ER‘s body hasn’t even cooled but its bed timeslot is going to another. Southland premieres this Thursday night, April 9, at 10:00 pm Eastern/9:00 Central on NBC. The cop drama is produced by John Wells, who was also responsible for ER.
Starring Benjamin Hendrickson and Michael Cudlitz, the series follows rookie uniformed officer Ben Sherman of the Los Angeles Police Department and his training officer John Cooper as they patrol the streets and put their lives in danger every day. Southland also stars Regina King, Shawn Hatosy, Kevin Alejandro, Arija Bareikis, Michael McGrady, and Tom Everett Scott.
The pilot episode of Southland became available for online viewing last week after ER‘s series finale. I’ve seen it and while it suffers from typical “pilotitis” – a surfeit of overplotting, characters that are more archetypes than people, and clunky exposition – it was less cliched, gritter and more riveting than I expected.
All of the performances are solid, but Michael Cudlitz stands out. Hendrickson’s Ben Sherman is clearly meant to be the heart of this show, but Cudlitz’s John Cooper is its soul. I was also surprised, in a good way, by a twist at the end of the episode involving one of the characters. I won’t give it away here but I’m intrigued to see how it develops.
With NBC giving over its 10:00 pm timeslot to Jay Leno five nights a week starting in the fall, I’m not sure if Southland has a future on the network even if it delivers solid ratings. The series is too dark for a 9:00 pm show and toning it down while likely drive away the viewers who liked it in the first place. I’m hoping for Southland to succeed in its first season, if only to show NBC that its Leno move is folly and the 10:00 pm hour is still worth programming with good scripted television.
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