Friday, May 29, 2009

Southland - Derailed and season in review


It took a couple of weeks but I finally got around to watching the Southland finale. The show will come back next year, but in the Friday purgatory time slot effectively ruining what is otherwise a very promising show; completely different from anything else on primetime, network television.

I have written fairly extensively about Southland and what I perceive to be its positives (realistic format, troubled characters, production value) and negatives (lack of character connection, fractured story arcs, annoying voice over at the beginning). All that considered, the season finale showed the limitless promise this show has going forward. The characters (police officers and detectives) are awash with problems like alcoholism, drug addiction, inferiority complexes, relationship troubles, family issues and infidelity while all still being immensely likable. Much of this came through in the finale and the last ten minutes set up some much needed intrigue going into season 2.

One of my big problems with the program was that, while entertaining, gritty and gutty (I sound like a college basketball coach describing his just average team), I never felt particularly compelled to watch on a week-to-week basis. In my mind I knew it would be a great episode, but I just didn't feel connected to any particular story or character. But this last episode began to shift the storyline into some much needed episode-connecting drama. Look, I am not a CSI or Law and Order fan, I don't need a new who-dunit or crazy case each week. I just want to become invested more in the characters. I think a 12-15 episode run next season will add depth needed to make Southland viable. Because I think what it ultimately suffers from is too many things happening at once.

Consider in the season finale we had storylines of witness protection, officer Sherman's girlfriend troubles, Officer Cooper's potential homosexuality, another officer's alchoholism, Detective Salinger's out of control daughter and Detective Russell Clark (Tom Everett Scott) coming back to his wife. While the majority of the episode focused on the witness protection, culminating in 6-7 minutes of the most suspenseful television you will ever see, this is still a great deal of mini storylines to handle in one hour. Plus we began to get some insight into the characters in the various LA gangs. So much going on is tough.

The season ending cliffhanger was one of those, "Wait, what the hell?!" moments I didn't see coming at all and I think that bodes well for Southland going forward. The show desperately lacked intrigue. Thank God for DVR as I will continue watching it on Fridays (this new Jay Leno thing has disaster written all over it) and am excited for a whole season of this cop drama. Derailed was just the kind of episode Southland needed to end on prompting my buddy Pat to ask me excitedly if had watched it yet. Shows need this kind of excitement. Southland pulled it off in spades.

Highlights:
- I love the little things the beat cops run into on a day-to-day basis including the woman calling 911 because McDonald's was out of chicken nuggets and the business man demanding the officers drive him to his important meeting.

- Detective Salinger's desperate, and at times comical, search for his daughter was the kind of thing I think all fathers can relate to in regards to their teenagers. When he asked the other detectives what "sexting" was I made a mental to note to only have boys.

- Just to make sure I didn't understate it before, the scene with the hitmen in the house was as good as television gets.

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