Sunday, May 3, 2009

Southland: I love LA

So based on some good reviews, I've been watching Southland, NBC's new policier. (I usually record it on my DVR and watch it while dilating in the morning. Is that gross? You're right!) I had some reservations, because it stars that guy from The O.C., one of the more amiably idiotic recent shows, and also because the previews made it look like it would concentrate mostly on beat cops, and I wasn't sure there was enough of a show there.

Happily, I'm wrong; Southland is the best new police show in years. And it also tells the stories of the detectives in the squadroom.

I have a weakness for two different kinds of crime-based programming: police procedurals, and amiable con-artists with a heart of gold. Thus: Law & Order, and The Rockford Files are both favorites of mine.

Southland is a both a primo policier (it takes a very gritty view of police work) as well as a character-driven drama. It portrays squadroom life as messy, complicated, and confusing--in fact, I'm still sorting out all the characters, because the same group does not appear in each episode. In trying to show a realistic view of the sometimes larger-than-life characters who inhabit the police station, it's easily the best show of its type since Homicide--a drama that while great in its own way, never lived up to the promise of its initial episodes. Southland holds out promise of not falling into the trap of falling in love with its own characters--all though we are gradually seeing them get fleshed out, they are still grounded in the everyday struggles of police work.

But that's not enough to earn a mention on this blog.

What I've liked so far is that there are signs that there will be several strong female characters, led by Regina King's Detective Lydia Adams. It was her character who solved the show's very first case, and in this week's episode, she fights to solve a case that normally falls through the cracks--the murder of an African-American prostitute--and vents her exasperation that LA has over 3,000 rape kits backlogged in their lab.

I like Detective Adams.

On the officer's side, in addition to Ben McKenzie's really not as annoying as I'd have thought Ben Sherman and Michael Cudlitz's amusingly no-nonsense Tom Cooper, we have Arija Bareikis as "Chickie" Brown, a single mother who wants to become the first female SWAT trooper.

I like this show.

Southland has three episodes left in this season; NBC has renewed it for next year. I may even like NBC now.

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