Monday, March 1, 2010
And the dead shall rise: "SouthLAnd" starts second season on TNT
Thankfully, the basic cable network TNT stepped in and picked "SouthLAnd" up. It began re-airing the season one episodes a while back and, starting on Tuesday at 10 p.m., TNT will start showing the unaired season two episodes. I've seen the first two, and they're pretty solid, picking up where season one left off.
Lydia (Regina King, fabulous and criminally overlooked for an Emmy nom) is grappling with the shooting of her longtime partner Russell (Tom Everett Scott). She's also none too happy with the fact that she's already been issued a new partner, the flashy Rene Cordero ("Prison Break's" rakishly charming Amaury Nolasco).
Meanwhile, newbie Ben Sherman (Ben McKenzie) is still learning the ropes, and dealing with his crusty partner, Cooper (Michael Cudlitz).
Every episode of "SouthLAnd" has multiple storylines, and they vary in interest. King's stories are always the strongest, due to her flawless, surprising portrayal of the gruff yet sympathetic Lydia. Yes, the tough-on-the-outside lady cop is a grand TV cliche, but King never lets Lydia feel false. Her melting disdain for her new partner is believable, as is her pain over the real possibility of losing her old partner.
McKenzie, still best known for the teen soap "The O.C." is also good as the conflicted Sherman. An overbearing scene in the second episode, when Ben has dinner with his vapid sister and her friends, is given weight by McKenzie's performance. This is an actor who plays quiet anger as well as anyone on TV today.
There are flaws to "SouthLAnd," mostly visible in the storyline involving detectives played by Kevin Alejandro and Shawn Hatosy. The actors are good, but the characters aren't as interesting as Ben or Lydia. An ongoing storyline in which they tail a drug lord played by Wood Harris is fairly dull so far (it doesn't help that Harris played a similar character on the far superior urban drama "The Wire").
But, on balance, "SouthLAnd" is smart and involving. I'm glad it's found a second life and hope it thrives in its new home.