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?

Southland Conference Call

What could be the last new episode of Southland ever will air tomorrow night on TNT at 10 pm. This makes me sad. I was, however, able to listen in on a conference call with Michael Cudlitz and Ben McKenzie, which made me quite happy. The pair talk a little bit about the final episode (and get in to some minor spoiler territory by talking in general about one scene), what it’s like to shoot in Las Angeles, the cooperation they get from the LAPD, future paths for their characters, and the show’s chances of renewal (Cudlitz thinks its a sure thing; I hope he’s right!) Check out the entire call below the jump, and be sure to catch the season finale tomorrow. I hear there will be a pretty exciting rooftop chase…

***

Pittsburg Post Gazette:  Hi guys, thank you for doing the call. I had a quick behind the scenes question. Ben when you jumped over that building was there a wire on you that got the raise and I assume the same for the guy who didn’t make the jump?

Ben McKenzie:  They all used wires but I just said, you know what, man just do it by myself. No, that’s not true.

Michael Cudlitz:  I threw him over.

Ben McKenzie:  He threw him over. That was the wire, yeah there was nothing – there was no netting or anything below but there was a wire there was a – about 130 feet up so there was a crane a 150 foot crane that had a wire attached to it that was hooked to my back and a couple of guys on a pulley.

There was no one, you know, pushing me over or catching me on the other side but there was a pulley there was a wire on my back so I was safe. Even doing that was a bit of a battle with the Warner Brothers safety officers who were none to pleased that an actor would actually do this but it was actually – it was a hell of a lot of fun.

Pittsburg Post Gazette:  Okay and then my quick follow up was have the producers talked to you guys if one hopes there will be another season what directions your characters are going to go in particularly since it doesn’t appear they are paired up anymore.

Ben McKenzie:  Michael?

Michael Cudlitz:  Well they haven’t really gone into any specifics. I think they – they’re not sure yet a lot of that is going to have to do with the success of how many they just picked up for and those things.

I think they’ll go back in and decide all of that later, but I think that door has been left open for many, many changes including and not limited to the ones that you see at the end of the episode.

Ben McKenzie:  I think that is a perfect (answer).

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Southland Catch-up

SOUTHLAND: 3.8 “Fixing a Hole”
SOUTHLAND: 3.9 “Failure Drill”

I’m terribly sorry for being so lax in my Southland postings for the last few weeks. I admitted in my last post that I was turned off by “Sideways,” and I hoped that the final three episodes would step up their game. I caught up on the last two weeks last night and I’m glad to say that both were great. I won’t go into a deep review of either episode, but I’ll touch briefly on a few points that I appreciated.

  • In “Fixing a Hole,” Sammy nears a breaking point after Nate’s widow takes her small family back to El Paso to live with her parents. Sammy kidnaps the man who he thinks killed Nate, takes him out to the middle of the desert, and makes him dig a ditch, but thankfully doesn’t have the coldness of heart required to shoot the man in the back of the head. Instead, he leaves him out in the wilderness to find his way home. I’ve got to figure that this will come back to bite Sammy later. In the meantime, though, he seems to have started to find some measure of peace, as we can see when he agrees to paint his “nursery” the same color as the baby’s room in his wife’s house.
  • And while Sammy seems to be finding some peace, Officer Cooper is unwinding rapidly. He takes too many pain pills before his shift and becomes erratic and unreliable as a result. Sherman tries to batter down his defenses a bit and get him to talk, but it only makes him clam up more. According to Ben, there are only 9 days left in his probationary period, after which Cooper will no longer be his training officer. I’m sure, though, that the last episode will show us some more serious repercussions for Cooper’s drug use. Someone, I think, is going to get hurt.
  • Regina King is so good in this show; I’d continue to watch it faithfully if the entire show was just about Lydia. She did a great job in “Fixing a Hole” in a slightly humorous plot involving babysitting an alcoholic witness. She was even better in “Failure Drill.” I loved her interaction at the shooting range with her future date (and her partner’s son, as we would later find out). Even better, though, was her shootout with the gun-toting, bullet-proof vested psycho in the factory at the end of the episode. A very exciting scene, and very appropriate that the advice she got at the shooting range came in handy to save her life.

I’m not sure exactly what will happen in the final episode next Tuesday, but I am really looking forward to it. This season was very well done over all. I think the show really benefited from the narrow cast and increased focus on only a few characters. I really hope it has the ratings to get renewed. If it does, I’d love to see the writers dip a little bit more into the personal lives of the characters when they’re off duty, which was done on occasion in the first season. All in all, a great season, and I’m thankful TNT gave this show another ten episodes. Here’s hoping for season 4.

Southland: Guess you can’t win them all…

SOUTHLAND: 3.07 “Sideways”

Well this is infuriating. I had a nice long post written up about this episode of Southland.  I went ahead and clicked “Publish” and WordPress published the post blank. Everything I wrote vanished into the ether. So, let me apologize in advance for being relatively short here. I’m going to try to recapture the main thrust of my original post. To put it short: this was my least favorite episode of Southland ever. Lydia and Sammy’s stories were OK; Sammy couldn’t identify Nate’s killer and is clearly at the end of his rope, while Lydia had a very affecting scene with a dying witness but later learned that her former partner sold crime-scene pictures to the tabloids that she wound up taking the fall for (that scene didn’t really work for me; Russell wasn’t contrite enough, considering the history between him and Lydia.)

But anyway, the real problem with this episode was the scene between John and Chickie, right after Chickie and her partner hit and killed a woman with their police cruiser during a high speed chase. The entire scene began with mournful “why am I a cop/it’s all my fault” cliches, followed up by way too much background exposition (it sounded like Chickie was reading her background blurb off a writer’s notes: “I didn’t want to become a cop, I wanted to be a surfer, but then I got pregnant, and then…” It was too much!), and then all wrapped up in a bow a “This is why you’re a cop” speech from John that sounded like a pale imitation of his awesomely motivational encouragement of Ben at the end of the premiere episode of the series. The entire scene was too fast, too expository, and too focused on such a secondary character (this could have worked last year during her crisis of confidence, but Chickie’s hardly been in this season) that it had almost no emotional impact at all. It all seemed so hollow and fake that it actually gave me a bad feeling about the rest of the episode as a whole. That’s fine, I guess, as every show will have an off day. There are, however, only three episodes left in the season (and possibly the series depending on the ratings) so I hope we don’t see anything like this again.

Southland: Out of Control

SOUTHLAND: 3.4 “Code 4”

Gotta say, I didn’t see that coming. I’ve been avoiding Twitter, and other Southland related news for a while, not for any particular reason, but just because I haven’t been looking out for it and haven’t been online as much as usual over the last couple weeks. For this reason, I didn’t expect this episode of my favorite cop show to be so momentous. Adams is flying solo in this one, but I’m going to skip over her plot because it’s pretty standard. Sherman deals with a day full of rookie mistakes, and in the end gets chewed out by Cooper, but I’ll skip over them too. In this post, I just want to talk about Sammy and Nate.

When the episode opens, and we see a distraught Sammy slumped in a chair in the hospital, and then hear a woman’s anguished scream, I assumed something happened with his wife. Maybe they discovered that he was the father, but then she subsequently lost the baby. Instead, though, it’s Nate who is lost to us, victim to a bat, (or lead pipe, or some other kind of blunt impact weapon) over the back of the head, swung by an angry gang-banger.

Much like he did in last season’s “Run Sammy Run” episode, Shawn Hatosy as Sammy Bryant turns in an outstanding performance. The anguish in his face as he hears Nate’s wife scream is heartbreaking; equally heartbreaking is when he hugs Mrs. Moretta after she hears the news, clearly getting as much comfort as he’s giving. Perhaps my favorite part of the episode is the panicked heroism Bryant displays, as he tries to drag an unconscious Nate away from an angry mob, while simultaneously shooting his gun into the air to scare the mob away and trying to use his own body to shield Nate from stray punches and kicks.

The fateful scene is so well done, and like all the best action scenes in this show, does an excellent job of establishing a sense of low-level menace that quickly ratchets up to panic, confusion, and sheer terror. The scene begins with Sammy and Nate driving through some part of the projects when a flying bottle shatters with the sound of a cannon shot on the windshield of their car. Sammy wants to let it go but Nate says they can’t. They get out of the car and start bantering back and forth with a group of nearby gang-bangers who, presumably, are angry because Nate and Sammy busted one of their buddies for murder earlier in the episode. Everything seems normal, if not a bit tense, until Nate begins to turn around to return to the car and someone slams him in the back of the head with a lead pipe or bat.  Everything goes to hell from there. It’s sad that only moments before the fight breaks out, Nate holds up four fingers to the police helicopter circling above, indicating a code-4, or for us laymen: “Under control, no further assistance necessary.” If only that were true.

You feel bad for Nate, and the family he left behind, of course, but I feel especially bad for Sammy. His life is now in complete ruins. We’ve already seen how the situation with his wife, her lover, and the pregnancy of undetermined origins affected him on the job. Nate was pretty much the only person left in his life, who we see at least, who cared at all about him. I didn’t see much of Sammy in the previews for the next episode, but I hope the show spends some time looking at how he deals with the aftermath.

UPDATE: I’ve embedded the final scene from the episode here. You should, um, watch it. I don’t know how much longer it’ll be on YouTube. You can always watch the whole episode online at TNT.tv, which you should do too.

Southland Returns

SOUTHLAND: 3.1 “Let it Snow”

TNT’s Southland returned to the airwaves (though maybe cable box is more appropriate) last night, and I hope you all watched it. It was a great way to start off the season, and this episode already ranks up there as one of my favorite of the series. I don’t think I’m going to head into a blow by blow recount of the episode, but I have a lot of random thoughts that I’d like to share.

  • The show’s new focus was evident immediately. From here on out, it will be all about Officers Cooper and Sherman, Detective Adams, and Detective Bryant. All the other characters we knew from the last couple of seasons will still be there, but on a limited basis, so don’t expect too many in-depth stories about Moretta’s daughter, Salinger’s shattered marriage, or Sammy’s wife smoking pot with the neighborhood skaters. While I didn’t mind those stories in the past, I really like this new narrow focus. It made the cases in this episode seem particularly engaging and exciting.
  • Cooper’s back problem is getting worse, as we can see, and now that we know his supply of pills has been cut off by the ex, I am sure that things are going to get quite bad for him very fast.
  • On a related note, it’s been fun to watch the relationship between Cooper and Sherman evolve. Sherman’s not a rookie, and it seems like Cooper’s realized that and is starting to treat him with a level of more equal respect.
  • Adams’s new partner is going to drive her nuts. I wonder how long the writers will keep her around? All season, or will Adams have a new partner almost every week like she did last year?
  • I don’t have a whole lot to say on Moretta and Bryant’s case, but I did get a bad feeling for Sammy when he returned home and his crazy wife told him she was pregnant. The look on her face was not one of joy, so something has to be up. Did she change her mind about having kids?
  • The shootout scene between the officers and the bank robbers was thrilling. What a great few minutes of excitement. The whole “bullet proof vest over the squad car” technique was touched on briefly by Michael Cudlitz in my interview from a few weeks ago. In the end, one of the fleeing robbers shoots himself in the head with only Officer Sherman as a witness. He’s seen some pretty ugly things since he started on the force; I wonder when they’ll start to wear him down?
  • I’m glad this show is back, and despite some of my prior reservations, I don’t think that it’s missed a beat. I can’t wait for the rest of the season.

 

Exclusive Interview with Michael Cudlitz of Southland

Hey, remember how I said Southland is returning to TV on January 4? I hope you do, because I’ve seen the first episode, and the show is leaner and more focused than ever. In fact, I think that episode (“Let it Snow”) might be the best one of the entire series so far.

A week or so ago, I had the chance to talk to Michael Cudlitz (Officer Cooper) about the upcoming season. We talked about the changes to the show now that it airs on TNT, the path of his character this season, and a number of other things. Check it out below. I’ll be back with more Southland related stuff later in the week. I hope this show gets support, because I feel really positive about this season. Watch it on January 4. Please. Don’t make me beg.

* * *

The new season of Southland… are they considering this season 2 or season 3?

I think they are advertising it as season 3.

Okay, and if I’m not mistaken, this will be the first season that was created fully under TNT’s umbrella, is that right?

Correct.

S0 did anything change in the way the show was created or filmed or shot, or anything like that, during the production process?

I think the only change that happened from the shows that we were producing before… I understand there were some budget changes, I don’t know exactly what they were; they don’t discuss that with us. But everyone out in the ether world seems to know exactly what it is. I’m always amazed at the sort of information that they have and totally amazed sometimes at how wrong it is. I don’t know the specifics of what the numbers are. I do know that when you’re shooting only ten episodes, you do get a lot more time to prep the season and you get to approach the season shooting just ten episodes so you get to approach it as a whole, with a beginning, middle and end. And I know that everything they have submitted to TNT, nothing has been really changed, or they weren’t told they couldn’t do anything. So, just from a purely practical standpoint, I know that what they call the “notes” sort of process that they would typically go through with another network was pretty painless and from there the outlines were approved and they just started writing the scripts. From what I understand, TNT has left John Wells and company alone, so that in itself is a huge change from being on any network. Other than that, the storytelling is a little more focused than it has been. They’re going to focus on telling the stories through the eyes of myself, Ben Mackenzie, Regina  King, and Shawn Hatosy but that’s not to say that everyone else that was on the cast prior… they’re all going to be around, just maybe not to the degree that they were before. But everyone’s still here and the show is tighter and better than ever in my opinion.

Yeah and you know, you mentioned the ten episode run and the focused nature of the season and I just had the chance to watch the screener a couple of days ago and I thought it was fantastic…

Oh, great!

…and I did notice that it seemed quite a bit more focused and streamlined and I really liked that a lot so I guess that goes to say about the progression of this season and I really think it also speaks to the kind of success that a lot of shows on cable have been having lately with the shorter runs and the more focused storytelling and I’m really looking forward to seeing that in this season.

Oh awesome.  Yeah I also think that it opens up for the studios… Typically a show overseas, I lived in England for a year, and their series would only run ten or thirteen episodes. That’s their typical season, because back kind of a time commitment. So in producing them this long, they still have the option to sell the series as a series with a shorter run overseas and that’s typically what they get over there, so I think it works for everybody.

(read more after the jump)

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