Andrew Wallenstein is an editor of The Hollywood Reporter.
Try as NBC might to restore order to its schedule, there is some damage that can't be undone: Southland. It's a gritty show that followed the LAPD on the mean streets of Los Angeles.
When it started in April, Southland seemed as if it was going to follow in the tradition of great NBC cop dramas like Dragnet and Hill Street Blues. But in October, NBC shocked the TV world by canceling it just two weeks before its second season was to begin. Southland was created by one of TV's top producers, John Wells, who seemed to be bringing NBC the kind of praise he had delivered before with ER and The West Wing.
But to understand the show's ouster, one must look to Jay Leno.
Shifting Leno to 10 p.m. five nights a week meant shows like Southland were pushed to 9 p.m., which isn't traditionally when broadcast schedules its edgiest fare. And while NBC initially seemed willing to gamble that Southland would hold up OK, when push came to shove, Southland was pushed out.
Thank heavens for cable network TNT, which snapped up rights to the show. It is replaying the first season beginning Tuesday night. In March, the never-seen second season will unspool.
Now, basic cable may seem like a demotion, but networks like TNT have an increasingly strong track record for nurturing hit dramas, like The Closer and Saving Grace. Plus, cable affords shows the creative license to be as gritty as they want to be — listen for fewer bleeps on Southland in its cable incarnation.
So don't go feeling sorry for Southland. If you want to send a condolence card to the casualties of NBC's implosion, try its local affiliates and maybe Conan O'Brien. But Southland is just where it should be.