L.A. cop drama drawing healthy ratings this season

Although there are still three episodes to air this season, the cops on TNT’s “Southland” are in hot pursuit of a renewal. … and it looks like they will get there.

Also, the cabler is in development on a nonscripted true-crime series to debut in late summer or early fall.

Turner brass — including network topper Michael Wright and Steve Koonin, president of Turner Entertainment Networks — are officially waiting until all the live-plus-7 data is in, but a season five for “Southland” seems a given based on the current number-crunching and critical praise.

Show, about the rank and file of the Los Angeles Police Dept., is from Warner Bros. Television. Ensemble cast includes Michael Cudlitz, Ben McKenzie, Shawn Hatosy and Regina King. Exec producers are John Wells, Jonathan Lisco and Christopher Chulack, who also directs.

Ratings for the current fourth season are up from a season ago, and season three was better than season two. Through the first four episodes this year, the skein is averaging 3 million viewers when including live-plus-7 data. Both the 18-49 and 25-54 demos have also increased.

On Tuesday of this week, for the first time, “Southland” edged ahead of timeslot competitor “White Collar” on USA in adults 18-49.

“Southland” originally began at NBC — filling the 10 p.m. Thursday slot that had been occupied for years by “ER” — with seven episodes in 2009 under the Ben Silverman era. Soon, though, after initially strong returns, the ratings began to wane and the Peacock canceled the skein. TNT swooped in, picked up the series in 2010 and it has been staple on the cabler ever since.

Also working in “Southland’s” favor is the series is a hit with TV critics. That wasn’t enough for “Men of a Certain Age,” though, a year ago when the Ray Romano starrer got the ax. However, “Men” had far inferior ratings to “Southland” and a split-season schedule didn’t help.

With schedule openings for later in the year, TNT will aim to produce a show that is similar in tone to A&E’s “The First 48,” the amount of hours after a crime where a homicide investigation is most critical.

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