Written by: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
For this week's Television Collision we revisit CC2K contributor Kristen Lopez' loving memorial for a TV show both her and CC2K TV Editor Phoebe Raven loved dearly back in the day and which was ahead of its time.
America may be in the middle of an economic recession at the moment, but what people may not realize is that television studios have been battling with finances for years. Several fabulous television shows have been given the ax after a single season or two due to skyrocketing budgets, a great example being the critically acclaimed HBO series Rome. A show dear to my heart that suffered from escalating costs was the FOX series Fastlane. Yes, there once was a time when the FOX network actually crafted fine scripted entertainment, something sorely lacking nowadays – in fact can you even name a scripted show on that FOX network? (Editor's Note: Yes, I can . House, Bones, Fringe…) To add insult to injury is that not only was the series never allowed to truly bloom, ending on a shocking cliffhanger, but the way FOX handled the cancellation that continues to this very day.
If you never had the grand fortune to watch Fastlane when it originally aired in 2002-2003, the series was created by mega-director McG (yes the man who directed Terminator Salvation…he's REALLY lucky I love this show) and followed wisecracking cops Van Ray and Deaqon Hayes played by Dr. Twilight, I mean Peter Facinelli and Bill Bellamy respectively. The two are thrown together after Deaq's brother is killed who just happened to be Van's partner. Enter the beautiful Billie Chambers (Tiffani Thiessen before she dropped the “Amber”), a lieutenant in the police force who wants to recruit the two into a new police force. Set with only making big arrests, i.e. big time drug dealers and thieves, the group has unlimited access to seized cars and the like dubbed “The Candy Store.” Every week the group would have to take down a bad guy and were usually sidetracked with a subplot involving one of the group, usually Van, hooking up with a hot chick who happened to be one of the bad guys…yes this wasn't exactly a show for brain surgeons.
So the show wasn't perfect or particularly deep and complex but what it had was high octane entertainment. Every episode had cool cars, hot women, and Peter Facinelli rocking leather pants for 40 minutes (and as a 14-year-old girl that's all I needed in life). The show also exhibited that hot, flashy atmosphere that someone like Michael Bay has come to know and love, really the show could have just been a television version of Bad Boys with one white guy and very little harsh language. I mean do you know any television series or movie for that matter that had an entire episode centered around Billie's obsession with owning Steve McQueen's car from Bullitt? “You can still smell the cigarette smoke.”
In between all the flashy cars and hot women the show had quite a bit of humor if the first two items weren't necessarily your thing…and if so then you probably hated this show a great deal already. Most of the humor came from the culture clash between Van and Deaq. The former being a pretty boy constantly obsessed with chasing tail while the latter was a New York street cop with an attitude. Sure they had moments of male bonding, usually involving liquor and a party, but it truly felt like they were friends. This tended to lead to quite a few jokes at the expense of their heterosexuality. A huge fake argument involving the use of the word “honeydew” will always be imprinted in my brain.
The last big thing that allowed Fastlane to stand out from various other shows at the time was the limits the show pushed, and for network television this show got away with murder. In the pilot episode alone there was a pretty lengthy sex scene to the sounds of Depeche Mode that culminated…I couldn't find a word less dirty sounding…with a shot of the top of Peter Facinelli's ass. And for prime time I had never seen ass on television or partial ass for that matter. The most controversial episode of the entire series, and quite frankly I don't know how the show wasn't canceled immediately was appropriately entitled “Strap On.” The episode involved Billie having to go undercover to nab some jewel thieves, oh and did I mention said thieves were lesbian, and that one was played by Jaime Presley? Do I have your attention now? The episode not only had some harsh language that had to be muted out but also had a steamy girl on girl kiss. Ironically FOX also tried to do a girl on girl kiss on The OC soon after this but I don't remember anyone giving a shit.
So why did such a wonderful series that had literally something for everyone get canceled after one lone season…one word: money! It's been reported that a single episode of Fastlane cost $2.6 million and no that's not in Hershey Kisses. This wouldn't have been a problem if the ratings justified the cost but due to FOX constantly moving the show from night to night, the viewers never knew when the series was on. It also took quite a few lengthy hiatuses further confusing fans.
While the show is finally out on DVD, after a lengthy battle over song rights and the like, fans are still pissed at how the FOX network handled Fastlane, some considering the show a precursor to the network's treatment of shows like Dollhouse and The Sarah Connor Chronicles. I've mentioned FOX's moving the series around, and yes it was doomed to the Friday night slot at the end, but the series also ended on a pretty big cliffhanger. In a two-part episode that also saw Van lose his life, Billie ended up being kidnapped by a former drug dealer friend who shoots her up before the episode cut to black…forever! Yes, us fans never got resolution and probably never will. It didn't help matters that FOX only ever announced the show's cancellation on their website, something I learned the hard way.
This is ironic to me now considering CBS' recent cancellation of The Eleventh Hour, a show also cited for it's rising episode costs as being a reason for its demise. I can't speak for that series in terms of whether they got a proper send-off but I can say that fans of Fastlane are forever put off by any show that appears on the FOX network because they obviously don't give a shit. A thoroughly entertaining series that was flashy and extravagant, hell that's why we loved it, that was cut before it's time due to the tight asses at the FOX network. Damn you FOX…damn you to hell!
Author: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
Kristen Lopez is the editor-in-chief of CC2K and a freelance pop culture essayist. Her work has appeared on Roger Ebert, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Daily Beast. When she’s not burning down Film Twitter she runs two podcasts, the female-centric film show Citizen Dame, and the classic film-themed Ticklish Business.