Southland is one of the best cop shows currently on television. It is now in its third season airing on TNT after NBC foolishly cancelled it after only a few episodes. I have to admit, when it first aired on NBC, I was taken aback by the grittiness of the show and all the bleeps that are needed because of the language used. Now, I am so glad it was given a second chance, and I realize that the same grittiness and language are part of what makes the show unique and real. However, the best part of the show are the characters. For those of you who do not watch the show there are some spoilers in the below article.
Southland follows different levels of police working the streets of Los Angeles. The first set of cops are the patrol cops, lead by the team of the “rookie” officer Ben Sherman played by the OC’s Benjamin MacKenzie and his “mentor” officer John Cooper played by Michael Cudlitz. At first you may think that this is just another show where the young inexperienced new guy does not know anything about policework and has to be shown the ropes by another older, wiser cop. There is some of that, but then the show takes it further, giving the two characters rich back stories. They throw at you the fact that officer Sherman became a cop because his mom was raped and he was beat up by the same attacker when he was a child. Then it is revealed that officer Cooper is a closet homosexual who is also addicted to pain pills. When you add these two characters together to partner up and patrol the mean streets of L.A. you get quite a combination.
The second set of detectives are the homicide detectives, lead by Lydia Adams, played brilliantly by Regina King. Detective Adams is the fearless female cop, who is not afraid to mouth off to her superiors, and who eats, sleeps, and breathes her job. That is portrayed in the fact that she has a non-existant love life and is hardly ever home. She also cannot keep a steady partner after her long time partner detective Russell Clarke, played by Tom Everett Scott is shot and injured. She cannot keep a partner because she cannot get along with any of them. That is because she is not a fan of cooperation, as she needs to be the one in charge. Lydia knows how to use a shot gun and is not afraid to use it, yet she also has compassion for the victims and family members of the cases she investigates. That is why she gets things done and solves the cases the other detectives cannot seem to solve.
The last set of detectives are the cops in the gang squad centered on detectives Sammy Bryant and Nate Moretta. Bryant and Moretta are also shown to have complicated personal lives. Bryant’s marriage is on the rocks and Moretta is trying to balance his family life with his job. At the same time, being the great cops that they are, they are not afraid to mix it up with the most dangerous criminals in all of LA to solve murders. Kevin Alejandro, who plays Moretta is a wonderful character actor featured in many television shows over the past few seasons, most recently on Parenthood and True Blood. In fact, according to some sources his job on True Blood is the reason that detective Moretta was unfortunately just written off the show. It is however, the nature of his exit that proves Southland is an excellent television show. The last five minutes of the episode that just aired Tuesday, entitled “Code 4” was some of the most powerful and heartbreaking television I have seen in long time. A truly believeable and amazing acting job was done by Shawn Hatosy who portrays detective Bryant. Moretta’s departure also sets up a great story line for the rest of the season and I cannot wait to see what happens next.
While Southland is in a highly competitive time slot against some other great shows such as the Good Wife, Parenthood, and White Collar, it is really worth checking out. Isn’t that what we have DVR’s for anyway? If we are not using them so that we do not miss out on quality shows such as this one it is a real shame.