Thursday, April 09, 2009

Southland, "Unknown Trouble": Welcome to the PD! This is how it's done in LA County!

I had my say on "Southland" in yesterday's column, so I'm curious for your thoughts on the Ryan/Oliver "O.C." reunion, the language (bleeped or unbleeped), whether or not you think Brenda Walsh's prom date should be cracking "90210" jokes, and anything else you have to say about it. (Fire away about "The Unusuals," too, if you didn't already in yesterday's post.)


Unknown said...

I'll be back next week. I love Regina King, and even though Ben McKenzie had maybe 8 words total of dialogue, I thought he did an admirable job.

And I'm impressed where they went with the senior cop (I guess I'll have to keep referring to him as Bull until instructed otherwise) at the end.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was great (minus the almost unbelievably corny speech at the end). The performances were really good (nobody could sell that terrible speech so I won't blame Cudlitz this time) I thought Ben was great (in a said-a-lot-without-talking-much way). And, of course, I have to admit it was really satisfying to see Ryan getting the chance to finally Oliver. I hope 'Southland' uses more of its original aspects to become something more than a crime-a-week procedural drama.

Anonymous said...

*"finally arrest Oliver."

Boricua in Texas said...

I agree. Ben McKenzie and Regina King were great. But C Thomas Howell was pretty annoying as the requisite male chauvinist pig, and I would really like to see a rookie who does not throw up at the sight of his first dead, decomposing body.

Overall I liked the premiere episode, but I am not necessarily engaged. I may watch again next week, but I may not.

Anonymous said...

Didn't watch the Unusuals, but Southland may be the best new show of the season for me. That's not saying much of course as I haven't seen many new shows since I don't have Showtime to watch the US of Tara, but I'll definitely be back next week. I just hope the ratings were great. What if they were so great that they kept it on Thursdays at 10 and forgot about the Leno crap? Wishful thinking I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

That speech *was* bad. But, Cudlitz isn't, so I'll give it a pass.

He's great, Ben did a great job, Regina King is awesome and so on and so on. I could do without Shawn Hatosy's screwed up marriage and crazy wife, though. I can't figure out why people love writing the crazy wife. The only person it could possibly be fun for is the actress playing her.

The only puzzling thing for me was what is up with Tom Everett Scott's character. I had a minor DVR malfunction during the first scene that he was in, so maybe I missed the intro.

And *finally*. Ryan gets to take down Oliver for being a dick.

Anonymous said...

It aspires to gritty verite, but has to make too many compromises, likely by virtue of being on network TV. Every cop is attractive, every case is noteworthy, with a rookie case killing a suspect on their first day (just like the Unusuals, but that show has a sort of dream logic that excuses it).

C. Thomas Howell was painfully bad. This is not a show that should have viewers rooting for a cop to be murdered...

I think I'm spoiled from watching the Wire. Makes everything else that aspires to realism seem contrived by comparison. Maybe it is unfair to compare a pilot for a series to five seasons of one of the best programs of all time, but it is just lacking, and it feels like the problem is endemic to the show we've been given.

Raz said...

I liked it a lot. For me, it worked because of McKenzie and King. McKenzie can say a lot without any lines, and he's fun to watch (and not just cause he's so pretty, even though that helps). And Regina King's scene in her kitchen at the end was perfect - it would have been easy to amp up the melodrama but she did a good job of portraying how frayed yet also committed this cop is.

Anonymous said...

Regina King is and always has been the most solid actress in anything she's been in. I didn't know she was in this show until this morning. They are not using her name in the ads. I hope they turn this into the King and McKenzie show. Everyone was OK but they need these two way out front. I'll watch next week.

SteveInHouston said...

I'll keep at it. I admire what they're going for, even if it was larded up with some schmaltz.

I found some of the dialog and visuals to be unnecessarily murky, even taking into account that they were really going for full-on verite.

I like the cast, though it's hard for me to see McKenzie doing something other than obsessing over Marissa, and Cudlitz doing something other than drunkenly reciting one of his poems to Martin Blank. "... for a while."

Robin said...

I thought it was solid pilot episode. I agree with the other comments about Regina King and Ben McKenzie. Of course, I loved Ryan Atwood, so that probably carries over a little :) I'll definitely watch again next week. Looking down the road, if it lasts that long, I think they will need to find a way to at least occasionally overlap the detectives we are following with the beat cops. Not ever week, as that would be wholly unrealistic, but at least for a few episodes in a season.

As for the Unusuals, maybe it's just that I can't see Perrineau without hearing "Waaaaalt!" or see the mustache guy (can't think of his name) without seeing Chandler's roommate, but I had no interest in the show from the endless promos during Lost. Interesting that you thought it was the better show.

Anonymous said...

THE WIRE renders ALL future cop shows a waste of time to watch.

erin said...

I watched it with my parents and sister, an we all enjoyed (my parents and I were big NYPD Blue fans). And I loved Ben McKenzie--interested in hearing the character's backstory. Network TV definitely means they have to cheese up some of the details to make it fit with other network shows, but I thought it had an interesting, gritty visual style, and they didn't overly explain things--they just threw you into the action.

Can't usually stay up until 11 to watch, but i think i'll check it on hulu.

And you can't compare network cop shows to the Wire or even the's not even fair. They're on different scales. I did enjoy the bleeping a little bit--not everything can be "damn!" and "crap!" In fact, I thought for a 10pm network show it was pretty ballsy. I liked it. And go Regina King!

...And the Unusuals looked to quirky for me, and I avoid shows that proudly display their quirks, for the most part.

LStock5034 said...

Southland definitely has potential. I liked it enough to stay with it. I too am a Ryan Atwood fan, but I didn't recognize Oliver till I read it here!

The Unusuals was an interesting show, and I'll stay with it too. When I used to watch Lost, I thought Harold Perrineau was the worst actor on the show but he has redeemed himself. He was pretty good on Unusuals and not a bad actor after all.

Anonymous said...

Wire people: Don't you have an elsewhere to be?

Southland: I thought it was great--not least because they hired Kevin Alejandro, although you could hardly tell from the pilot--and it's already a season pass off the pilot, which I truly don't do much these days.

Dean Winchester said...

As a devotee of the Wire, it did seem odd to hear another show co-opt (beep)bird as a term of endearment for a criminal. Seemed like they were trying to hard.

It did however make me want to go find the YouTube clip of Off. Colicchio suggesting to Bodie the manner in which he can utilize a forty.

Hal Incandenza said...

I was surprised how much I enjoyed Southland (mostly because I assumed it would be terrible, or just forgettable). Of course, it helps that they used The National's "Fake Empire" (amazing song), to close the ep.

Question: why do you suppose "asshole" was both left untouched (early in the ep) and bleeped (later on)? Are they only allowed to use it once per ep (much like the PG-13 rule that you can have one f-bomb in movie and maintain your rating, provided it's not used as a verb)? I wasn't a regular NYPD viewer, but when I watched, I seem to recall it being peppered with (uncensored) uses of "asshole." Is this residual Nipplegate (still?) at work? Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

I tuned in for Ben McKenzie but I was pleasantly shocked to see so many other excellent actors. Why didn't they advertise Regina King as one of the leads? It was a wonderful surprise! I loved the way she played her character. Between Regina King and Ben McKenzie, I'll definitely tune in again. Great solid cast.

Anonymous said...

Wire had a crappy pilot. I laughed at the ending. So forced. Made me not want to go any further. Haven't watched Southland yet. Maybe this weekend. Maybe.

annie said...

Living in the Southland, I found it really depressing. Pit bulls and tatoos fit. Once backup was called, there needed to be helicopters shining spotlights to keep it real. Can the writers of all TV shows just lay off the abducted, raped, killed child storylines - seriously, as a parent, I'm just sick of it being aired as entertainment. Luckily the show is on at 10pm and I won't be up to watch it very often.

blinda said...

Is that Jimmy Barrett I see there? He's everywhere! :D

I do like the cast and the characters in Southland, so I might watch a couple more episodes just to see if it's something I'll stick with. But as others have point out, it is rather difficult to make a gritty type cop show on network now that we've seen what cable channels have done with shows like that.

Haven't watched at The Unusuals yet - somehow, it seems like it's trying way too hard to be all cutesy, quirky and funny - though I might be tempted to now that I know Perrineau and Goldberg are in it.

Unknown said...

Finally had a chance to watch Southland and The Unusuals.

First, Southland.

I'm not sure I really loved the format for the pilot. For a pilot like this to start with a "go back in time" situation just seemed odd. I didn't like the narration. Look, I understand, at least, I think I do, why they did it that way, but I thought it lost a bit of the emotional emphasis they were going after.

Now, what did I like? I think, say, post-ER, viewers demand a lot more realism, or perceived realism, to their shows. I liked the grittiness - I saw someone compare it to the Shield, and there were some visual similarities (although the Shield it was not, and not even close). I felt pathos for the little sister, knowing what she had earlier. I liked the training officer enough, although I agree the lines were cheesy. Ben was good. Regina King was good. I couldn't tell what they were trying to do with Tom Everett Scott. I liked the cop to cop interaction.

Now, one last thing I didn't like - I didn't like how the Ben and his training officer were so intertwined in everything. It seems ... unrealistic. Driving past the little girl that would get kidnapped. Stopping at the car that shot the kid. I'll chalk it up to being a pilot.

Overall - I liked it enough that I think I'll be back if I have the time. There's just been so many cop shows that I'm not sure I'll go out of my way to catch it, particularly since this seems like a procedural (couldn't feel any serialized elements to it yet that would attract me).

The Unusuals -

What I liked - some the banter was good. Looking past the quirkiness, I liked how Harold Perrineau and his partner expressed feelings, or their inability to express. I liked the setup - we get it out in the open that, there's a serialized element, but you have to watch. That catches my attention. We know there's a rouge cop, we know there's an investigation, but how does it resolve itself? There's enough for me in the storyline to care.

What I didn't like - the overt quirkiness. I hated the dispatch radio. I hated the signs of "Unusuals". Sure, 2nd squad may get that nickname, but the first thought that passed my mind was, thank you, I know the show's name. I didn't like the "former Yankee" aspect, which is something they really could've adjusted by, say, making him a minor leaguer. Takes away some of the realism that I think cop shows need.

A couple other complaints, but this is my biggest one with the show - I'm not all that interested in a society girl wanting to forge her own path story. I like Amber Tamblyn's acting, but her backstory ... doesn't interest me unless they can kick it up a notch. Make me care. Was there something that happened that led her down this path? Why her?

In saying all that, I like stories, and there's enough. I'm pretty certain I'll watch this, considering the competition and considering I like Lost.

Karen said...

Southland: I, too, tuned in for Ben McKenzie (he really generated a lot of goodwill for me based on both "The O.C." and Junebug). I could barely get past the preponderance of cliche, though. Dear lord. The Training Day ripoff, the tired old sexist jokes, the gangbangers (I'm a NYer, not an Angeleno, so for all I know the gangbanging may actually point to searing authenticity, but geez every freakin' cop scene in L.A. seems to be about gangs...), the mother's speech about "when you live here...", the endless speeches about what the Job is really all about, the bait-and-switch with the creepy neighbor and the Armenian family--it just all felt like I'd seen and heard it a million times before. There were things I didn't get: Tom Everett Scott. Why the cops started automatically cuffing everybody at that party since no cop there seemed to have heard the license plate announcement before raiding the place. How Regina King's character put together a row of ants trying to drag a dead cockroach back to their home with the possibility of a dead girl (that'd take a lotta ants). Why Arsham knocked her out and then just sat there waiting for her to wake up before confessing.

But it wasn't all suck. I really liked the scene between McKenzie's character and the little sister in the hospital waiting room. I liked the young girl who, unaccountably, wanted to be a cop and was smart enough both to know what the cops needed and how to get it to them without betraying her family's code. I liked Regina King and Shawn Hatosy--mostly because they, like McKenzie, come with my interest already engaged.

I'll give it another shot, but it's on the bubble, so to speak.

The Unusuals--like I said, I'm a NYer, so maybe I just like shows set in my town. I liked the quirkiness. I liked the characters. I loved the dispatcher (if anyone things those calls weren't based on things that actually happen here, you've never spent enough time here). I really liked all the actors, especially the guy who played Walsh, whom I'd never seen before.

It wasn't perfect. The scene with the young man in the wheelchair felt as cliched as parts of "Southland." The whole subplot of the brutal cop with the heart of gold was a little tired. I would have appreciated a little bit more of an explanation of how Adam Goldberg's character walked away unscathed from the double-barrelled shotgun.

But it got my attention. I like Amber Tamblyn. I like Adam Goldberg. I like Terry Kinney. I like Harold Perrineau (nice "Oz" reunion there!). I'm curious where they're going with the Cole/Granger story. I like the NYC locations, which were actually in NYC.

So, while Southland is on probation, the Unusuals is definitely on the squad.

Beth said...

I was an O.C. diehard, but seriously, Ben McKenzie--do you have another expression besides "stunned" or "morose"? But I have to hand it to the writers/directors/everyone--the episode successfully induced enough of a "Southland" flashback for me--I lived there for several years and finally got out--that I may not watch again. Preferred The Unusuals, overall.

Anonymous said...

actually the term sh*% bird was coined way before the Wire. going back to cops in the 50's

Anonymous said...

Didn't recognize "Oliver", so that's a non-issue.

What is it about Ryan, er, Ben, that his characters are always the strong, silent type?

I remember that John Ford once confessed that his secret of getting great performances out of John Wayne was making sure that the Duke's characters didn't have much to say.

I'm wondering if they are deliberately limiting Ben's lines because they think he can't act, or if he was simply cast in this new strong/silent role because of his success in the similar role of "Ryan" in "The O.C."?

Anonymous said...

I really liked this and so did my husband, we both liked it much better than The Unusuals.
I wish Tom Howell's character wasn't so brash and hope he gets better lines later on...for what he had to work with, I think he did a good job with it. I don't want to hate his character!