Southland: Community

SOUTHLAND: 4.03 “Community”

Last week, I mentioned that the cops and detectives of Southland see crazy things every day, but none of it ever seems contrived. Unlike every other police procedural on television, everything in Southland seems like it could really happen. I was thinking about this a lot this week because I happened to watch Castle on Monday because there was nothing else on. I don’t mean to hate on the show, but Castle is like any other police procedural out there; two mismatched partners use their smarts and a little bit of luck to investigate a crime that ties up in a neat bow by the end of the episode. The most obvious suspect usually isn’t the guilty one; instead, the guilty party has a convoluted, well hidden motive that our heroes usually only uncover in a House-like epiphany, like so:

Minor Character: Can you get me a glass of water?
Our Hero: Water….? <far off look in eyes>
Minor Character: Yeah, do you mind? Just out of the tap, it doesn’t need to be filtered.
Our Hero: Of course! The killer hid his gun in the pool filter? <dashes off>
Minor Character: Never mind, I’ll get it myself.

I know that most procedurals like Castle aren’t aiming for the same level of verisimilitude as Southland, but the contrived formula that they follow is just so boring to me, especially since it’s followed, to a greater or lesser degree, by almost any show related to cops, detectives, or crime on television right now. This is why Southland is so refreshing to me. This week, Lydia and Ruben investigated the murder of a corrupt mortgage lender who was ripping off people in her own neighborhood. They immediately assumed the killer was one of her victims, and they were right; she was murdered by the son of one of her victims. In any other procedural, the dogwalker would have done it because the victim stiffed her on a tip six years before. In any other procedural, the murderer wouldn’t have been a damaged, drunk, homeless war veteran who stumbled so pathetically away from Lydia and Ruben that they merely waited until he tripped on his own feet, then walked casually down the street to catch up with him. In Southland, we see cops going about their work days and seeing all sorts of weird, dangerous things that seemingly happen at random. We see detectives follow natural, logical leads that point to suspects who are flawed, sometimes sympathetic people rather than devious criminal masterminds. And all through this, we see how Sammy, Ben, John, Jessica, Lydia, and Ruben react to the stress and brutality of the world around them. Southland feels like a living, breathing show; the rest of the police procedurals might as well be mannequins.

Southland: “Underwater”

SOUTHLAND: 4.02 “Underwater”

Since the move to TNT, and the slimming down of the cast, Southland has shifted to focusing more often on the day to day experiences of its four main cast members, and less on overarching or deeply personal stories. Underwater was a very good, “daily event” focused episode in which we saw a good bit of weird stuff through the eyes of Cooper and Tang, most notably:

  • Naked guy casually jogging down the street.
  • A woman hit by a car and killed; her head winds up caught in the car’s wheel well.
  • Meth head running down the street while on fire. He apparently burst into flames while watching porn in an X-rated video store.
  • Giant roidhead guy shrugging off a taser shot and facing down three cops at once.
  • Crazy old lady with two guns and a bulletproof vest shooting at her neighbors and the cops for no good reason.

All these weird, dangerous situations pop up suddenly, but in a way that’s not contrived at all. It really drives home to the viewer that cops out on the beat face all sort of weird, bizarre, dangerous situations that suddenly interrupt their lunch or their daily banter with their partners, or any other routine moment in a normal looking day.

Sammy and Ben spend most of the episode teaming up with two other beat cops, one of which is an even greener rookie than Ben. She makes a mistake and lets a suspect escape, and while Ben, Sammy, and the rest eventually find him, he nearly takes off Ben’s head with a baseball bat in the process. I liked the explosive anger Ben shows towards the woman who was sheltering the suspect; Ben’s always viewed himself and his fellow police officers as helping hands in the community, but the woman he argues with looks at them more like an invading force than anything else. The conflict sets up a nice scene in which Ben, Sammy, and the two other cops share their reasons for becoming police officers. Ben, of course, was driven by idealism, but his idealism is fading fast, as we certainly see when he loses control and punches out the fifteen year old girl who spits on him in the parking lot. Unfortunately, the girl’s friends caught everything on video, so I have a feeling that we might see Officer Sherman show up on YouTube in the next few episodes. It will be interesting to see how Ben reacts to to some of this negative attention.

I wonder if Ben’s experience on the streets will turn his idealism to cynicism. We see from Lydia’s plotline that even though she’s been through a lot, she is not a total cynic and still believes that the system usually works. Disposing of the evidence in her murder case, as her new partner subtly hints at, would be wrong; it’s not her job to decide a suspect’s fate, no matter how much she might understand his reasons.

Southland: Wednesday

SOUTHLAND: 4.01 “Wednesday”

Southland is finally back. This has been one of my favorite shows of the last few years, and I’m so glad that it still has a home on TNT. The end of last season shook up the dynamics of the cast a little bit. Sammy, now a street cop, is out on the beat with Ben, who’s no longer a boot but still very much a rookie. Lydia is now partnered up with junior detective and war veteran Ruben Robinson, and Cooper, now out of rehab, is riding with Officer Jessica Tang.

Just a quick note on all three of the partnerships: So far, I like each one a lot. There’s some interesting chemistry between Cooper and Tang, especially because both of them have something to prove to the other (Cooper wants everyone to know he still has what it takes to be a cop, while Tang wants it to be clear that despite her previous run-in with a dangerous criminal, she can handle what the job throws at her). Sammy and Ben get along like brothers. We didn’t see a lot of Lydia and Ruben working together in this episode, but I already like him more than her abrasive older partner from last year. Lydia’s first partnership with Russ was one of equals; she took more of a junior role in her partnership with Ochoa from last season. This year, she’s the older, wiser detective, so I’m looking forward to seeing her teach the newbie.

Ben is still very much a rookie, and follows regulations to the letter which causes some friction with an older, less strict officer. Sammy tries to mediate between the two as best as he can, but the intra-cop squabble is interrupted when some crazy guy rushes into the police station and starts shooting. We’re not given much of an explanation as to why this happens (which actually makes thematic sense with the rest of the episode; think about the perp getting hit by the truck, Lydia’s CI turning up dead inside the cooler, or the crazy man who tries to hang himself in front of Cooper and Tang. There is senseless, almost insane violence all around) but it’s a tense, heart-pounding scene.

I’m very glad Southland is back, and I can’t wait to see how the dynamics between the new partners evolve this season. Based on one episode, Lucy Liu was a great addition to the cast. I think it’s going to be a good year.

Michael Cudlitz and Lucy Liu Talk ‘Southland’

Southland, perhaps the best (and only) non-procedural cop show on TV, comes back tonight at 10 PM on TNT. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of this show. I’ve already seen the first episode, and it’s really great. I’ll have more thoughts on it tomorrow morning, but in short, the writing is as sharp as it’s ever been, and Lucy Liu looks to be a great addition to the cast.

A few weeks ago, I got to sit in on a conference call with Michael Cudlitz and Lucy Liu, who got to talk a bit about their character’s new partnership and what’s in store for both of them this season. Some selections from the call are below the jump. Be sure to watch tonight at 10; you won’t be disappointed.

*****

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A Belated Thursday Open Thread: Season Finale Cliffhangers

As more and more seasons are ending, I’ve got more and more questions about how you like your finales. We covered your favorites last week, so on this Thursday Friday, I now wonder…

Thumbs up or thumbs down: Season finale cliffhangers

What do you think? Personally, I love them. I love the feeling that all summer I’m wondering what’s going to happen next so that when the season premiere rolls around, I’m really itching to find out more.

Sure, it’s painful, the not knowing. But at some point in the summer months, I push that pain aside and forget about it, just in time for the promos to come back and amp me up more.

Is it a risk? Of course. Sometimes the cliffhanger doesn’t match the premiere. Case and point: Bones. Booth loses his memory, only to find out that in the premiere, six months have past and he’s gotten a lot of it back. What a letdown. But then there are the other ones. Ones that make you wonder if someone’s going to live or die, like seeing poor Tom Everett Scott shot and bleeding on a front porch while everyone celebrates July 4th down the block on Southland. That one makes me tingle with excitement just thinking about it. Or what about the first season finale of Vampire Diaries, when Katherine cuts off John’s fingers and is in the house with Elena. Talk about goosebumps.

Yes, a good cliffhanger can make me happy. But what about you?

image from buddytv.com

Fringe Renewed! Southland Renewed! Huzzah! Hurray!

Sure, there’s been a lot going on this week. Teases of death and heartbreak in Army Wives. Disappointing kickoffs in reality TV (very sad that Antonia went home on Top Chef this week). Horrible weaves in ANTM. Funny jokes. Proposals. Oh, the list goes on.

But all that gets pushed aside because two of my favorite bubble shows got renewed this week. First up, Southland.

Southland got picked up for a new season (ten-episode order) this week, which is fantastic. While the show has always been a favorite on this site (just ask JC), it’s had a rough road. Getting dumped by NBC, then picked up by TNT, only to have a weird “second” season. You know, it’s been a little hard to get consistency. Fortunately, with strong storylines and acting (along with a highly devoted Twitter following), TNT realized what it had and picked it up. Huzzah!

But the surprising winner here is Fringe, which just last night was renewed for a full 22 episode order. This is highly thrilling, especially after everyone assumed the show wouldn’t make it after being put in the ever-famous Friday night death slot. But it pulled through — and with some great episodes to boot! I will admit, I missed the entire second season of the show, but I’m back on the Fringe train, and I’m trying to catch up. Even having missed so much of the story arc, I’m completely invested, so for all you Fringe newbies, jump in now. We’ve got ourselves a fourth season. Can we go ahead and start rooting for the fifth?

Anyway, it’s been a good week for renewals. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for more of our favorite bubble shows!

*images from TNT and Yahoo! TV

Southland Season 3 Finale

SOUTHLAND: 3.10 “Graduation Day”

After the rough episode a couple of weeks ago, Southland has bounced back nicely, and the season finale episode really emphasized this. It was a really good one all around. Officer Sherman’s brutal fight scene with a suspect on the roof of the building was a real highlight; and in true, raw Southland style this rooftop fight/chase ended when the suspect tried to jump over to another building, missed the ledge, and fell eight stories or so down to the ground, with the camera watching almost the whole way. After the fight, we get the best scene of the episode, and maybe of the series, when Sherman blows up at Cooper, accusing (truthfully of course) his training officer of being too doped up on pain meds to be anything but a liability on the street. Sherman gives Cooper an ultimatum: either let me take you to rehab tonight, or I tell the boss to give you a drug test. Cooper finally swallows his pride and chooses the former.

Lydia’s secret relationship with her partner’s son is revealed, and partner isn’t very happy about it. The writers dropped in a bit of dark humor when Lydia’s partner called her a “child molester” for having a relationship with a twenty-eight year old, just as the two detectives were actually investigating a real sexual assault on a fifteen year old. Regardless, things are left a little up in the air between these two.

Sammy sees the birth of his son, and then asks to Sal if he can go back to being a patrol officer. Seems like a dangerous choice to me, with the new kid and all, but he seems to think he can do more good there, and perhaps the time away will let him heal after Nate’s death.

The last scene of the episode was just awesome. It’s morning at the police station, and the officers are headed to their patrol cars. Sammy and Sherman have been paired together, and on the walk to the car, Sammy’s blurting out his own version of the “rookie don’t screw up” speech that we’ve heard from Cooper plenty of times before; all the while, Sherman’s got a look on his face that just screams “here we go again.” I had a smile on my face throughout the whole thing.

So, all in all, a great finale and a very good season. Early rumor has it that Southland will get picked up for another season, so I am really looking forward to where they place Cooper after rehab, and to see how Sherman and Sammy interact as partners. I’d also like to see a little bit more about the character’s lives when they’re off duty. Not too much, mind you; I don’t want this to become a soap opera, or God forbid, the latter seasons of ER, but just a little more insight into the off-the-clock lives of these characters, like we got to see in the first season, would be very welcome.

Anyone else have any thoughts?