Hot rod drama a winner

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Don't let a ludicrous plot, over-the-top casting and frequently incomprehensible slang stop you from watching "Fastlane" (8 p.m., Fox), a seriously addictive new action series. The show teams up two shaggy cops, Van Ray (Peter Facinelli), Deaqon Hayes (Bill Bellamy) and a warehouse of hot cars confiscated from thieves and drug dealers. Ray and Hayes use these muscle cars to insinuate themselves into L.A.'s high-octane demimonde of car thieves and hot-rodding hustlers.

As you can imagine, this thin premise is merely an excuse for loud, fast chase scenes, gun battles and gratuitous sex. But "Fastlane" has more going for it. The buddy cops share an uneasy chemistry. "Fastlane" also has fun poking fun at the audience's racial attitudes and expectations.

Clearly inspired by last summer's sleeper hit "The Fast and the Furious," this series is directed by McG ("Charlie's Angels") and written by John McNamara ("The Fugitive").

� "Cedric the Entertainer Presents" (7:30 p.m., Fox) is an "old school" variation on the television variety show. How old school? "Cedric" closely resembles the old Jackie Gleason show (which ran from 1952-70), right down to his own variation on the June Taylor Dancers. Like all variety shows, "Cedric" is a hit-or-miss affair. And this half-hour debut suffers from a few too many laughless sketches.

� Forest Whitaker hosts a new incarnation of the classic "The Twilight Zone" (8 p.m., UPN). With the exception of Whitaker's take on Serling's terse introduction, "Twilight" makes no efforts to imitate the style and feel of the black-and-white original. The first installment "Evergreen," is quite chilling. Like the best episodes from the original "Zone," it touches on contemporary social anxieties in a manner that is both blunt and thoroughly creepy.

Tonight's other highlights

� The documentary "Lalee's Kin: The Legacy of Cotton" (6:30 p.m., HBO) chronicles the lingering affects of a slavery in a Mississippi community.

� Bernie and Wanda join Matt Damon and Lucy Lawless (as themselves) at a charity golf event on the second season premiere of "The Bernie Mac Show" (7 p.m., Fox).

� Gloria Estefan and Jimmy Smits host the third annual Latin Grammy Awards (8 p.m., CBS).

� Bartlet has a tense showdown with his probable rival (James Brolin) after hearing terrible news about a figure close to his staff on a repeat of last season's finale of "The West Wing" (8 p.m., NBC).

� "Christopher Reeve: Courageous Steps" (9 p.m., ABC) follows the paralyzed actor's efforts to walk again.