First Impression Review: Southland – Another Solid NBC Offering

Minor spoilers.

SOUTHLAND premieres tonight at 10pm ET/PT on NBC.

While I’m still about Kings, I decided to watch the Southland pilot since it was available on Hulu.

Even though I’d rather Kings get the Thursday slot, I guess I can see why put Southland instead. It’s got the John Wells pedigree and it’s a cop show/procedural, which has a better chance at surviving than a glossy, serialized drama, no matter how good it might be.

Now I’ll watch those cop shows once in a while. They aren’t appointment television for me, but I’ll check in from time to time if nothing better is on. I decided to give Southland a try regardless and much to my surprise, I really enjoyed it.

(Some spoilers ahead!)
Southland is a drama about a day in the life of Los Angeles law enforcement. We have Officers Ben Sherman (Ben McKenzie) and John Cooper (Michael Cudlitz) on the beat. This is Ben’s first day on the job and Officer Cooper, as his training officer, naturally gives the rookie a hard time.

On the other side of town, we have Detective Lydia Adams (Regina King) and Detective Russell Clarke (Tom Everett Scott) searching for a missing girl. And across the ways, a drive by has Detectives Nate Moretta (Kevin Alejandro) and Sammy Bryant (Shawn Hatosy) talking to young African-American girls about the gang wars in the neighborhood.

The episode uses quick cuts to go from scene to scene with the different teams in the different LA neighborhoods. It is great seeing the city in this series, which is more than you can say about other procedurals that seem to be limited to backlots and soundstages. It is also great to see the community and how these crimes are affecting them.

The way we go from scene to scene helps keep the pace and energy up through the show. There really isn’t a dull moment during the episode even though many scenes are of our main characters talking, investigating, and all without any kind of scoring behind it.

Which is another thing that adds to the series. There is no music background throughout the episode, until the final moments. This works so well because for most of the episode, we are watching these characters out in the field, fighting crime. Then for the final minutes of the episode, after a long day’s work, we see them going home to their loved ones. We see them out of uniform. And when the music kicks in, it sort of brings everything, literally, back home.

One thing about procedurals is that you rarely get a look inside each character’ personal lives outside of work without it seeming forced or contrived or as little spots during “the investigation.” It is interesting how Southland does it and I wonder if this is the “format” they’ll use each week.

The acting is pretty solid all around. I think the standouts, from what we have in the pilot, are definitely Regina King, Michael Cudlitz and Ben McKenzie.

Regina King brings a sense of awesome, kick-ass-ness to her character as she’s out in the field, but then when we see her go home to either check on her mother or to call it a night, we see that no matter how strong she may be out there, she’s got a soft spot at home.

Michael Cudlitz busts his partner’s balls, but also gives him some wisdom. Already interesting as he is, it will be even more interesting when we see more of his character and how the show addresses him being a gay cop, which I might have missed being included in the pilot.

And Ben McKenzie, who was great in the Amy Adams film Junebug, is far removed from Ryan Atwood of Orange County. His seriousness, yet earnest performance works very well as his character seems to hold a secret from his past while he adjusts to life a police officer and everything that comes with it.

Oh, and there’s bleeped bad words, which was surprising. It actually made it seem like the show was intended for cable, say on FX or something.

So overall, Southland does deliver in its pilot episode and it has a lot of potential.

Whether or not it finds an audience is another story. I think it won’t do as bad as Kings unfortunately has been doing, but you never know. America doesn’t seem to want anything to do with NBC, despite them actually putting on some great shows the last few seasons.

My hope is Southland does find an audience so NBC doesn’t get discouraged from making scripted series and instead decides to fill its schedule with two-hour episodes of its reality shows. But that’s for another post.

Bottom line, Southland is very good.

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