It’s one thing to kill a show when it’s been struggling in the ratings but hasn’t managed to gain a sufficient foothold with viewers. It’s quite another to pull the plug after the show has been renewed for a second season, several episodes have been completed for said season, and it hasn’t even made it back to the airwaves yet.
Sadly, you’ve probably deduced that it’s the latter which has happened to NBC’s “Southland.”
The news broke yesterday via The Hollywood Reporter, who revealed that production on the John Wells-produced cop series is being shut down before any episodes of its second season even make it to air. “Southland” was originally slated to make its return to NBC on at the same time the rest of NBC’s new shows emerged, but instead of having Season 2 kick off on September 18th, the 9 PM timeslot was filled on that Friday by “Dateline NBC.” So it has remained ever since. Plans had been afoot for the series to come back on October 23rd, but…well, obviously, those plans changed.
You barely need to read between the lines of Wells’ statement on the matter in the Reporter’s article to see that it was uttered through gritted teeth:
“I’m disappointed that NBC no longer has the time periods available to support the kind of critically-acclaimed series that was for so many years, a hallmark of their success,” Wells said. “We remain extremely proud of ‘Southland’ and are actively looking for another home for the series.”
Wells may have managed to maintain his politeness in the midst of being profoundly pissed off, but the same can’t be said of Michael Cudlitz, one of the stars of the show.
PopEater.com offered up a piece about the show getting its walking papers from the Peacock and cited Cudlitz’s comments on his Twitter account, which – as of this writing, anyway – remain out there for the world to see:
* Don’t go quietly…….. People need to know when they fuck up this big. Saw ep 2.1 …….. Dumb fucking people.
* season was so fucking good this year…….. I mean good.
* we are still in production. The shows are very, very good………… They have broken their word. I should know better.
* Honestly, not bitter. Kinda pissed. I still believe the show would have done well on Fri.
I reckon we’ll never know if “Southland” would’ve succeeded on Friday nights or not, but here’s hoping that someone…maybe TNT?…will be agreeable to saving the series and giving it a chance to play out for at least a little bit longer. Wells and his cast sat for a panel during the TCA tour in August, and the plans for the upcoming season sounded promising. This actually was a surprise to me…not because I didn’t like what I’d seen during Season 1, but because when NBC’s President of Primetime Entertainment, Angela Bromstad, talked about it, it sounded like it was going to be turning into a show that would feel more at home on CBS.
“I think we’ve made some creative adjustments. I think they tried to do too much in those six episodes, and instead of re-piloting the pilot and letting the audience get more familiar with these characters, they sort of…you know, it became very serialized, and they were a large, large ensemble. So it’s really going to focus on Regina King and Ben McKenzie and the two sets of officers and detectives and sort of focus on, you know, crimes and how they come together.”
To me, that sounded like they were basically going to be getting rid of the type of stuff that Wells brought to shows like “E.R.” and “The West Wing.” But when we talked to Wells later in the tour and Bromstad’s comments – which he hadn’t heard – were brought up, he first smirked and said, “Well, I think we are all interested in reading what Angela had to say to you the other day,” then tried to calm us down:
The show we are making is the show that we wanted to make. I think that, for people who have been watching the show, they will recognize it as the same show, and I think some of the more serialized elements that began to take over a couple of the final episodes will be less serialized, so that someone who shows up and just watches that episode will fully understand what’s happening in the episode. But we are very proud of the show we were making last year, and I think for most casual viewers of the series, they will not see a significant difference in what the show is bringing to them when they watch it. What they had asked us to do when we were coming back was to make certain that the characters of the patrol officers and the detectives were appearing in every episode. When we originally began planning the series, we had talked about doing episodes that would be solely about one group or one character, and they’ve asked us not to do that in the future or move towards that. They would like it to be an ensemble show, which has all of the characters in it on a weekly basis.
In the end, I think you have to trust Wells’ track record as a producer and presume that he and fellow producer Christopher Chulack would’ve still made Season 2 of “Southland” more than worth checking out.
In closing, I feel like I should offer up this comment from Wells during the “Southland” panel about NBC’s decision to wipe out five hours of programming in favor of “The Jay Leno Show.” I don’t think I’m wrong in suggesting that he might well have offered a more succinct response if the panel had taken place on NBC’s TCA day rather than on the Warner Brothers lot, but whatever the case, it strikes me as ample proof that, although he might not be happy that NBC has kicked “Southland” to the curb, he’s probably thrilled at the possibility that he has a chance to peddle his wares elsewhere:
“Well, you know, it would be disingenuous for me to say anything other than this is what I do for a living, and we lost five hours’ worth of time periods that had been known throughout the history of the network for putting some really terrific shows on. So I wish NBC and Jay Leno well, personally. He’s a very nice guy. But I hope he falls flat on his face and we get five dramas back. I mean, you know, that’s what I do for a living. That’s what I think should be on network television at 10:00. It should be an opportunity for narrative programs to be on the air. So it’s only one more thing that’s going to force more and more dramas into the basic cable and pay cable world. And they made the decision that they felt was necessary to make for financial purposes and whatever other decisions they had, but I hate it.”