TV hits: Southland
Tale o’ the times in TV-land. Southland debuted on NBC in April 2009 to strong reviews and acceptable audience ratings for the current state of US network TV. A police drama set in Los Angeles, Southland follows a bunch of …
Tale o’ the times in TV-land. Southland debuted on NBC in April 2009 to strong reviews and acceptable audience ratings for the current state of US network TV. A police drama set in Los Angeles, Southland follows a bunch of LAPD officers and detectives on and off the beat. It reminds me of Boomtown which had a similar span of characters, also worked storylines around the trials, tribulations, stresses and strains of the cops and featured plenty of grit amongst the dialogue. Naturally, like all post-Wire shows, not all of the narratives went from A to C via B and there was also a strong cast to boost Southland’s cause. It was a grower.
But, just like Boomtown, Southland was killed off by the network after the first series. Despite the fact that they’d already filmed six episosdes for a second series, NBC announced that they had terminated the show last year in favour of the short-lived Jay Leno Show. Since then, TNT has picked up the show and is currently showing the 13 episodes which are in the can (the first series is now also available on DVD).
Watching the first series, it’s quite easy to see why NBC pulled the plug. Southland may have come from the same crew who made ER, but there’s something far deeper, darker and murkier about the stories and characters which doesn’t sit with how cop shows are currently presented. From the get-go, there are questions galore which are never wrapped up by the time the credits roll and each episode has a wider dramatic span than most police procedurals (like those in Dick Wolf’s seemingly endless Law & Order franchise). While many viewers have become quite accustomed to this via shows like Damages (the new season is a zinger, by the way, and far more enjoyable than season two), NBC were pitching this show at a different audience and obviously got cold feet.
A huge pity because the first series is hugely promising. A sophisticated cop show which tips the cap to NYPD Blue, Southland is raw and evocative, with scenes painstakingly created with a real eye for detail and depth. The relationship between Cooper, the training officer, and Sherman, his rich-kid rookie, is the show-setter but it’s also a device to pull in other threads and plots. It’s the kind of show which may not be as instant or as visceral as, say, Vic Mackey at large in The Shield, but which had the foundations in place nonetheless to build for the medium to long term. Sadly, though, NBC didn’t have the patience to stick with that gameplan. A good DVD purchase if you’re looking for one this weather.