The ratings made it anything but a slam dunk, but I have to believe that a mix of undeniable quality and the imprimatur of exec producer John Wells were responsible for TNT’s decision to order another 10 episodes
of “Southland,” the cop drama that the basic cabler rescued after NBC punted it.
The new episodes of “Southland” that began airing in March were topnotch, with Michael Cudlitz and Ben McKenzie continuing to be simply outstanding as the two cops — the gnarled, wily veteran and more idealistic kid — patrolling L.A.’s mean streets. Smart, funny and occasionally quite touching (see the episode with the young kid who gets drawn into the gangs), it’s hardly a reinvention of the copshow, but one executed at such a high level that it has earned a place among TV’s best dramas.
Of course, NBC gave up on the show when it was in the midst of the Jay Leno 10 p.m. experiment, and my guess is a series this dark would have struggled on the network. So in a roundabout way, this is a happy outcome for all involved — and probably bought “Southland” at least 10 episodes that the series wouldn’t have otherwise got.
Oh, and speaking of slam dunks, here’s a thought: Save the third season until next spring in order to cash in on the male audience for the NBA playoffs. The show’s more compatible with that than any of the other dramas currently on TNT’s schedule.