TNT made it official this morning: it’s reviving the cop drama Southland, discarded by NBC. Well, sort of reviving. The cable network will air the first seven episodes shot last season, as well as the six that were made for NBC before the network pulled the plug (the rebroadcast starts Jan. 12). After that, we’ll see.
In principle, I love the idea that cable networks are expanding the opportunities for shows that couldn’t draw a big enough mass audience on the broadcast networks. But is TNT really the best fit for Southland?
I wasn’t the biggest fan of Southland last season, although I recognize that part of the problem was that NBC was simply not the right match for the show. Its version of the drama was a kind of watered-down version of The Shield, something that might have been a bold new kind of network police drama a couple of decades ago, before NYPD Blue.
I think some people gave the show credit for what it did considering the network constraints, but when I sit down to watch TV, I don’t tell myself, “Well, this show might have been better if not for NBC, so with that in mind, I shall make myself enjoy it more!” There are too many good shows on TV now for me to bother with the TV equivalent of store-brand cola.
So now Southland, if TNT keeps it, has the potential to become the cable show that it seems it was meant to be to begin with. [Update: I should note, by the way, that this is not just my opinion. Since the cancellation, some of the people involved with Southland said NBC didn't allow them to make the show the way it was intended, namely, as something closer to an FX drama.]
But is TNT the network to make it? Its brand is not big on darkness, rawness and risk-taking, with the exception of, say, Saving Grace—though even that show is moderated by its spiritual streak. The Closer is basically a well-executed network procedural with a couple of very mild shadings to the characters.
This isn’t automatically a bad thing; I’ve seen TNT’s middle-aged-men dramedy, Men of a Certain Age, with Ray Romano, André Braugher and Scott Bakula, and it looks very good. But The Shield it’s not, and I’m not sure there’s the track record to indicate that TNT will handle Southland much different from NBC.
TNT is still growing and developing its brand, though, so maybe it sees Southland as a ready-made opportunity to branch out. Let’s hope so. But for now, I’m not getting my hopes up.