“Look sharp, act sharp, be sharp. These guys coming out of prison? They’re buff, been on drugs. You do what they teach you in the academy, you will die. Knucklehead wants to take your gun. So if it’s you or some 300-pound naked guy on PCP, you take his ass down any way you can. You ride with me, you back your badge.”
There probably isn’t a group of people who have been profiled more than the men and women serving in the LAPD. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why. It’s a large city with an incredibly diverse population. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt any that Hollywood’s a part of this particular asphalt jungle. So we get to see a lot of L.A. or New York cops on television. Even long before Jack Webb was asking for the facts and only the facts, the cops of L.A. have had more than their fair share of screen time in film and television. With that in mind, it is awfully difficult to do anything new with the LAPD.
Police officers and police groupies, or dedicated crime drama connoisseurs, will recognize that the episode titles are phrases often heard in police dispatches. Items like “See The Woman“, “Unknown Trouble“, and “Sally In The Alley” are familiar to these crowds. So, from the beginning the series wants to put you in the seat in a way we haven’t really seen in police shows since Adam 12 or The Rookies.
The first season of Southland is, unfortunately, a very brief one. You get 7 episodes on 2 discs. But, it’s enough to introduce you to the characters and get you looking for more. Officer John Cooper (Cudlitz) is a veteran patrol officer. He is now working as a training officer for rookie officer Ben Sherman (McKenzie). He’s a no-nonsense officer with a reality-based philosophy of the streets. He’s not interested in Ben’s book smarts. He wants to sharpen his street skills, and he’s going to be looking for what level of commitment Ben is willing to give to the job. In his mind a cop becomes a cop because they don’t know how not to be a cop. The focus of the show is on these guys out in the street. Other officers include Dewey (Howell). He’s an alcoholic and a hotshot who is just a hair’s breadth from getting run out of the force. His partner Officer Chickie Brown (Bareikis) is running out of patience and might just turn his behind in. The precinct also has a few detectives who get some screen time here. Detective Daniel “Sal” Salinger (McGrady) is the leader of the detective squad who has a few personal issues, not the least of which is an out of control teenage daughter. Detective Adams (King) is a black female officer who cares too much about the people she’s hired to protect and serve. Unfortunately, we get too much of her tumultuous love life. She’s also taking care of her elder mother. Nate (Alejandro) and Sammy (Hatosy) are the young detective partners who still have fresh ideals and a heck of a nonstop work ethic.
Each episode usually begins with one of Cooper’s sage lessons in copology. The cases are all pretty much straightforward. This series is less about the cases and more about the cops and the procedures. It’s not without its light moments. There’s an episode that features two 911 calls. One is a woman who calls 911 just to show her elementary school age daughter that it really will bring the cops. Another calls 911 when her favorite fast food joint runs out of chicken nuggets. You can guess it’s going to try Cooper’s nerves. There’s a bit of tension between Cooper and Ben. Ben is an obvious Beverly Hills kid, and Cooper harbors some resentment questioning why Ben wants to be a cop, but also where he developed his mad takedown and shooting skills.
You’ll quickly grow to love the characters and the solid writing and performances that bring them all to life. It’s that element that makes you certain that this series has a long, bright future ahead of it.
Each episode is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1.Those of you with access to HD network signals have already seen this nice transfer. If you have only experienced Southland in standard TV format, this will be a very nice treat indeed. Colors are quite accurate with flesh tones nearly reference. Much of the show is shot in low lighting, and so blacks become crucial. You’ll find them above average. The only complaint I have has more to do with shooting style than transfer. The handheld camera work gets pretty shaky at times and falls prey to that Blair Witch syndrome.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is dialog pure and simple. It’s clear. It’s perfectly placed. It’s clean.
Southland – Redefining The Cop Drama: (18:26) As much as I really like this show, the crew are a bit too full of themselves here. First of all they act like shooting a cop show in L.A. is groundbreaking. I have news for you guys. Shooting a cop show here in Tampa would be groundbreaking. L.A. features in over half of the cop dramas in American film and television. I have high hopes for this show, guys. But let’s try to be a bit more humble and down to earth. Don’t ruin a great thing by getting cocky on us.
Look. The thing’s only 7 episodes and not a lot of dough. What have you got to lose here? I’ve seen enough cop dramas to have become as jaded as Elvis Presley’s underwear. It really has gotten hard to get me to stop and take notice of a new cop show. This one has, and I highly recommend it to you. It could very well be the next Shield. In case you haven’t heard it before, “So now it’s official.”