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Reviewed by Jason Zingale
hen “Fastlane” premiered back in 2002, the world of television was a very different place. Basic cable channel FX had just debuted their first original series, HBO was in the midst of a groundbreaking renaissance, and The Big Four weren’t far behind with shows like “24” and “Alias.” Consider executive producers John McNamara and McG lucky, then, because had FOX greenlit “Fastlane” two years later, their show might have never made it past pilot season. Reportedly costing $2.5 million an episode, “Fastlane” didn’t bring in even half the audience to condone such lavish spending, but at least it looked good, and when the man pulling the strings is McG, that’s all that really matters.
Peter Facinelli stars as Donovan “Van” Ray, an LAPD undercover cop whose partner (Vondie Curtis-Hall) is killed during a deal gone sour. Determined to bring down the man responsible, Van teams up with his partner’s younger brother, NYPD detective Deaqon “Deaq” Hayes (Bill Bellamy), to finish the job. Their unexpected partnership finds them under the command of Lieutenant Billie Chambers (Tiffani Thiessen), and with full access to the Candy Store – a top secret storage unit of seized valuables (like cars, money and drugs) to be used for undercover stings – Van and Deaq become the police force’s newest secret weapon. In order to be effective as undercover agents, however, they must first relinquish their identities and become full-blown criminals – a fact that saves their skin on more than one occasion.
Anyone who’s seen the “Charlie’s Angels” films knows that McG is all about style over substance, and “Fastlane” delivers that in spades. The flashy director may only be around for the first episode – after that, he becomes just another “executive producer” credit – but his high-energy visual style remains intact. Sure, the exaggerated use of slo-mos can get tiring real quick, but it’s an essential piece to making the series feel more cinematic. That isn’t to say that “Fastlane” doesn’t have a good story to tell – in fact, once it shakes its Sting of the Week formula, things get a little more interesting – but had the show not looked as good as it did, there wouldn’t be any way to distinguish it from every other cop show on TV. “Fastlane” may have been a weekly television series, but each episode felt like a buddy cop action-comedy, and it had the big-budget set pieces to prove it.
The show’s main cast might not seem like the kind of actors worthy of partaking in such an expensive production, but they’re all more than capable in their respective roles. Peter Facinelli is probably the best of the bunch, as he actually looks the part and is willing to go the distance for the more comedic moments, but Bill Bellamy doesn’t disappoint either. It’s actually Tiffani Thiessen who proves the least effective of the three, and had the producers not dressed her up in high-class club gear every week, it might have been a little easier to take her character seriously.
Still, like any good show, it’s the guest stars that can make or break an episode, and “Fastlane” has a nice collection sprinkled throughout the first season including Terrence Howard, Robert Forster, Jaime Pressley and Jay Mohr. Forster, in particular, is an absolute blast as Van’s counterfeiting father, and it only makes you wonder what the writers could have done with that subplot had the series been given a chance to grow. Not every guest star is gold, however, as Tommy Lee and Naomi Campbell are quick to prove, and the fact that they both appear in the same episode (titled “Asslane," no less) only makes them seem worse than they really are. The fact that “Asslane” was the same episode for which the show won its sole Emmy (for Outstanding Stunt Coordination) only makes it that much funnier.
For all intents and purposes, “Fastlane” could’ve been called “Miami Vice: The Next Generation” were it not set in Los Angeles. The similarities to the popular '80s crime drama are uncanny (but probably not accidental), and were it not for the show’s production value, “Fastlane” might have been just as big of a joke. As it happens, it’s exactly those high production costs that ultimately forced FOX to close down the Candy Shop for good (though a lack of viewership certainly didn’t help). The format may have been incredibly formulaic, but “Fastlane” represented a rarity in television – the guilty pleasure – that it delivered on week in and week out.
Special Features: For a show that was cancelled several years ago, the extras included in the six-disc box set are pretty decent. Some of the featurettes (like “Hot Stuff: Inside the Candy Store”) are pure fluff, but others, including unaired scenes from the pilot (“Fastlane: Road Kill”), a stunt featurette (“Sizzling Action”), and a blooper reel (“Fastlane: Junk Yard”), should please fans who have been waiting patiently for this release. One thing that won’t, however, is the fact that some of the original music has been replaced due to licensing issues. Bummer.