Quick spoilers for the second episode of "Southland" coming up just as soon as my goats clear some brush...
Last week, I favored the pilot of "The Unusuals" over "Southland." This week, the roles are reversed, not because "Southland" was appreciably better than last week but because "The Unusuals" was worse. Whatever issues I have with John Wells' non-"ER" shows (and certain periods of "ER," as well), there's a kind of baseline consistency to them, not just on the technical front (where his people are always the best in the business), but in terms of the kinds of stories, the amount of time devoted to character, the work of the cast, etc.
I don't feel a lot of affection for "Southland" yet -- in part because the characters are still so thinly-sketched that the only name I can remember is Ben, for obvious reasons, in part because so far most of the story beats have played out fairly predictably (the teenage girl witness being attacked, for instance). But I do like the slice-of-life, Joseph Wambaugh-esque take on work in the LAPD. In particular, I think it confronts the precarious nature of most cop marriages more bluntly than any other show of its type in recent memory (most notably when the middle-aged cop's daughter caught him kissing his mistress and was pleased about it), and the emotional toll it takes on people like C. Thomas Howell's character(*).
(*) Can anyone identify what late '80s/early '90s Howell film the photo of him at the retirement racket came from? Clearly, it wasn't "Soul Man."
I'm glad that they're continuing to focus largely on Ben McKenzie and Regina King (with a generous sprinkling of Michael Cudlitz, who carries himself like a veteran cop -- or, at least, like the veteran of lots of cop shows and movies that he is). King's the best actor in the cast, and while McKenzie is more or less playing his character from "The O.C." so far (Fienberg likes to call this show "Ryan Atwood: Year One," in homage to this), it's a part he plays well, and Wells and company showed on "ER" how valuable the wide-eyed rookie character can be early on in this kind of setting.
It has potential, anyway. Then again, so did "Third Watch," and aside from an occasional episode (notably right after 9/11), that never achieved its potential.
What did everybody else think?