Know-Stalgia: FOX’s Fastlane Was Ahead of the Curve

Live Fast. Die Young.

The year, 2002. Pop culture is deep in the waters of decadence and glitz. MTV Cribs is still a hit, you could still call in to TRL, and TV still hadn’t fallen into the hellmouth that is reality everything. Oh, that was looming on the horizon, but not quite there. In some respects, networks were still willing to take a chance on new shows aimed at young, hip audiences. One such show was Fastlane. Clearly a spiritual successor to Miami Vice, the show made the police procedural fun, sexy, and as over the top as any music video you were still able to watch in the early aughts. Then it was cancelled after one season for its trouble. Why? Because it had the misfortune of premiering just a few years too soon.

If you’re not familiar, Fastlane starred Peter Facinelli, Bill Bellamy and Tiffani Thiessen, and was produced/ co-created by music video director McG. Aside from KoRn videos, all he had under his belt were the Charlie’s Angels films at this point, which, say what you will, made money and had a visual hook all their own. High octane action, style well over substance, and slow mo, lots of slow mo. I’m not saying Fastlane was competing with The Wire for intellectual supremacy, just saying it was a good way to spend an hour on Wednesday night.

The basic idea for Fastlane was to treat each episode like a one hour blockbuster. And for the most part, the show delieverd. Fast, exotic cars, beautiful women and locals, over the top action, and lots of explosions. That’s not to say the show was short on exposition or character depth. Quite the opposite actually. The three leads played well off of one another, and their choices as the season went on felt organic and consistent. Van (Facinelli) was prone to letting his heart get in the way of his better judgement. Deaq (Bellamy) fear of letting his dead brother down paired with his trust issues could make him the best or worst cop on the force at a moments notice, and then their was Billie (Thiesen) who had to keep these two under control while utilizing the Candy Store. A highly secret division of the LAPD that put the two young detectives under deep cover. This allowed them to lead the most lavish of criminal lifestyles and use anything the Candy Store seized. Which is actually what brought about Fastlane’s demise.

While the show pulled in decent ratings, the “one hour blockbuster” style of production lead Fastlane to having a $2.6 million PER EPISODE budget. Hardly a paltry sum for a show that did mostly “okay” by 2002 standards. Making matters worse, FOX decided to move the show to the Friday night “death slot” (soon after Firefly was cancelled no less), which saw it slowly bleed the last few loyal viewers it had left.

The lower ratings can’t fully be blamed on the network though. FOX actually put a good deal of promotion behind Fastlane, and while guns, cars and big booms were part of the ballooned budget, there was also the weekly licensing of some of the top acts in music to account for. All in an attempt to pull in younger viewers, and for the most part it worked. Chases set to “Get Free” by The Vines, shootouts cut to fit Papa Roach songs, cameos and guest spots from Fred Durst to Terrence Howard, hell, Snoop Dogg performed the theme song. FOX was behind Fastlane in a big way. They even aired the episodes in their intended order, which is a huge deal for FOX. What ultimately did the show is was the lack of return on investment. And after 22 episodes, FOX pulled the plug on the youth movement experiment.

I can wax nostalgic about Fastlane until i’m blue in the face, but the greater tragedy is there’s no way to fully replicate how much of a time capsule that show was. The soundtrack, which was so integral, had to be scrapped for the DVD release, due to the cost of licensing. Watching Van wheeled through a hospital after being poisoned to stock rock just doesn’t have the same emotional effect as when  the scene is set to “Motiveless Crime” by South. No, the show wasn’t perfect, and in all honesty, it mostly peaked about mid-season during the two-part episodes “Defense” and “Offense”, which could have been great season closing episodes had the show been made in the 10-12 episode era.

See, just one year later, movies like The Fast and Furious, Torque, and xXx made joyfully “stupid” action popular. A truncated season, and new audience perspective would have made Fastlane right at home. You could even go so far to say that its existence maybe introduced people to that style of film/TV production. We’ll never know for sure. What I do know is that the new Lethal Weapon looks more like Fastlane 2.0 than it does the source material, and maybe that’s by design. FOX possibly trying to get that old thing back. I’ve never been able to shake that crazy little show, and I’ll never want to. It’s a little reminder of how far we’ve come, and how sometimes, dumb fun can be just what the doctor ordered. Now turn the TV up, put on a throwback jersey and give this show a shot.

Got any shows you miss that you think need a little love, tell me about em on the Twittah machine. Till the next, Know-Stalgia.

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