×

TV Review: ‘L.A.’s Finest’

“L.A.’s Finest” isn’t just a cop show. It’s a gambit — a bet placed by cable provider Spectrum that by providing not just access to HBO and HGTV but original programming of its own, it’ll stand out. The series, a Jerry Bruckheimer production set within the universe of his “Bad Boys” film franchise, is the beginning of a stream of on-demand Spectrum Originals programming that will also include, eventually, a comeback for “Mad About You.”

The idea of providing some added value to subscribers through original programming is a reasonable enough one (why not get in a game with so many players already?). But this particular show seems ill-suited to its format: Meant to live on an on-demand platform, this drama seems oddly unlikely to have been specifically demanded by anyone at all. A tonally disastrous half-comedy, half-melodrama about policing that draws in cartel politics and family angst, “L.A.’s Finest” seems designed to be vaguely, generically acceptable to have on in the background — which makes it a strange choice as the launching point for a set of programs that would seem to require viewers affirmatively choosing to tune in.

Notionally, series stars Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba might draw in curious channel-surfers. And Union, especially, is as strong as ever in her role as a police officer whose desire to right the scales of justice extends to off-books operations like burning down a nightclub. We consistently believe she has her reasons, while Alba, by comparison, reads a bit too zenned-out and sunny to sell her character’s ties to darkness. But the jauntiness of the series — toggling in the show’s first scenes to banter about Alba’s book club and Union’s sex life, and later to hazily motivated shifts in the pair’s relationship, back and forth between collaboration and mistrust as the script demands it.

“L.A.’s Finest” would be substantially worse than most of the fare on a broadcast network, but it would feel at home there in philosophy. A show in which Alba can, from scene to scene, face down criminal elements from her past and then her stepdaughter’s inappropriate wardrobe is a show that wants to be everything to everyone — and a show that not only can’t nail its tonal hairpin turns but doesn’t really seem to be trying is destined to be no one’s favorite.

The years since “House of Cards” kicked off the streaming revolution, for good or ill, made the boldly niche show, the series carefully wrought to appeal to a sensibility, however far outside the mainstream, the most valuable sort of series — and even broadcast television, in its slow and plodding way, is following suit. “L.A.’s Finest” seems to want to exist outside the way people watch TV now. Which makes it a poor on-demand show, but perhaps the only sort of show a cable provider, nostalgic for an era rapidly passing from view, could create.

“L.A.’s Finest.” Spectrum Originals. May 13. Three episodes screened for review.

Cast: Gabrielle Union, Jessica Alba.

Executive Producers: Gabrielle Union, Jessica Alba, Brandon Margolis, Brandon Sonnier, Pam Veasey, Doug Belgrad, Jerry Bruckheimer, Jonathan Littman, KristieAnne Reed, Jeff Gaspin, Jeff Morrone, Anton Cropper.

Popular on Variety

TV Review: 'L.A.'s Finest'

More TV

  • Joachim Trier

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond Backs Joachim Trier, Ole Bornedal, Yellow Bird

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond has announced three features, two series and a documentary set to receive $1.4m in financing, as well as distribution, dubbing and cultural initiative support recipients. Doing so, it highlights some of the key titles moving forward in the Nordic region. Already backed by the Danish Film Institute’s largest ever grant [...]

  • TV News Roundup: 'Silicon Valley' Final

    TV News Roundup: 'Silicon Valley's' Final Season Sets October Premiere Date

    In today’s roundup, “Silicon Valley” returns to HBO on Oct. 27 and Quibi greenlights a new cooking competition show “Dismantled.” DATES More Reviews Film Review: 'ZZ Top: That Little Ol' Band From Texas' Locarno Film Review: 'Notre dame' The fifth season of Netflix‘s “Peaky Blinders” will premiere on the streamer Oct. 4. The newest season [...]

  • Peter Fonda Dead: 'Easy Rider' Star

    Peter Fonda, Star of 'Easy Rider,' Dies at 79

    Two-time Oscar nominee Peter Fonda, who became a counterculture icon when he co-wrote, produced and starred in seminal 1969 road movie “Easy Rider,” then showed Hollywood he could act about three decades later in “Ulee’s Gold,” died on Friday from lung cancer at his home in Los Angeles. He was 79. His sister Jane Fonda [...]

  • CineLink Drama Brings High-End Series to

    CineLink Drama Brings High-End Series to Sarajevo

    When the organizers of the Sarajevo Film Festival’s CineLink Industry Days surveyed the local TV landscape several years ago, they recognized the chance to make an impact. “We decided five years ago that we need to do something,” says CineLink industry coordinator Armin Hadzic. “The [regional] TV and public broadcasters were coming from another age.” [...]

  • SCHOOLED - ABC's "Schooled" stars Bryan

    'Kids Are Alright' Creator Joins 'Schooled' Season 2 as Showrunner

    Tim Doyle is taking over as showrunner and executive producer on the upcoming second season of “Schooled” at ABC, Variety has confirmed. Doyle takes over from Season 1 showrunner and series co-creator Marc Firek, who has exited the series to focus on development. The news comes just months after Doyle’s 1970s-set comedy series, “The Kids [...]

  • Matthew Miller'Lethal Weapon' TV series screening,

    'Lethal Weapon' Team Lands Put Pilot Order at Fox for Cop Drama 'Dead Eddie' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Matt Miller and Alex Taub are staying in business with Fox. The pair, who previously worked together on Fox’s series adaptation of “Lethal Weapon,” have scored a put pilot commitment at the broadcaster for a new drama project, Variety has learned exclusively. More Reviews Film Review: 'ZZ Top: That Little Ol' Band From Texas' Locarno Film [...]

  • Krypton Syfy

    'Krypton' Canceled After Two Seasons at Syfy, Network Not Moving Forward on 'Lobo' Spinoff

    “Krypton” has been canceled after two seasons at Syfy. In addition, the NBCUniversal cabler is not moving ahead with a planned “Lobo” spinoff. “Krypton,” set two generations before the destruction of Superman’s titular home planet, follows Superman’s grandfather Seg-El (Cameron Cuffe) as a young man faced with saving his home planet or letting it be [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content