Because I review a whole tv series rather than individual episodes, there is a chance of spoilers, so if you haven’t watched the whole series yet, stop reading now!
Some TV shows deliver great episodes without hype, flash or following, each and every week. Southland is one of those shows. It manages to deliver a quality show, with great stories, great performances but no huge, over-blown moments of manufactured drama. It’s a show rooted in realism and personal performances, not huge, blockbuster events.
It’s in this personal touch that Southland finds its success. It’s a show about the everyday. It keeps the boring elements in as well as the action orientated ones and its through those moments that we get to know the central characters and care about what they are doing and their relationships with each other.
It’s not a show about one central event. It’s about cops in South LA but the niche to the show is that it represents the everyday lives of these people. The closest relative to the show would be the hit drama, ER, which showed the day-to-day, multi-character stories of doctors and nurses at a Chicago hospital. The difference with Southland is that it is much grittier and raw television, not relying on huge, catastrophic events but quieter, more serious moments that often have a bigger effect.
Due to its very personal nature, the reliance is all on the performances and characters. The appeal of the show is the characters that you follow each week, so great, stand-out performances are a necessity. Southland has this in spades. From the recovering addict, played by Michael Cudliz, who tries to get himself back in the Police Car and back on the streets, to the Homicide Detective, played by Regina King, who struggles with her new pregnancy and its effect on her day-to-day job.
The surprise of season four is the continued growth and development of Ben Sherman, played by The OC’s Ben McKenzie. He has clearly out-grown the moody kid in the teen show and become a solid, dramatic actor who gets a great story arc this season. I thought I was going to miss his double-headers with Cudliz’s John Cooper but his new partner, Bryant, played by Shawn Hatosy, who has stepped down from detective to street cop, has a great chemistry and buddy cop relationship with the previously rookie police officer.
That’s the key to the show and why it’s still a strong, watchable drama after four seasons. Its about the relationships between the characters, the smaller moments throughout people’s days, that slowly build to something bigger. There are events in Southland, like a car-chase/shoot-out or an attack on a police station, but because they aren’t occurring every episode, they are much bigger events. It’s a drama that focuses on the real life and is such a better show because of it.
Overall, Southland’s fourth season is just a continuation of what it has been doing brilliantly from the first episode. Solid performances, great drama and realistic stories which can be light-hearted and hard-hitting in equal measure. It’s refreshing to find a cop show which doesn’t need a strange or unique angle and just relies on the real life to tell some great stories.
Best Episode – Integrity Check: The addition of a documentary crew gives the cops a chance to do some talking head interviews, which always manage to give you a great insight into their actual thoughts and feelings.
Best performance – Ben McKenzie as Ben Sherman
Should there be another season? – Yes. This is solid, quality television and I hope it continues for a long while yet.
Season Rating – 4
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)