Photo Credit : TNT
You may think that it is too late to jump in as a new viewer to a show in its third season. How can you possibly understand what all that has already happened?
By : SHAWNA BENSON
You may think that it is too late to jump in as a new viewer to a show in its third season. How can you possibly understand what all that has already happened? Fortunately, the rough and tumble existence of “Southland” means two things: first, the show is tough and it’s still around for a reason (i.e. it’s good). Second, over two seasons there have only been thirteen episodes. Should you choose to watch all of the previous episodes, it won’t take you very long to get through them all, but really, the show is ready made for new viewers to hop aboard this season. “Southland” started life on NBC and though it had critical acclaim the viewership wasn’t good enough for the network to keep the show. NBC canceled it after the pilot and 6 episodes were produced. Michael Cudlitz, who plays Officer John Cooper, didn’t take that lying down, and made his displeasure known on Twitter and to anyone who would listen. Neither did the fans or critics, who were devoted enough to prompt TNT to give the show a second look. They liked what they saw — the show, the viewer numbers, so TNT picked it up, ran all of the produced episodes and then ordered a second season for six more.
Photo Credit : TNT
Now “Southland” returns for a third season, having proved it has a devoted audience. There’s a good reason for the devotion and the critical acclaim. Produced by John Wells, who won Emmys for ER and The West Wing, and created by Ann Biderman (NYPD Blue, Public Enemies) “Southland” lives up to its pedigree with some of the finest writing on television. Unlike most of the other cop/crime shows on right now, “Southland” is not a procedural – that is, it isn’t just about the crime of the week and the whodunit. It’s about the lives of these characters, these cops and their loved ones, and how the job and their personal lives don’t always mesh. Each character that makes up this ensemble has some demon to battle, whether it is personal or the kind encountered in their daily lives on the job.
“Southland” pulls very few punches; it even bleeps out the worst profanity, making the people of this world feel more real than the cops on other tv shows, most of whom have to find some creative way to say “dirtbag” that won’t get them in trouble with the FCC. It has a rawness and gritty attitude that feels more like The Shield or The Wire. Unlike those shows however, there are no arch anti-heroes, just a group of devoted public servants, trying to uphold the mission statement on the side of every LAPD vehicle – Preserve and Protect. Los Angeles isn’t a new setting and as the opening credits show, the city has had more than its fair share of colorful crime history; but “Southland” certainly takes advantage of its setting – if you live in this town you’ll recognize just about every street corner.
The third season drops us into a post-holiday Los Angeles which is experiencing a sharp increase in gang violence. Most of the key players in the series are here for either the first or second episode of the season. It appears that while the cast remains intact, some of the players won’t be featured in every episode. If this is the compromise to hold down the budget and keep the storytelling less cluttered, it’s a good one. Cudlitz (Band of Brothers) leads a cast which also stars Shawn Hatosy (Dexter, Public Enemies), Regina King (Ray, 24) and Ben McKenzie (The O.C.).
“Southland” premieres Tuesday, January 4th on TNT at 10 PM ET.