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This has been a long time coming....
Over the past twenty years we have seen an absolute invasion of cop shows and crime dramas on the small screen. Some have been highly acclaimed, like "NYPD Blue", and others have been long running, like "Law and Order". But all those shows developed notoriety based on strong characters and overly developed drama, a combination that seemed to be a necessary formula for prime time. The end result was entertainment at the cost of realism and integrity, as show plots became as convoluted as the characters. Think "The Shield", except that show had a very narrow focus. Now there's "Southland", and after the first few episodes it becomes immediately apparent that it is a show that will not be well received because it is vastly different than what has appeared before. Simply put, it will not live up to mass market expectations of what should constitute a crime drama. This is unfortunate. "Southland" offers a different perspective. It is simplistic without sacrificing depth, an effect achieved by cutting out unnecessary interactions and plot developments. The scope of coverage is revolutionary as well, with the portrayal of several different divisions--patrol, homicide, organized crime. The characters are developed and highlighted by both their strengths and flaws, making their statements through the performance of their duty without becoming preachy or pathetic. They are not all perfect and selfless, but instead are presented as basically moral and slightly jaded. It is not a testament as a whole of the LAPD, therefore it does not require the presentation of issues that are unnecessary to the purpose of the show--racism, sexism, corruption. The continuity is beneficial, and unusual enough to be revolutionary. The acting is solid. The greatest surprise is Regina King, who appears as a socially struggling homicide detective, a drastic change from the often overbearing or domineering African-American female roles she has been stuck in. Her portrayal of a heartfelt but complex detective is spot on. C. Thomas Howell delivers an absurdly believable rendition of an alcoholic, barrel-driven patrolman. Michael Cudlitz and Ben McKenzie are the most intriguing, as they are the rookie/veteran partnership who have common integrity and incredibly different backgrounds, yet manage to work together without the clichéd buddy-buddy relationship. And the subject matter? Raw, gritty, realistic, without fanciful or violent action scenes. From the mundane, to the absurd, to the disturbing. The difficulties of police work are highlighted, and obstacles are not always overcome. It has been many years since a television show has delivered a straightforward, pulse-pounding episode, as evidenced by number seven, "Derailed". If you dislike crime dramas or cop shows, you obviously won't like Southland. For the rest, it will probably be a toss-up. Stop looking at what the show doesn't present, and focus instead on what it does offer, and you will discover how exceptional it is.