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Life in the 'Fastlane'

Friday, July 26, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

PASADENA, Calif. -- Fox's "Fastlane" wasn't the best pilot for fall, but it sure was the most entertaining.

Filled with cool characters wearing cool clothes and driving cool cars, it's "The Fast and the Furious" turned into a TV series with a healthy dose of humor. It's the fall's best bad show, a definite guilty pleasure.

Van Ray (Peter Facinelli, "Riding in Cars with Boys") and Deaqon Hayes (Bill Bellamy, "Any Given Sunday") are undercover cops who traffic in "the glamorous world of high-stakes crime." Tiffani Thiessen ("Beverly Hills, 90210") stars as their boss, a brittle woman with the keys to a warehouse full of seized expensive, exclusive vehicles.

The "Fastlane" pilot was directed by the one-named McG ("Charlie's Angels" and lots of music videos), and it's filled with stylized sex and violence, much of it in hipper-than-hip slow motion. It's "Miami Vice" for a new generation.

"It's safe to say we're huge fans of that show," said executive producer John McNamara. And admiring "Vice" means this won't be a realistic cop show.

"We had every intention to go down there and hang out with undercover cops and get their stories, but as we began to develop it, we realized that this is not a reality cop show," McNamara said. "It's a fantasy about reality."

McG, who's a fast-talking, blunt, hyper guy, said "Fastlane" is intended to be a fun program, nothing more.

"This is not a show about contemplating the human condition," McG said. "That was not the intention. A lot of shows will do that infinitely better than we ever will."

He hopes viewers will come away from the series with a sense of exuberance.

"It's like when you went and saw 'Rocky' for the first time and you come out and you're kind of bouncing through the aisle ... feeling a little better about life than you felt when you went in," McG said. "That's what 'Fastlane' is."

Pax TV's plans

Pax TV was once interested in getting its family-friendly network on Pittsburgh's WQEX once the FCC granted WQED permission to sell its sister station, but Pax gave up and bought its way onto cable earlier this year.

Pax president Jeff Sagansky said the network's deal with AT&T Broadband is a long-term agreement, running up to 10 years, which makes it unlikely that Pax will ally with WQEX once it's sold to Diane Sutter's ShootingStar Broadcasting.

"I think we'd really have to look at what the deal was," Sagansky said. "For a long time, we weren't sure anything would happen."

Pax will unveil three original series this fall: "Just Cause," a mystery-legal drama starring Richard Thomas and executive produced by Jacqueline Zambrano ("Under Suspicion"); Peter Strauss starring in the medical drama "Body & Soul," about doctors who clash because of their differing beliefs in traditional and alternative medical procedures; and "Sue Thomas F.B.Eye," from the producers of Pax's "Doc."

The last series has the most interesting concept. It's based on the true story of Sue Thomas, played by actress Deanne Bray, who worked in surveillance for the F.B.I., reading lips. Bray, like Thomas, is deaf, though she's not as profoundly deaf as Thomas, who now lives near Youngstown.

Redrawing 'Drew'

When "The Drew Carey Show" returns in its new time slot this fall, 8 p.m. Monday, it will be retooled significantly.

"We are taking this new night move as a chance to change the show and reinvent it just a little bit, short of getting a new Darren," Carey said, referring to a cast change midway through the run of "Bewitched."

Instead of working in a department store, Drew will work for a dot-com, an attempt to create a younger, hipper workplace. Mimi (Kathy Kinney), Mr. Wick (Craig Ferguson) and Drew's buddies will remain, but Kate (Christa Miller) will get married and leave the series.

"A huge arc for this season will be how he handles that and deals with it," said executive producer Clay Graham.

A new female character, one from Drew's past, will return to his life to fill the Kate void. It's part of the effort to return the series to its roots.

"We feel we kind of lost the human element to this show, that the silliness overtook and really undermined the credibility ultimately of the characters and their relationships," said executive producer Bruce Helford.

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