Why TNT must renew Southland

Only days before the season, and possibly series, finale of Southland, the visually hyper-articulate and brutally kinetic LAPD drama that TNT rescued from NBC in the wake of the Jay Leno prime-time experiment, the future of this show remains uncertain. It should not be this way: Southland is in the highest tier of cop shows, of dramas, of any kind of show, on any kind of channel. With its perfect clarity of presentation, its visceral, dynamic, adrenaline-rush aesthetic purity, its ruthless psychological and emotional precision – its violent catharsis – this show stands above all others. It takes nothing for granted, including its viewers. Nothing is extraneous in Southland: it is the definition of spare, minimalist truth. You have to run to keep up, and this is just as it should be. The writers, directors, actors, crew, all of them strip back the unnecessary flesh of typical dramas to reveal the bare bones of reality, of people in unforgiving, challenging situations, whether those situations last a few moments, or for years. Behind it all, Los Angeles rises; the city has rarely been so thrillingly and excitingly used as a milieu. The simple matter-of-factness of the downtown skyscrapers or the Capitol Records building appearing in the shot as the camera whips and plunges and sometimes, sometimes, holds still  for a moment, gives the images a heft and punch they do not normally have. When you think about how many books, TV shows and movies have used the city, this is a remarkable achievement. The show is on its way to other places, in a hurry, so it does not have time to stop and check out the sights; we see them anyway, and they have a greater impact this way. The compelling dedication of everyone involved in this enterprise, from its creator and writer Ann Biderman through the crew, the other writers, to the leads including Michael Cudlitz and Ben McKenzie as the patrol cops, is palpable. Somehow, amidst the fury and the pace, the entire team manage to find oddly moving, quiet codas that expand emotionally inside you like devastating, slow-motion, hollow point mood bullets. You don’t even realize it’s happened as you stare at a pair of sneakers hanging from a phone wire, or a poster of Where The Wild Things Are, the shot held, and held, and you wonder why you are crying. That the Southland team can conspire to pull off such moments along with the wild kinesis of the action is a testament to the creativity of all involved. There are precious few shows that deserve the investment and time of their TV channel: Southland is obviously one of these few. It has an effortless quality and authenticity. These are only some of the reasons why TNT should do what NBC could not, and give Southland the time and space to truly become the show it is meant to be. Because, astonishingly, even though it is already in the top echelon of TV shows, there is more that Southland could give us, if it was given a full season to truly spread its wings and take full, uncompromising flight; to fully explore its interweaving storylines and its large cast of psychologically detailed characters. TNT – don’t you want to be the network that took Southland all the way?

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7 thoughts on “Why TNT must renew Southland

  1. THANK-YOU!! Thank-you for putting into words, some of the thoughts and emotions I have each and every time I see this show. I’ve tried explaining to people just exactly what it is that’s so very compelling….and I have failed. There is something so visceral, so raw, and so true that it is almost unexplainable.
    It is not just another cop show.
    It is SOUTHLAND.

  2. In a nutshell. SouthLAnd is what it is, nothing less nothing more, just a raw side of LA. My favorite show. Thank you for the article and, hopefully, TNT will renew it for its own good, for the show’s deserved justice and for our satisfaction.

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