Attitude, eye candy put 'Fastlane' in overdrive

By JILL VEJNOSKA / Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff Writer / September 18 2002 / Source

True Confessions time: In 1993, a hopelessly sentimental friend insisted I read "The Bridges of Madison County." I hooted, but then I couldn't put it down. Whether it was that good or that bad, I'm still not sure. That was probably part of its undeniable, slightly mortifying, appeal to me.

It's the same thing with "Fastlane," whose first episode I've watched. Twice. With its young leather-pants-wearing stars (Bill Bellamy, Peter Facinelli), who don't have to take off their shirts to be cool (although they do, whenever possible), its throbbing rock-hip-hop soundtrack and its a-Ferrari-in-every-driveway view of Los Angeles, "Fastlane" obviously resides in a whole 'nother county than "Madison."

Except for how it hooks you in. Whether that's because it's really good or really bad really doesn't seem to matter.

You want quality, relevant, important television at 9 p.m. on Wednesdays? Try "The West Wing," where President Jed Bartlett is running for re-election. The closest thing to a campaign slogan in tonight's premiere episode of "Fastlane" comes from L.A. police Lt. Billie Chambers (Tiffani Thiessen), recruiting officer Van Ray (Facinelli) to go undercover.

"I need a hard-charger who can drop his life and never look back," she says."A face that can get past the rope and a body good to go all night."

Yowza! Chambers clearly is the brains of this operation (Thiessen's dropping the "Amber" from her name should have been our first clue), with Ray and new partner Deaquon Hayes (Bellamy) masquerading as "players" to bring down the really big crime dudes. To look and act the part, they use seized sports cars, jewelry, clothing and — tonight, anyway — rent a multimillion dollar house and throw a hot party.

It's all surface stuff — the police operation and "Fastlane." What the show's about is much less important than its attitude, what it looks and sounds like. Its executive producer, McG, is a top music video and movie ("Charlie's Angels") director and obvious '80s pop culture freak. It shows tonight in every quick cut, ingenious lighting technique, cool cameo (Isaac Hayes, Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst) and musical selection. The tunes include Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight," the same song that played in the premiere of "Miami Vice," the original cop show to also feature a black-white duo and to be all about surface stuff.

That's the sort of good-natured fun "Fastlane" has with itself. Less fun is its sampling of other music video techniques such as graphic language and body shots (don't even ask where Facinelli, a younger, scruffier Tom Cruise-type, wears a wire) and one extended bedroom sequence that stops a bit short of being soft-core porn. Not that I'd know. Reading "The Bridges of Madison County" is all I'll admit to.

"Fastlane" should play well with the current MTV generation, with whom last year's "West Wing" episode about the U.S. poet laureate perhaps failed to resonate. Many more serious-minded (i.e. older) folk like me undoubtedly will vote for Bartlett at 9 p.m. But should "The West Wing" ever be unable to serve some week, "Fastlane" will get my write-in vote, on the guilty pleasure ticket.