Saturday, April 11, 2009

Southland Debuts with Good Storylines, Appealing Characters, and Irritating Beeps

Southland - ER showrunner John Wells' latest creation - debuted on NBC this week. The LA cop show has an appealing ensemble of characters, promising story lines - and distracting beeps.

The good stuff, first ... Rookie Officer Ben Sherman (Benjamin McKenzie) and his mentor John Cooper (Michael Cudlitz) make a good team. The talk Cooper gives Sherman after Sherman makes a righteous kill - you have a front row seat to the most real action, a chance to make a difference in this world with your every move - was one of the best I've seen of this kind of scene. It's difficult for any cop story to be shocking and original after The Shield, but Southland had some nice twists, and a pace reminiscent of Hill Street Blues. And the dialog was--

Punctured by beeps. In a big step backward from NYPD Blue, it seems you can't even have a cop say "asshole" on network television these days. So we're treated on Southland, instead, to "ass[bleep]" any time an officer wants to voice such an opinion ... and that's the least of lacerations.

Here's a message to NBC: if you're so afraid of the FCC and Congress, get out of the television business. You do a disservice to your viewers, and freedom of expression, when you kowtow to unconstitutional FCC regulations. Southland clearly has a story to tell - let its writers tell it.

As it is, viewers are leaving network television for cable and the Internet in record numbers. People want real emotions, real language, real people in their fiction. If NBC wants to continue to be a significant player in the presentation of cutting edge, important entertainment programming, it needs to get its collective head out of its [beep].

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