Two tough cops, one predictable plot


If one of those pretty, pouty Vanity Fair ad spreads were adapted for the small screen, it would look like "Fastlane." Fox's new action series is an orgy of attitude and style — precisely torn T-shirts, suggestive leather pants, carefully mussed-up hair, lurid lighting, and shots framed with an eye for the still photo. It's crazy, sexy, and cool, not to mention dumb as a doornail.

Plot? Who needs it. This series, which premieres Wednesday night at 8, is Fox's programming alternative to NBC's "The West Wing," an unashamed play for younger viewers raised on the nonlinearity of music video. It guns for the senses and not the intellect, as it forsakes story logic for color, muscle, and pumped rock 'n' roll. Sure, Jed Bartlet has historical trivia at his fingertips, but does he know how to apply gel with flair? And could C.J. Cregg ever model a S.W.A.T. suit with the same pizazz as Tiffani Thiessen?

The "Fastlane" premiere was directed by the show's co-creator, McG, the same video director (Korn, Sugar Ray) who turned "Charlie's Angels" into an intoxicatingly dumb movie. Rumored to have cost $4 million to make, the hour is a series of dynamic sequences that are more like trailers for a show rather than the show itself. Why does McG open the episode at a racetrack? No particular reason, except for visual appeal and, perhaps, to make an allusion to the title, which is an allusion to "The Fast and the Furious."

What's certain about "Fastlane" is that it's a buddy cop show, with Peter Facinelli and Bill Bellamy as undercover heroes Van and Deaq, respectively. Predictably, during their testosterone-fueled adventures, Van and Deaq engage in a lot of the pop-cultural boy banter that is required in all youth-demo cop shows since "Pulp Fiction." But while "Fastlane" is a guy's show, built for the same male audience that fuels the box office top 10, it nonetheless gives a shout out to female viewers, fetishizing Facinelli's body without much subtlety.

The two cops don't like each other, but they team up to find the murderer of Deaq's brother (played briefly by Vondie Curtis-Hall). They stake out a bad guy and his bad-but-maybe-good gal at a number of fabulous LA locations, and they stage a house party to attract more bad guys.

Meanwhile, they become familiar with the ways of the Candy Store, a warehouse of high-end seized goods for the discriminating undercover cop. Thiessen plays their boss, a woman of mystery who gets to dole out Guccis, Rolexes, and Ferraris like a makeover artist with an unlimited budget.

Thiessen, from "Beverly Hills 90210," is comically miscast, and when she's acting you may find yourself musing about other things — why she dropped Amber from her name, for example. "We spend all our time going after foot soldiers," she says. "I want the generals." But Amber is a nice name, isn't it? ...Bellamy and Facinelli are easier to take, as they play along with the mood of the show, which is empty-headed and full of flash.