean up the streets of Los Angeles from a few dangerous cartel members. From here on I’m looking at more similarities between this show and the film franchise, or if L.A.’S FINEST is just another crime procedural with a few too many action set pieces and an ongoing storyline about an event from five years ago that needs investigating. Will Nancy and Sydney screw up one of their investigations in the near future and cause some unnecessary destruction, like it has been the case with Mike and Marcus? Will Nancy and Sydney’s boss, played by Evan Handler, go crazy every time he sees the news of more destruction after the two women drove through town, and risk having his head explode, or is that part getting lost on the way to the television spin-off? Will Sydney be more involved in Nancy’s life in the future, becoming something of another mother for Nancy’s stepdaughter, or will the writers not be interested in going forward with that story from the films? Those questions haven’t really be answered during the first 44 minutes of the show, but those are important questions to answer, when you ask the question whether or not L.A.’S FINEST truly is a BAD BOYS spin-off, and will do its best to emulate Michael Bay’s double feature led by Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.
Story-wise, the premiere episode didn’t have much to offer at all. A dead nanny, a kid first traumatized, then playing computer games with the Bens, Sydney and Nancy investigating, and moving from one suspect to the next, and at the end of the hour it’s all about saving a kid’s life while depicting a solid partnership between the two women, who only need to look at each other to know what is going down in the next few seconds. One shared look during the climax, and both women knew that Sydney will play the good cop to signal the kid to make his Bruce Lee move, while Nancy knows she only has to wait to get the perfect headshot. One look and Sydney knows she will have to deal with the grenade as soon as it falls out of the hand of the cartel gangster. I am however curious about why the two women don’t know each other that much, considering they are already in sync when it comes to their partnership on the job. I can’t imagine that Nancy never knew about Sydney’s trauma five years ago, and I can’t imagine that Sydney never expected for her partner to have her back, and even show up when she really doesn’t want it, like when Sydney was getting closer to Gabriel Knox, and suddenly got surrounded by a bunch of guns. For being this good at being partners, they don’t seem to know each other that well.
Best part of the episode: Two women who would normally be sorted out by Hollywood serve up some great action moves, proving that the disco generation still got some moves. Gabrielle Union looked fabulous in her role, and even in that tight and loose skirt during the club scene when meeting Ray, and Jessica Alba is probably one of the most attractive moms out there, showcasing that you can still kick some ass as a mother. By the way, I love the notion that Nancy has a step-kid in this show, which is something television hasn’t really followed up on at all: What if the kids in your household aren’t your own?
Worst part of the episode: When Sydney gave the kid her watch with the name Mike engraved on it, and the kid was asking who’s Mike. That was not just an obvious hint at the film franchise, but also just an instance of making sure the audience knows this is a BAD BOYS spin-off, but in that particular case it felt more alienating than the throwbacks through certain pieces of dialogue and jokes.
Weirdest part of the episode: Everyone’s got a secret back story in the show, and for some reason I couldn’t care less about them. Maybe it’s the realization that L.A.’S FINEST is just another crime procedural, but I did roll my eyes a few times during Sydney’s talk with her father, and the bad dudes calling Nancy to reiterate to her that Sydney’s moves have gone too far. I hate the feeling of potentially having to deal with an antagonistic character among the heroes, just for the writers to blow up that story, too.
Player of the episode: Sydney wins the award for being bisexual. Waking up to the sound of a woman at the end of the episode was a nice surprise. Besides putting older women into action roles, which Hollywood hasn’t seen much of, the notion of bisexuality on the show could also help making things more interesting. By the way, Gabrielle Union has been drinking from the everlasting fountain of youth, because she has not aged a single day between BAD BOYS II and this episode. Paul Rudd, you just got competition!