Watching TNT’s cop series Southland (Tuesday 10 pm/9 c) puts knots in my stomach, and I mean that as praise. It’s the most engrossing cop series since season one of NBC’s Homicide, and maybe the most raggedy and real. Chaos erupts out of nowhere, zooming in from off-screen, and then escalates into horror or takes a right turn into absurdity. There are several moments in the premiere that illustrate what I’m talking about. In one of them, Sgt. Cooper (Michael Cudlitz), who has just returned to active duty after last season’s personal disasters, and his new partner, Officer Jessica Tang (new castmember Lucy Liu), pull over a young black man for running a red light. The ingrained resentments assert themselves; the driver talks trash to the cops and refuses to get out of the car, Cooper threatens him with violence, the whole situation verges on hysteria, and then suddenly there’s a roar of gunning engines from off-screen. A black sport utility vehicle cuts across several lanes of traffic and screeches to a halt right in front of the pulled-over car, the terrified officers draw their guns … and out jumps the young man’s mother. She just happened to be driving by and saw her son’s car pulled over by police. She dresses her son down for texting behind the wheel and disrespecting police officers and tells him he’ll never drive that car again. “It’s gonna take Jesus and two more white folks to keep me from kicking your ass!” she shouts.
You can read the rest of Matt’s review here at New York Magazine.
A critic, journalist and filmmaker, Matt Zoller Seitz is the staff TV columnist for New York Magazine and the founder of Press Play.