First Impressions


Aired on: NBC

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

            When it was announced that ER would be going off the air after this season, people wondered what would replace it in its Thursday 10PM EST timeslot on NBC.  What could possibly be placed in that timeslot that could do half as well as the drama about doctors in the emergency room at one of Chicagoís busiest hospitals?  How about a drama about the men and woman of the Los Angles Police Department that just happens to be created by the makers of ER?  The new NBC drama, Southland, was much hyped as we came to the ER series finale, but would this cop show be equal to the task of filling ERís shoes?

            Southland stars Benjamin McKenzie (best known for his role as Ryan Atwood in The O.C.) as Ben Sherman, a rookie officer just out of the Police Academy learning the streets of Los Angeles from his training officer, Officer John Cooper (Michael Cudlitz).  His first day on the job is definitely one to be remembered Ė a traffic stop of a former friend, a dead manís body ravaged by the dogs he once owned and a noise complaint turned deadly.  In addition to Benís storyline, we are introduced to a few other officers in the LAPD:  Detectives Sammy Bryant (Shawn Hatosy) and Nate Moretta (Kevin Alejandro) are working to solve the case of a teenager critically injured in a drive-by shooting while Detective Lydia Adams (Regina King Ė fans of 227 will remember her as Brenda Jenkins) searches for a missing little girl.

            I was worried that Southland was going to be one of those shows that received way more hype than it was worth.  Happily, I can announce that I was wrong.  This show is worth all the hype and then some.  Remember the first episode of ER Ė new intern arrives on scene in the midst of a very busy emergency room to learn the ropes and decide whether this is what he wants to do for the rest of his life?  Well, thatís pretty much the premise of Southland in a nutshell, only with cops instead of doctors.  This is ER mixed with Third Watch (fans will remember Coby Bellís character learning the ropes from his NYPD training officer in the premiere episode).  There is plenty of action for action buffs, suspenseful storylines for mystery and drama fans, and a boatload of drama for all those ER fans looking for a new dramatic series they can sink their teeth into.

            What I loved about this episode is the way the three stories covered in the premiere episode actually all tied into each other via one single thread Ė Officer Sherman.  If you watch the whole episode intently, you will discover that Sherman actually passes a girl on the street playing with a ball toward the beginning of the episode.  That girl is the very same individual that Detective Adams is searching for throughout the rest of the episode.  The vehicle from which the drive-by shooting occurs is the very same vehicle parked in front of the house that Sherman and Cooper are dispatched to for a noise complaint.  Very clever way to tie things together.  I also got a few chuckles at the references to 90210 and The O.C., but I hope they donít continue on that thread in upcoming episodes.  It is cute for the opener, but taking an inside joke too far can be a bit much for fans.

            After one episode of Southland, I can honestly say that I will definitely be tuning in next week for more.  This is definitely the perfect drama to fill in the ER timeslot.  I predict that the makers of ER have another hit on their hands and itís the cop drama known as Southland.


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