It's about to happen again, I can feel it. Yet another of my favorite television shows is going to get canceled and disappear from my continually shrinking "to watch" list. Seriously, I get that one man's trash is another's treasure, but why do the truly great shows never seem to find an audience?
A few years ago it was The Black Donnellys. The year after that it was Journeyman. Next came Life. And now... probably the best of the bunch: Southland. Maybe it's just coincidence that all of these shows originally aired on the much-maligned NBC network, or maybe not. Brilliant shows all. Add to these the disappearance of ABC's Pushing Daisies and my prime time viewing enjoyment has been severely inhibited over the past few seasons.
For those unfamiliar, Southland is yet another cop show. This one, however, more closely resembles popular hospital dramas such as E.R. and Chicago Hope (and, I'll say it... Grey's Anatomy... pardon me while I clean the puke out of my mouth) in that it's an ensemble show. It follows in the footsteps of the great Hill Street Blues (which set the precedent for ensemble cop dramas) and the underrated High Incident.
But it's better than all of those. And it's only been on for 13 episodes.
Some history: the show premiered on NBC in the late Spring of 2009. Its first season ran only seven episodes, probably largely to the fact that NBC can't keep a non-Law & Order show on the air for much longer than that. So then NBC picks it up for 13-episode second season. But, largely due to the Jay Leno fiasco, NBC cancels the show for being "too dark" after six episodes have been filmed, but none aired.
Anyway, TNT buys the show in toto from NBC and re-airs the first season in a lead-up to the six episodes of the second. The final episode aired last week and now fans of Southland anxiously await TNT's verdict concerning renewal. The show did well, but not well enough to be a shoe-in. And here we are.
Seriously, this gritty look into the LAPD is the best ensemble cop show I've ever seen (and is definitely a candidate for best cop show, period). Extremely well-written, with realistic dialogue (heavy subjects are often casually dismissed, while frivolous topics often take up entire conversations), documentary-style camera work (though I'm tired of hand-held camera, the show's use of digital cameras lends to its tone), and character development that not only provides subplot, but pervades into the main plot.
I've no idea how realistic the portrayal of the show is (I've never been a cop), but it seems far more so than anything else... including that "gritty" (I use this word, but I do hate doing so) NYPD Blue. Maybe The Wire has it beat, but I've yet to watch all of that particular show. And, besides, HBO has a leg-up on everybody.
Still, I do hope TNT does fans of the show a favor and gives us a third season... or the rest of the second season. There are too many character threads left hanging, and I just have to know what happens. The show has done well enough to double TNT's ratings in its timeslot, and it (to the best of my interpretation) is not losing money for the network. So why not?
And besides... it made me fall in love with Regina King. Like... totally.