Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Southland: Not Your Average Cop Show

If you’re thinking that Southland is just another dime a dozen cop show think again. Shot in gritty, Traffic and Erin Brockovich-era Steve Soderbergh lighting, Southland is a drama that’s heavy on the action. The show, which moved to TNT after NBC cancelled its second season, is shot in L.A. – and not in the pretty parts. These cops contend with drug dealers, gang violence, rapists and bloody bodies on the side of the road.

This show is no joke which is interesting considering two of the main characters got their starts on teen soaps – Ben McKenzie who played Ryan on The O.C. and Michael Cudlitz who played Tony on 90210. (Don’t kid yourself, I loved those shows). There is also Regina King who began her career on 80’s sitcom 227 and later as Cuba Gooding Jr. mouthy wife in Jerry Maguire.

One interesting aspect of the show is that all expletives are bleeped out, as if we are watching a reality cop show. It speaks to the parts of the show that are handled like a documentary and is surprisingly not distracting. Something that is distracting is the number of characters – too many cops with too many storylines. The writers should just stick with the most interesting characters (including McKenzie, Cudlitz and King) and expand their storylines.

In this week’s second season premiere, we find out that Detective Lydia Adams’ (King) partner survived being shot by his neighbor for no discernable reason and that Officer Chickie Brown’s (Arija Bareikis) alcoholic partner went to rehab. She of course is catching a ton of flack for putting him there but after being thrust into a massive riot and surviving, it turns out she’s one of the bigger bad asses on the squad. Meanwhile Ben Sherman (McKenzie ) runs down an addict parolee who has kidnapped an elderly man. We also see a brutal jail stabbing and Adams crying over her hospitalized/may not be coming back to work partner.

Southland still has some growing to do but after a superb first season, the second season is kicking off with the same intensity. The actors are believable and the plot holds the audience’s interest. I'm hoping that Southland and TNT will stick together for a long time and continue to raise the bar for cop dramas on all networks.

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