With its unrelenting banter and heavy-handed characters, this buddy-cop series is perfect hangover TV – but nothing more
As I have been told throughout my life (that’s childhood, adolescence, adulthood, an argument I had with my cousin in 1998 about the legitimacy of his claim that he had a PlayStation 2 with Tekken 5 on it that everyone agreed “really ruined that drive to Tenby”, plus a number of professional meetings I have had with solemn-faced line managers): no one likes a smartarse. But that received wisdom has not made it to the producers of LA’s Finest (Wednesday, 9pm, Fox), a show that answers the questions: what if there were a Bad Boys spin-off universe where everyone talks in sub-Sorkin smartarsisms? What if Jessica Alba lived there, saying “Really?” a lot? Would that be good? And if it isn’t good: is it worth, at least, a try?
The answer is: sort of, but no thank you. The thing about characters talking in one-up smart-talk is that it’s only charming for about 30, maybe 40 seconds, and then you get the urgent feeling that eight or nine snickering writers honed each word and sentence over a series of hours and years, until it eventually gets its premiere, tumbling out of Jessica Alba’s mouth as the line: “Shit just got real.”
Alba stars as Nancy opposite Gabrielle Union’s Syd (“Really?”), and one has to admit there is decent chemistry between the two – they poke and squabble and linguistically punch away at each other, but deep down obviously have hearts of gold, true-leaning moral compasses and enormous compassion and respect for each other; the usual crap – as they screech around Los Angeles, mopping up bad guys. But oh, hold on: Syd has a secret. And oh, check this out: Nancy has a dark past that threatens to come back and haunt her. Uh oh! Oh no!
Thing is, a female-led action-comedy where both leads are capable badasses who are partial to a shag and a laugh: broadly, good. But LA’s Finest is so obvious with it: Syd rolls joints! She’s bi! She rides a motorcycle! She’s unerringly accurate with a gun! Meanwhile: Nancy is a stepmom! But in a cool way! Her daughter’s really smart and keeps sticking middle fingers up to power! She reads books! Everyone’s a smartarse, constantly! Nobody is dumb! Everyone is shooting one-liners over and past one another! Can someone just sit down and have a chat without telling a joke? Please!
If you can look past that, however, there is something to be said for a 90s action throwback. It seems the producers watched Bad Boys, took exactly two takeaways – 1) It’s a film where the only joke is mocking the other person for driving in an uptight way, and 2) For some reason everyone keeps ill-advisedly chasing criminals into pulsating nightclubs – and ran with it.
Is it a slightly bizarre career pivot for Jessica Alba? A little bit. Is it near-perfect binge-on-a-hangover television? Yes. Is it good? Let’s not get carried away now. Next time you need to get through a Sunday by sitting very still with the curtains closed on the sofa with a delivery pizza, LA’s Finest is for you. Every other occasion, like ones where your brain works: you don’t need to do it to yourself. Really.