I like the texture of Southland, the new cop drama that’s inheriting the long-running home of E/R. It’s a very gritty, very dark, hyper-pseudo-real vision of the bad parts of Los Angeles. It makes you want to invest yourself in its realism.
Problem is, in the midst of its dark situations, it layers itself with cliches. The central character is the new guy who wants to be taken seriously but is struggling with being seen as a rich boy and a son of privilege – you know, just like the lead on The Unusuals. Or the female character in the most recent Cupid. Or… well, you get the idea. You’ve seen it. And in this instance (as well as some others), it comes across as classism and borderline racism. The underprivleged are all destroying each other here, and what we’re really supposed to feel for is the problem of the overpriveleged being faced with the fact that people recognize them as overpriveleged. There are ways to do this without the response being “boo-effin’-hoo”, but the pilot episode certainly didn’t achieve them.
And then, to rachet up the drama, this son of money shoots and kills a suspect on his first day out. His first day. The vast majority of police officers go through their entire career without ever firing a gun, without ever even pointing it at any one. Killing someone your first day out? That just makes this desperate, false play for high drama.
I suspect I’ll watch a couple more of these because of the texture. And I’ll keep hoping it will turn out to be Boomtown. But with the E/R folks behind it, I suspect it will just be dreary and self-important.