Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce
You don’t need to be familiar with the Bad Boys franchise to love L.A.′s Finest, the two-season 2019-2020 series that missed most of its audience by streaming first exclusively on Spectrum’s cable platform. Sure, it’s technically a spinoff of the raunchy buddy cop flicks starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Yes, Gabrielle Union reprises her role as Syd Burnett (sister of Lawrence’s character), a former DEA agent turned L.A. detective. But this sharply-written action comedy cop show, with a leading duo that parallels both the drama and the antics of Smith and Lawrence, has much more going for it than its big brother movie series. Starring Union (Bad Boys II, The Lion Guard) and Jessica Alba (Dark Angel, Fantastic Four) as ex-U.S. Navy intelligence expert, now detective Nancy McKenna, wisecracking partners in the Bad Boys mold, the series moves from its Miami roots to Los Angeles, and digs into local culture, politics, and above all, crime. That’s really all you need to know about the show, whose 26 episodes at last made it to Netflix this summer.
If you need more to tune in to the most enjoyable cop show of the last decade, here’s what else you’re in for:
A stellar ensemble cast. That includes Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters, Law & Order), as Union’s father; Ryan McPartlin (Chuck’s Captain Awesome) as Alba’s D.A. husband; Zack Guilford (The Last Stand) and Duane Martin (Scream 2) as fellow detectives “the Bens;” Sophie Reynolds (Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything) as Alba’s stepdaughter; Barry Sloane (Longmire); and Alba’s real life brother Joshua as her on-screen brother Nico. Some surprise familiar faces include Jake Busey (Starship Troopers), D.J. Cotrona (Shazam, G.I. Joe: Retaliation), Orlando Jones (Sleepy Hollow), Kelly Hu (Arrow), and David Fumero (Magnum P.I.).
Great writing. Whether it’s L.A.′s Finest′s surprisingly intriguing season-long plot arcs or the laugh-out-loud banter, the writers, led by series creators Brandon Margolis and Brandon Sonnier, produced consistently strong scripts that played to the actors’ strengths. The plots are as smart as the twisted mysteries in Luther or Burn Notice. Then there’s the comedy. Each episode features Syd and Nancy slinging new partner names at the Bens (like Sanford & Son and Salt ‘n’ Pepa) that you’ll look forward to as much as Rockford’s next voicemail message.
Movie-quality production value. The action scenes, set pieces, cinematography, and special effects are really like nothing else in the past 50 years of police procedurals. It’s a major step up from similar concept series like Castle or Bones. There are just as many explosions, car chases, and over-the-top shoot ’em-ups at drug kingpin compounds to satisfy the most jaded action flick fan–TWENTY SIX glorious hours of them.
Embraces the original. One great supporting character is John Salley’s tall, master hacker Fletcher, reprising his character from the movies, with a crush on Syd as one of the show’s many recurring comedy bits. The writers sprinkle in the right amount of callbacks to the movies, Easter eggs like Syd and Nancy’s affinity for Bubblicious and Skittles. The leads feature a sharp, unapologetic swap of gender, without changing the character types and tropes. Syd is as rude and crude as Martin Lawrence in the original movie and her sexuality is a key component of who she is–she beds seemingly every attractive man–or woman–in her path. Just like the guys in the typical lead cop action role. Thanks to a great costume department, she’s also always dressed to kill–or at least to catch the killer.
Great music. And the series features a steamy-hot, pulse-pounding hip hop soundtrack that keeps the fun clipping along. Even the placement of the title has its own unique design element cleverly integrated into the action of each episode.
L.A.′s Finest has everything—except (so far) a third season. More exposure on Netflix (the series dropped this summer) might change that. So hit that play button and get binging!