TNT’s slogan claims “we know drama.” With a schedule that includes a hefty dose of “Law and Order” and “CSI,” not many are likely to argue with that statement. It doesn’t get more dramatic than cop, law and investigation shows. It is for this reason that the addition of “Southland” to the TNT roster is the perfect fit.
Originally aired on NBC, “Southland” takes a gritty look at what life is like for the officers of the LAPD. Packed with suspense, action and reality; “Southland” was not the best match for the happy-go-lucky time slot of 9pm, (you know, right before Jay Leno “brought comedy” to 10pm.) When NBC pulled the plug on “Southland,” just after ordering a second season and 6 more episodes, TNT stepped in and picked it up. NBC’s loss is TNT’s gain.
“Southland” is the police version of “ER.” This is not a bad thing. I remember watching “ER” every Thursday night and wondering how these patients landed in the hospital, how the doctors will help them, if they deserve to be helped, how the doctors can stand being around each other in such intense situations and, of course, which doctors will hook-up. Similar questions pop into my head while watching “Southland.” How do these cops deal with such delinquents? Do these cops get scared? Do they ever blink or back down? Can they stand another minute in the cop car with each other? And is there a connection between coworkers?
The show’s drama is intense. The show opens with Detective Clark (Tom Everett Scott) in a hospital bed. Given Clarke’s circumstance and Officer Ben Sherman (Ben McKenzie) returning to work after being put on probation, there are some shake ups in the force. New partners and new assignments kick things off. In what pans out to be the best scene of the episode, Officer Chickie Brown (Arija Barekis) has to really swallow the pill that is her new partner. Besides being a pain in the ass (i.e. stopping for dry cleaning while patrolling) the man actually shoots a kid in the middle of a crowded area. The incident leads to a beautifully shot riot scene and an intensity that makes your heart race while watching it.
The show’s scenes cover a wide range of powerful moments. There are simple scenes that just remind us of people’s natural fears about cops, like when a man is pulled over for stopping at a yellow light. But there are also emotional scenes, like when a prisoner is stabbed in his “mama tried” tattoo. I found myself shaking at the end of the show from the range of emotions I experienced while watching it. And yes, I am the person that cried at the P&G commercial about mothers watching their Olympic athletes, but that should not take away from the strength of this show.
“Southland” creates intense moments, but there are gaps in the development of the characters in the ensemble. Season 2 has already done a better job of beginning the character development process than season one. We’re given a glimpse into the personal lives of the officers briefly at the end of the show and when that is delved into further, we will feel a stronger attachment to the ensemble. I look forward to seeing more of that in the next five episodes this season.
Cop shows tend to become so abundant that people feel the need to just choose one and have that be their “cop show of the week.” But with a network like TNT, why limit yourself? TNT is handing you the investigating (“CSI”), the legal process (“Law and Order”) and now, with the addition of “Southland,” you’re also getting the real nitty gritty. I guess they do know drama.