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L.A.’s Finest: Post Mortem for a Cancelled Cop Show

It seemed for a brief period that L.A.’s Finest would survive through sheer force of will alone.

After NBC passed on the pilot, the Bad Boys spinoff limped on as a Spectrum on-demand exclusive. Skip ahead to the pandemic era, and L.A.’s Finest had the benefit of belonging to the same franchise as the year’s highest grossing domestic film. This was enough to earn the show a broadcast premiere on Fox, which was hungry for new content to fill a schedule thinned during quarantine.

With Fox securing the rights to air the first two seasons of L.A.’s Finest, it seemed like the series was given new life. Then, less than a month after the network debut, producers pulled the plug. So while you’ll still be seeing episodes of L.A.’s Finest make their Fox premiere, there are no plans for a third season. Meaning the show somehow dwells in the in-between, floating between life and death.

With all that said, let’s take a look at the pilot for L.A.’s Finest — an episode that is both old and new — and offer up a post mortem for this television zombie.

The series opens on one of those days in Los Angeles where everything is oversaturated and oppressively orange. Detectives Nancy McKenna (Jessica Alba) and Sydney Burnett (Gabrielle Union) are out for one of those casual L.A. drives that you always hear about. Burnett is taking a series of selfies for her online hookups and brushes off Nancy’s criticism, declaring her LAPD partner “out of the game.”

Apparently, this means that she is married and loves her husband, but Burnett continues to mock McKenna’s happiness and shows her a dick pic she just received. I’m pretty sure forcing your coworker to look at pictures of genitals is sexual harassment — even when a woman does it. Immediately, L.A.’s Finest makes it clear exactly what this series is: A show written by two dudes named Brandon.

McKenna asks her partner if they can make a quick stop at a convenience store — hard cut to the two casually bickering in the midst of an armed robbery. Seeing that one of the criminals has taken a cashier hostage, Burnett and McKenna open fire and overtake the thieves.

McKenna cuffs the suspect who is suffering from a bullet wound as Burnett plunks down a box of condoms on the counter, proclaiming she has a date tonight. One thing this show has achieved is making it clear that women can be just as awful as men.

Also, Alba and Union are doing some really heavy lifting in terms of their performances, but there is only so much you can do when your characters are pigeonholed into this tired Madonna versus the whore dynamic.

The next morning, McKenna greets her husband, who shuffles a stack of documents and replies “Merger, merger, business, merger” or something to that effect. Then — and this is good — McKenna’s stepdaughter enters. You know that trope where a teenage character speaks in nothing but faux intellectual sociopolitical buzzwords that don’t actually translate to anything? Well, this is that character, descended from a long line of Clueless ripoffs.

Undercutting her comments about the patriarchy and commodification of the female body is the fact that the stepdaughter is wearing the credit card her parents gave her in a garter.

Meanwhile, over at Burnett’s massive apartment overlooking the city, we find her pouring her one-night stand’s coffee into a to-go cup after he’s overstayed his welcome. The question is how much is she spending on to-go cups for this to work out financially?

Our team is handed the show’s first case when an 11-year-old boy crashes an SUV into traffic and police find his nanny dead in the backseat from a gunshot wound. After spotting the gunman’s vehicle on security footage, our two detectives complain that it takes too long to obtain a warrant for records. Instead, they obtain the wheelman’s information from a hacker working out the back of a tattoo parlor because this is some real edgelord cinema.

This is where it becomes apparent that this pilot was filmed more than two years ago — you know, back when corporations were still able to profit off of police brutality.

McKenna and Burnett rush onto the wheelman’s property with guns drawn and find him working under the vehicle in question. Burnett then repeatedly threatens to drop the car onto his head unless he spills the identity of the gunman. This has not aged well, but our heroes’ attempt to carry out an extrajudicial killing proves effective.

Learning that the 11-year-old boy is the gunman’s target, McKenna and Burnett intercept an attempted kidnapping. A car chase begins and there is zero tension because we know they aren’t going to catch the leader of the cartel with 33 minutes left in the episode.

The child is moved to a safehouse, and Burnett abandons her partner to go visit Ernie Hudson. I mean, he’s playing the role of Burnett’s father, but we’re just going to continue calling him Ernie Hudson.

So Ernie Hudson is seeking to mend his strained relationship with his daughter. In doing so, he leads her to a nightclub to find out the location of Gabriel Knox, who is apparently the Keyser Soze of this story.

Burnett goes undercover as a waitress and coaxes her potential informant into the champagne room. Using the art of seduction, Burnett points a gun at the man’s penis, and declares, “This is a .380 on your sack, bitch.”

Of note, Union would edge out Alba and her other fellow nominees to earn a Teen Choice Award for her work on the show.

Surprise, several gunmen rush in — but DOUBLE SURPRISE, McKenna rushes in as well. It’s just one big family reunion. McKenna flashes her badge and… the mobsters just let them leave. Yeah, they don’t even back out of the club. They stride through the main entrance like they need to get something from the coat check.

Arriving back at the smoldering safe house, the detectives find that cartel members have made off with the child. “Shit just got real,” Burnett says, and honestly, I’m like “Yeah, the captain of the East Compton Clovers is about to get that ass.”

The detectives trace a bullet casing back to a local gun store. When the store owner refuses to talk, Burnett unholsters her weapon in clear disregard of his Constitutional rights. McKenna backs down her partner and tactfully assembles the automatic rifle the shop owner was cleaning. She points the weapon in his face.

Burnett informs the shop owner that the LAPD tracks every round they fire from their service weapons, but if they kill him with his own gun there won’t be any repercussions. Jesus. Everybody take a walk and let’s meet back here in five.

Fox was looking for shows to fill its fall lineup and said, “Yeah, this should still be OK. There hasn’t been any sort of national social mandate on this sort of thing, right.”

As not to be murdered in his own place of business, the shop owner gives them the address of the man who purchased the ammunition. This leads the detectives to a palatial estate where they find a dominatrix whipping a man’s perineum. Despite having his arms and legs strapped above his body like a hog being spit-roasted, we recognize the man as the boss of the missing child’s mother. He demands a lawyer, and in a stunning twist the detectives don’t attempt to crush his skull with a lowrider.

The boy’s mother arrives and learns that her son has been taken. She explains that she noticed some financial irregularities in one of her company’s corporate accounts. She is the only one with the ability to unfreeze the cartel’s money.

The final plan to rescue the child involved McKenna going undercover as the boy’s mother to carry out the hostage exchange. At the rendezvous point — a crowded beachside boardwalk — they meet with the cartel leader and initiate the account transfer. The little boy is trotted out and plays along with the ruse. With the transfer complete, gunfire breaks out, and the cartel leader escapes with the child.

The detectives corner the cartel leader at the end of a crowded pier. He produces a… oh hell, a grenade. McKenna and Burnett look at each other in slow motion.

The boy manages to slip loose and McKenna fires a CGI bullet that she borrowed from the music video for Korn’s “Freak on a Leash.” The bullet hits the cartel leader right between the eyes. The grenade tumbles from his grip and Union grabs the child and leaps off the pier as it explodes.

Thankfully, everyone is OK. The boy smiles and hugs his rescuers, somehow not completely traumatized by the 48-hour marathon of violence and bloodshed that he’s just experienced.

Back at police headquarters, the detectives share some beers on the roof. Burnett explains that five years back she was working undercover in Gabrielle Knox’s gang when her cover was blown. Although she says she doesn’t remember what happened to her, the doctors said she was tortured, shot, and left for dead. Why this has only recently started to burden her is a mystery.

The episode, fittingly, ends with Burnett burning down the nightclub from earlier and waking up alongside the dominatrix, to whom she quickly offers a to-go cup — because like to-go cups, people in L.A.’s Finest are disposable.

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Written By

Dustin Waters is a writer from Macon, Ga, currently living in D.C. After years as a beat reporter in the Lowcountry, he now focuses his time on historical oddities, trashy movies, and the merits of professional wrestling.

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