‘Southland’ likely to return next season

LAPD cop drama looks to get greenlight from TNT

The cops of TNT’s “Southland” will protect and serve for another season.

The cable drama is set to end its third season Tuesday — the first 13 episodes were split into two seasons — and with stellar critical support and ratings nowhere near cable’s best but solid and consistent enough for the Turner net to tolerate, the skein will likely return for another tour of duty. TNT will probably make an announcement in the near future.

While ratings have never been particularly strong for “Southland,” except at the very beginning of its run, they’re far from abysmal. Show is averaging 2.9 million viewers, up 5% from the previous season. In the 18-49 demo, 1.3 million are tuning in each week.

TNT is able to continue with skeins such as “Southland” and, similarly, Ray Romano’s “Men of a Certain Age,” because its procedurals are huge profit centers. “Rizzoli and Isles” opened million viewers in July, and Kyra Sedgwick starrer “The Closer,” which is nearing the end of its run, continues to be a top performer.

The ensemble cast for “Southland” runs deep, and TNT is hoping for some Emmy traction this time around in the drama series or supporting acting categories. Many have praised the perfs of beat cops Michael Cudlitz and Ben McKenzie, as well as LAPD detectives Regina King and Shawn Hatosy.

“Southland,” which comes from Warner Bros. Television and John Wells Prods., originally aired on NBC in 2009, but the Peacock, under the Ben Silverman regime, felt it wasn’t delivering enough eyeballs to keep it on air despite strong critical support. In the 2008-09 season, “Southland” averaged a 2.8 rating/8 share in the 18-49 demo and 8.4 million viewers and won the time period in its first two weeks.

To be fair to NBC, those numbers eventually faded, and in one of those rare situations where one network picks up another’s cancellation, “Southland” moved from broadcast to cable.

“We hit the benchmark and are very proud of this past season,” said a source close to the show. “My hope is that TNT will tell us sooner rather than later that we’re coming back.”

Wells and Christopher Chulack are exec producers.