Southland, Picked Up by TNT and Airing Jan. 12
by Laura Tucker
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It’s hard to figure out exactly what killed Southland on NBC, leading to its untimely demise. It just never seemed to get a shot really, yet seems to be a show that everyone says they liked. Did it have a hard act to follow in ER or was there really nowhere for it on the fall schedule with The Jay Leno Show taking up five hours a week?
NBC was promoting the hell out of Southland last winter as ER was winding down. It took over that time slot, and was different, but nonetheless very good. You just can’t replace a show that’s been on the air as long as ER that easily. Of course we missed ER and Southland wasn’t going to cut it no matter how good it was. They aired seven episodes, and we figured we’d see it again this fall, but didn’t find it on the crowded NBC schedule with Leno taking over that same hour every night.
TNT to the rescue as they have found a way to resuscitate Southland. Tuesday, January 12, TNT will air the original premiere of Southland commercial-free. In addition, they’ve added in six minutes to the episode that had been previously cut and unaired. To follow many a great drama to come before it, it starts with a rookie learning the ropes. Officer Ben Sherman (Ben McKenzie) is learning to patrol the streets of L.A. along with veteran cop Officer John Cooper (Michael Cudlitz). Just like with Dr. John Carter (Noah Wyle) on ER, Sherman seems to have a privileged past that no one else can let go.
The first episode had started off with a drive-by shooting witnessed by three teenage girls. None of them will talk about what they saw except one. The problem is, once she talks and becomes a witness, her life takes on increased danger, and a continuing storyline throughout the episodes that aired was the efforts of the cops to keep this girl safe to ensure her testimony. The other storyline in this first episode is the efforts of Detective Lydia Adams (Regina King) to find a young girl that has disappeared.
The last episode aired by NBC showed the witness being shuttled around from detectives’ houses as they continued to find a way to keep her safe and make sure she understood why she had to not have any connections with people from her life before the shooting. Some of the cops continue to have problems, such as Officer Billy Dewey (C. Thomas Howell) who has a continuing substance abuse problem, and Detective Sammy Bryant (Shawn Hatosy) who has extreme marriage difficulties. In essence, his wife seems nuts.
What always earmarks a really good dramatic series for me is when it feels like I’m watching a movie. It’s not over and done with and wrapped up in an hour. I credit cable with bringing better competition to network TV, causing them to have to fight for that audience a little more. Southland is gritty. It’s no holds barred action and drama as we see what these cops deal with on a daily basis. That’s what drew me to the series and had me continue to watch every week, just like i did with ER. ER showed us what doctors deal with the ER and at home, and Southland shows us what officers deal with on the street and at home.
TNT has not only picked up those original seven episodes of Southland that aired on NBC, they’ve also picked up the six episodes that were filmed, but never aired. The previously aired episodes start airing on January 12 at 10 PM ET, with the the unaired episodes beginning to air March 2. We can only hope that they find so much success with this that they order and film more. NBC’s loss is TNT’s gain.
Laura Tucker is the webmaster of Reality Shack, and its accompanying Reality Shack Blog, and is a freelance writer providing reviews of movies and television, among other things, at Viewpoints. She is also an Associate Instructor and 2nd dan black belt in tae kwon do with South Elgin Martial Arts. Laura can be reached at LauraBelle@realityshack.com
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