NBC cancels ‘Southland’

Cop drama had been set to bow Oct. 23

“Southland’s” sophomore season on NBC has been scrapped before it started.

NBC informed Warner Bros. Television Thursday that it was axing the John Wells Prods. skein. Neither the studio nor the Peacock would comment on the reasons for the move, but insiders say the dark nature of the cop drama was a factor.

The series, which stars Michael Cudlitz and Ben McKenzie as L.A. beat cops, chronicles the underbelly of crime and police work in Los Angeles. It had been set to bow Oct. 23 in the Friday 9 p.m. “Dateline” is currently in that hour, and NBC has been content with its ratings. Newsmag drew a 1.8 rating in adults 18-49 last week, with almost 8 million viewers.

Net figured “Southland” might not do much better than that, and the license fee paid to Warner Bros. would be much more costly than continuing to air “Dateline.”

Decision to table the show clearly grows out of the unavailability on the Peacock of the 10 p.m. slot for edgier dramas. “Southland” was well received by critics in a midseason run last spring, when it filled the Thursday 10 p.m. slot after “ER’s” swan song.

Wells and Warner Bros. intend to shop the show to other outlets.

“I’m disappointed that NBC no longer has the time periods available to support the kind of critically acclaimed series that was for so many years a hallmark of their success,” Wells said in a prepared statement. “We remain extremely proud of ‘Southland’ and are actively looking for another home for the series.”

NBC said it will do its best to air the episodes that have already been shot and that the quality of the show wasn’t a factor in the decision. The show is in the middle of shooting its sixth episode.

“Southland,” exec produced by Wells, Ann Biderman and Christopher Chulack, performed respectably at the outset of its seven-episode run in April, but viewership softened by the end of the season.

The show will shut down after production on its sixth episode is completed. The actors will remain under contract for a while, giving producers some time to pursue a new home for “Southland.” And because so much of the show is shot locally on location, shutting down won’t be as costly as it would be for a drama with numerous standing sets.

FX would’ve seemed a logical home for the show, but it has its hands full with a half-dozen new series greenlit for next year. ABC has long been in the hunt for a cop franchise and may have some interest in “Southland” on the strength of the show’s critical buzz.

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