Saturday, April 11, 2009

TV REVIEW: NBC's "Southland"

If you like (slash, are capable of tolerating) "Cops" and "America's Most Wanted" (the original reality shows), then you'll like this new cop series. Bearing gritty, documentary-like, guerilla camerawork and hardly any dialogue, the scenes seem incomplete--just cuffed together like a collage of all the big-and-bad in the world: drive-bys known as ABGs (Anybody Goes), child molestation, and fathers soliciting hookers with babies in the backseat.

But despite the drive-by feeling of every scene, the emotion does register. Then again, why wouldn't it? Who wouldn't you tear up at the sight of a mother who lost her child, or a teenager who was shot four times? Unfortunately, at this point, we've only nicked the surface of the main characters. Much like a documentary, the viewer feels like they're on the outside. Aside from the intro—when we felt Officer Ben Sherman's (Benjamin McKenzie of "The O.C." and Junebug) remorse for taking down a thug, who shot an officer three times in the chest, as he crouched over the body amidst chaos, incapable of hearing anything but the silence of death—and the end—when we witnessed the sorrow felt by Detective Lydia Adams (Regina King from This Christmas and Miss Congeniality 2), who solved a missing child's case after finding her dead—there were hardly any solid character moments.

I guess after watching a series like "The Unsuals," which managed to peg all eight of its main characters with cookie-cutter personas, I was expecting a little more insight into who these cops were, instead of a jarring look at what cops must endure in order to protect and serve. They leave a lot to interpretation. From what I gathered:

Ben comes from a relatively wealthy family as his dad spends most of his time lawyering the rich. He takes police work very seriously, doesn't disregard taking a life as a just-cause, and is an impeccable marksman.
• His partner, Officer John Cooper (Michael Cudlitz), is a tough-as-nails hardass who over-criticizes and has a fatalist perspective on life.
Detective Lydia takes care of her mother and finds refuge in solitude after a hard day's work. • Detective Sammy Bryant (Shawn Hatosy from Alpha Dog) has a way with children, and is possibly sterile, since he keeps avoiding his baby-wanting wife.

Also, as I said before, the dialogue is sporadic and they rely too heavily on a gimmicky and distracting bleep sound for expletives, and thoughtful one-liners, like when they described policing the streets as "driving through a sewer in a glass bottom boat." Die-hard police procedural viewers will probably tune in, but I think I'll pass.

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