The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Television Collision: NBC Goes South (On Southland)

Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer

ImageI know what you’re thinking: haven’t I wailed on NBC enough? The definite answer is: no. So I am going to wail on them some more. I know it is amoral to kick someone, when they are down, and NBC is firmly established as “down” among the Big Four, but I believe it is okay to kick someone who is down and begging to be kicked some more; just the way NBC is these days.

By now everyone interested in TV has heard about the move I am about to bemoan: NBC has canceled Southland. Now, in and of itself that is not a remarkable story. Shows get canceled all the time, even better shows than Southland get canceled all the time. Case in point: Life last season. (And yes, that was also the nitwit brains over at NBC who did that!)
What I take issue with is the manner in which Southland was canceled, because it speaks a language of disrespect for a medium I happen to love.

For one moment let’s remember here the kind of show Southland was. A cop show, kinda dark, kinda murky, kinda gritty, but not cable TV dark, murky and gritty. It didn’t bite off anything it couldn’t chew and treaded familiar ground somewhere between The Shield and NYPD Blue. Southland was a character driven show and the characters were just starting to become interesting, when Season 1 ended. How you can even call six episodes a “season” is beyond me anyway. That’s ridiculous even by Summer TV standards, but apparently that is the term people are going with for this mini-series-like stunt.

Southland had a great ensemble cast, with established talent (Michael Cudlitz, the guy you have seen but can never name) and new talent trying to find their voice (Ben McKenzie of The O.C. fame). It was a show that needed to grow into itself, to settle in and then break out. Much like a teenager growing into an adult, sometimes the show tried too hard to be cool and came off silly, but when the writers stopped trying to impress, they pulled off some great dialog and lingering moments.

ImageIn any case, not too many people watched Southland, but I am certain that could have changed if NBC had put the slightest effort into it. They renewed the show for a second season and then pushed back the premiere date to October, so the show wouldn’t have to compete with everyone’s favorites returning.

But with the delay also came a new time slot: Friday nights at 9 p.m. Everybody knows that is the TV graveyard shift. Good shows have tried and failed in that time slot. Fridays just aren’t good days for television, people are busy getting a drink and starting the weekend.
Yet the least NBC could have done was give Southland a chance to prove itself in that time slot. It’s not exactly like NBC has so many hit shows on their hands they don’t know what to do with themselves.

And yet, after the ludicrous stunts NBC has pulled in the past (need I mention the whole Friday Night Lights debacle?), they outdid themselves once again. They simply decided one day to halt production on Southland, because it was “too dark” for a 9 p.m. time slot. Well, push it to 10 p.m. then, you say?! Any normal network would, but see, NBC hired this one guy to save them and he is occupying their premium hour of airtime for adult drama. There’s simply no room for shows with a bit of brains on NBC, because Jay Leno has to put his potato head on your screen every weeknight at 10 p.m.


Duh, can’t you see I’m awsome?!

This ingenious programming left the producers of Southland with the unpleasant job of walking on set last week and announcing that everyone was out of a job basically immediately. Shooting on the sixth episode of Season 2 was to be wrapped up, but whether these episodes will ever see the light of day is dubious. NBC certainly won’t have an interest in it, because how would it look if they argue they don’t have room for the show in their schedule and then they make room for it anyway?

The best Southland enthusiasts can hope for is that another network (maybe FX or TNT) will be smart enough to pick up the show, because thanks to this controversy it sure has some notoriety to play off of now.

The more worrying thing to take away from this tale is this though: While money has always played a role in getting shows (and movies) made (remember the reason Fastlane got canned?), these days the factor of how much money a show can rake in is grossly over-considered. Everything has to pay off NOW, has to have good ratings NOW, has to have tie-in potential NOW, has to have found its voice NOW. The TV market is as cut-throat as businesses come and it’s a crying shame. For some reason I remember more shows used to be good, back in the days when Felicity could pull a 2.9 season average and yet get renewed for two more years.

However, I do believe we, as the consumers, have a choice, in TV more than ever, considering all the possibilities to watch it (live, TiVo, online etc.) The choice is simple: how much more power do we want to give “the money” before we start to rebel? This isn’t even a question limited to TV, it goes for movies as well. How long will we stomach the drivel and remakes and reboots and comic book adaptations and PG-13 television shows (which is apparently what NBC is specializing in these days) until we say “Enough!” and stop spending money on them, stop TiVo-ing them and start watching quality shows like Mad Men en masse? How long until the bubble bursts for studio bosses like it burst for real estate moguls and financial sharks a while ago?

I know it’s easier said than done, but believe me, you can do it. I actually haven’t spend a penny on the Spiderman franchise, nor have I ever wasted an hour of my life watching One Tree Hill. It’s easy, you just have to start somewhere. And then make the conscious decision to go out (or online) to spend fifty bucks on the DVD box set of the first two seasons of Mad Men or on The Wire or on Buffy. It feels so empowering and liberating.

To close, I want to thank you, my readers, for letting me vent. Methinks next week I shall wail on NBC for the disaster that is their new show Trauma and then I will officially boycott the network that has sunk lower than even Fox ever managed to. 30 Rock be damned!




Recommended Collisions with your Television

(combine at will, all times EST, only new programming listed)


Tuesday, October 13th
 8 p.m.  NCIS (CBS)
 9 p.m.  NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS)
 10 p.m.
 The Forgotten (ABC)
   The Good Wife (CBS)
Wednesday, October 14th
 8 p.m.  So You Think You Can Dance (Fox)
   New Adventures of Old Christine (CBS)
   Mercy (NBC)
   Hank (ABC)
 8:30 p.m.  Gary Unmarried (CBS)
   The Middle (ABC)
 9 p.m.
 Modern Family (ABC)
   Glee (Fox)
   Criminal Minds (CBS)
   Law & Order: SVU (NBC)
 9:30 p.m.  Cougar Town (CBS)
 10 p.m.
 Eastwick (ABC)
Thursday, October 15th  
 8 p.m.  Bones (Fox)
   Flash Forward (ABC)
   Vampire Diaries (CW)
   Community (NBC)
   Vampire Diaries (CW)
 8:30 p.m.  Parks and Recreation (NBC)
 9 p.m.
 Grey's Anatomy (ABC)
   The Office (NBC)
   CSI (CBS)
   Supernatural (CW)
   Fringe (Fox)
 9:30 p.m.  30 Rock (NBC)
 10 p.m.  Project Runway (Lifetime)
   The Mentalist (CBS)
   Private Practice (ABC)
Friday, October 16th
 8 p.m.  Ghost Whisperer (CBS)
   Ugly Betty (ABC)
   Law & Order (NBC)
   Smallville (CW)
 9 p.m.
 Medium (CBS)
   Monk (USA)
 10 p.m.
 Psych (USA)
Saturday, October 17th
Sunday, October 18th
 8 p.m.
 The Simpsons (Fox)
 9 p.m.
 Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
   Dexter (Showtime)
   Desperate Housewives (ABC)
   Family Guy (Fox)
 9:30 p.m.  Bored to Death (HBO)
 10 p.m.
 Mad Men (AMC)
   Brothers & Sisters (ABC)
   Cold Case (CBS)
   Californication (Showtime)
 10:30 p.m.  Entourage (HBO)
Monday, October 19th
 8 p.m.
 How I Met Your Mother (CBS)
   House (Fox)
   Heroes (NBC)
 8:30 p.m.  Accidentally on Purpose (CBS)
 9 p.m.
 Lie to Me (Fox)
   Gossip Girl (CW)
   Trauma (NBC)
   Greek (ABCFam)
   Two and a Half Men (CBS)
 9:30 p.m.  The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
 10 p.m.  Castle (ABC)
   CSI:Miami (CBS)