TNT cancels ‘Southland’ after cop drama’s fifth season

Senior Television Writer
05.10.13 42 Comments

“Southland” has gone end of watch, as TNT has, unsurprisingly, opted not to renew the often brilliant cop drama.

“TNT has made the difficult decision not to renew ‘Southland’ for another season,” the network said in a statement. “We are enormously proud of ‘Southland,’ which stands as one of the best police dramas ever made. Executive producers John Wells, Chris Chulack and Jonathan Lisco, along with creator Ann Biderman and our partners at Warner Bros. Television, have given us five seasons of powerful, unforgettable storytelling, for which we are deeply grateful. We also want to thank the amazing cast for their impassioned, no-holds-barred performances, and the production team for their tenacity shooting on the streets of real-world Los Angeles. We wish everyone associated with
‘Southland’ the very best.”

The cancellation isn’t a surprise. Ratings had been very low this season, and three of the four leads – everyone but Michael Cudlitz – had signed on to do pilots for next season. And as I wrote last month, the finale was such a perfect ending for the series – and particularly for Cudlitz’s tragic hero John Cooper – that I almost preferred the idea of it not continuing. Canceled, Cooper committed suicide-by-cop, which is a terrible but appropriate ending for him; renewed, and he likely would have pulled through, implausibly returned to the job, etc.

“Southland” was the rare show to benefit from budget cuts. The NBC version of the series had too many characters, and was trying to do too many things to do most of them – other than action and atmosphere, where it always excelled – particularly well. Forced to cut most of the cast and focus on a handful of partnerships, the series became much tighter, much stronger and much more unsettling. As the show largely lost interest in plot and focused on an anecdotal storytelling approach, the actors got meatier stuff to play, and the performances by the remaining regulars – especially Cudlitz, but also Regina King, Shawn Hatosy and Ben McKenzie (plus extended-stay guest stars like Lucy Liu) – were exceptional.

“Southland” on NBC was a show I found somewhat interesting but wouldn’t have missed if TNT hadn’t come along to save it. “Southland” on TNT is a show I will mourn, even as I believe they ended it – intentionally or not – in appropriate, honest fashion.

What does everybody else think? After the finale, opinion was mixed between those who wanted the show to continue and those who agreed that Cooper’s apparent death was the right ending; a month later, where does everybody stand?

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