Review of Southland on NBC

Pilot Watch: Southland

In addition to Harper's Island and Parks and Recreation, tonight also brings a new police drama to TV. Southland starts tonight in ER's old time slot. I recently checked out the first episode (which is also streaming online), and here are my initial thoughts:

What's it about? Set in Los Angeles, the story is about the police officers that patrol the sprawling city and the criminals and victims that affect their lives.

Who's in it? Ben McKenzie, Michael Cudlitz, Regina King, Tom Everett Scott, Kevin Alejandro

The good: It makes sense that a show slipping into the time period occupied for so long by ER would have the same feel: It's a big ensemble drama with lots of characters to meet; it's got high production values; it's a sweeping story that keeps moving, covering multiple cases in the first 40 minutes. The acting is generally strong, especially from King in one scene near the end. It's definitely ambitious, attempting to cover a good deal of the problems plaguing Los Angeles in just a single episode.

The bad: Some of the dialogue is downright cringe-worthy, and it can feel like a paint-by-numbers version of a cop show as a result, with characters saying things like, "This is a front-row seat to the greatest show on earth." Just because the characters are well-established from the start doesn't mean I want to spend more time with them, and a few — especially the most sexist of the bunch, who were given a lot of harsh lines but few redeeming moments in the pilot — just rubbed me the wrong way. It's a little like The Wire Lite, which just made me want to pull out my DVDs of The Wire instead.

Will I watch? I might check in from time to time. I'm curious to see the structure of future episodes, because the first one is very focused on McKenzie's rookie cop character and his mentor, but I assume the show will branch out before long.

To check out some photos and a preview clip, just read more.

Photo courtesy of NBC