Southland Season 3
by Del Harvey
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On Tuesday night, January 4, Southland - the most riveting police drama on television - returns to TNT, 10/9 Central. Season 3 brings back almost all of the original characters. But if the show is missing a few of the originals, it hasn’t lost one bit of the intense drama and characters that makes it one of the best shows on broadcast television. Patrol officers John Cooper (Michael Cudlitz) and Ben Sherman (Benjamin McKenzie) return to their patrol unit, policing the streets with their own unique sense of justice. Detectives Nate Moretta (Kevin Alejandro) and Sammy Bryant (Shawn Hatosy) still respond to some of the most difficult and disturbing crimes on the street. And Detective Lydia Adams (Regina King) is given a new partner, this time the ballsy, take-charge Detective Josie Ochoa (Jenny Gago), who ends up ruffling Lydia’s sensitivities as much as she proves perhaps her only match after losing former partner Russell Clarke (Tom Everett Scott) to a domestic shooting in Season 2.
Season 3 picks up where 2 left off, with John Cooper’s back pain progressing. Ben Sherman’s experience, awareness and understanding increase with every passing minute of every shift. Detective Jimmy Bryant’s wife continues to drive him more and more crazy, as his work threatens to test the limits of his patience. Detective Nate Moretta’s family is still causing him irritation as his connections on the street continue to help them solve cases which would try the most patient of men.
In the first episode, titled “Let it Snow,” finds Lydia and new partner Ochoa discovering a missing woman bound and dumped in the crawlspace between floors in a high-rise office building. At odds on many things, they find common ground in their hatred for the despicable way many woman are being treated. Officers John and Ben rescue an officer during a bank robbery shoot-out, and Nate and Sammy investigate the murder of a gang member.
In the second episode, titled “Punching Water,” Officer Billy Dewey (C. Thomas Howell) is out of rehab and back in a patrol car, but he’s driving John nuts and making every stop an impossible undertaking. Sammy and Nate are caught up in a Romeo & Juliet style gangland love affair with some extremely violent repercussions. Detective Daniel Salinger (Michael McGrady) sends Lydia and Josie to help. And Ben rides with Officer Chickie Brown (Arija Bareikis), who quizzes him about his relationship with a bombshell redhead obsessed with cops.
Southland has defied the odds since it first aired in April of 2009. Created by writer Ann Biderman and produced by Warner Bros. Television, it premiered on NBC on April 9, 2009. On May 1, 2009, NBC announced the show renewed for a second season with an initial 13-episode order which began airing on Friday, September 25, 2009 at 9:00 pm, one hour earlier than its original time slot. Shortly before its scheduled premiere, NBC moved the opening of its second season to October 23, 2009, citing the need to promote the show more fully. And on October 8, 2009, NBC abruptly announced that the series had been canceled.
But the outpouring from fans was impressive enough that on November 2, 2009, TNT announced it had purchased the rights to Southland’s original seven episodes, as well as six completed episodes from its second season. Southland began airing on TNT on January 12, 2010. The network said it had no plans to change the look of the show. On April 26, 2010, TNT announced it had picked up the show for a ten-episode third season (January 4 2011). Unfortunately, TNT’s renewal of the show included a substantial budget cut and corresponding cast reduction.
Even so, the current incarnation has lost none of the character-driven drama and authentically crafted stories of what life must be like policing the means streets of Los Angeles. This critically acclaimed drama returns to regular programming on Tuesday nights starting January 4th. And I, for one, hope it stays around for many seasons to come.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, a film teacher, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.
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