Jessica Alba and Gabrielle Union as LAPD partners Nancy and Syd
Amid nationwide protests against police brutality, L.A.'s Finest seems an unlikely show to make the air.
Yet the one-hour drama — a Bad Boys spinoff that stars Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba as trigger-happy detectives — is on not one, but two networks this fall. Spectrum TV dropped the second season September 9, while season one premieres on Fox September 21. And those who clinched this deal see a win-win.
The series "checked a lot of boxes for us," says Dan Harrison, Fox's executive vice-president, program planning and content strategy. "It was developed for broadcast, NBC. It's related to a well-known intellectual property. It has a diverse cast and two female leads, which fits well with the Fox audience."
These reasons also resonated for Spectrum. "African-American women are a strong part of our subscriber base," says Katherine Pope, head of Spectrum Originals. "Women are often the decision-makers in the viewing household, and video-on-demand has a disproportionate amount of coviewing. I wanted something that really appeals to women, especially women of color, and I wanted a coviewing angle."
Pope was also familiar with the Brandons.
Brandon Margolis and Brandon Sonnier, the series' creators, showrunners and executive producers, worked together on NBC's The Blacklist and had been quoting lines from the Bad Boys movies to each other for years. A TV spinoff seemed like a natural.
"The idea started with Gabrielle Union," Margolis says. "She had an interest in playing Syd, her character from the film, and expanding on her life. Syd was not as fleshed out as the other characters, and Gabrielle always wondered what happened in her life."
Turns out, Syd left the DEA and resides in a loft no honest public servant could afford. "We do live in the Jerry Bruckheimer Bad Boys universe," Sonnier acknowledges. "We are in that heightened reality."
That includes the ability of Syd and Nancy (Alba) to speed through L.A. traffic and their habit of leaving carpets of shell casings behind in shootouts. Their pasts are revealed as the seasons unwind. To avoid spoilers, let's just say that the LAPD could do better vetting.
The Brandons laugh about this during a Zoom interview and reflect on how the series keeps morphing. If the show — from Sony Pictures Television Studios Production and Jerry Bruckheimer Productions — sounds familiar, that could be because it made news when a stunt car crashed on set, hitting both showrunners. One of Sonnier's legs had to be amputated from the knee down. He's continuing rehab.
As the show migrated across networks, the Brandons made some tweaks. When NBC passed, they turned Alba's stepdaughter from a child into a rebellious teenager. For the Fox launch, they reexamined episodes in light of Black Lives Matter. (Sonnier is Black, Margolis is white.)
They also cut a scene from the pilot. Following a fistfight, Union nabs a suspect, then kneels on his chest. He had been working under a car, which she lowers onto his head using a jack.
"We took a hard look at what images we are putting out into the world," Sonnier says. "Were we contributing to problems and the cultural perception of what policing is and the cultural perception of what policing should be? We have made a few changes — some of them small, some of them a little bigger."
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 10, 2020