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L.A.'s Finest: Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba's Bad Boys II Spin-off Was Worth the Wait

Bad girls give the boys a run for their money in Spectrum's solid series

Malcolm Venable

There's a moment in the first episode of L.A's Finest, the cop drama starring Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba that's a continuation of Bad Boys II, that sums up the feel of the show pretty succinctly. In the scene, John Salley, reprising his role as nerdy hacker Fletcher, asks Syd (Union) to a Lakers game. "I know a guy," he says, to which she replies: "I'm a Heat fan. I know a guy."

It's as meta as it is cheesy (Union is married to now-retired Miami Heat player Dwyane Wade) but come on, it's also painfully cute. Granted, Union's dimple-cheeked grin could make notes from a PTA meeting entertaining, and there were moments in the three episodes of L.A.'s Finest sent to critics that I wondered how fun this enterprise would be without Union at the helm or the dynamic chemistry between her and co-lead Alba. Eh, it's moot. Whatever granular ingredients L.A.'s Finest used to create its alchemy, it works, making for a binge-worthy combustible mix. Fans of the Bad Boys franchise worried that this might taint fond memories need not worry. Even better, virgin viewers can come to the party completely ignorant of Syd's backstory and enjoy the show on its own merits.

Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba, LA's Finest

Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba, LA's Finest

Erica Parise, Erica Parise/Sony Pictures Television/Spectrum Originals

Look, cop procedurals wear few distinguishing marks between them; despite being on Spectrum and available only to its subscribers -- as well as being an extension of a world already populated by beloved characters Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) -- L.A.'s Finest operates very much like every other procedural in the game. Syd Burnett and partner Nancy McKenna -- their names a nod to the self-destructive rock legends that you'll either find charmingly goofy or annoyingly obvious -- are LAPD detectives who take no crap, beat up bad guys, and have complicated emotional wounds. Syd beds men and treats them like disposable objects; Nancy lives with her husband Patrick (Ryan McPartlin) and insufferable snot of a step-daughter Isabel (Sophie Reynolds). Both of them have low-key criminal histories, and as they solve a case of the week, they wrestle with its particulars (and men -- Union and Alba kick a lot of boy butt) and their heinous old misdeeds, ever ready to haunt them or show up at their front door.

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All this is boilerplate cop drama stuff, but its L.A. grit, self-mocking charm, and splashy Jerry Bruckheimer effects make L.A.'s Finest's a singular kind of cop show -- one that delivers a near cinema experience with every bloc. Obviously, some will see the gender of the leads a momentous occasion worth trumpeting, and it is, but the show is packaged so nicely and the partners are so complementary that their sex becomes moot. But it's not perfect, of course: Syd and Nancy work better when they're fake bickering and bopping bad guys upside the head than they do when suffering some serious trauma; at times, their sadness reads as schmaltzy, particularly since they're so believably crafted as tough, wise-cracking gumshoes exceptionally adept at spotting B.S. So too are their shady pasts. Syd's messy entanglement with drug dealers (spoiler, sorry) and Nancy's shocking past life seem sort of solid now but could prove fatally confusing, boring, or trite down the line if not handled with great care.

As it stands now though, L.A.'s Finest is a respectable detour from the source material and a deserved point of pride for Union, whose tenacity landed it at Spectrum after many stops and starts. L.A.'s Finest doesn't drastically upset the cop procedural genre, but it's a fine addition to the ranks.

L.A.'s Finest premieres on Spectrum On Demand Monday, May 13, where the first three episodes will debut at once. Two episodes drop each week thereafter.