Thursday, 8 November 2012

Southland series four starring Michael Cudlitz and Lucy Liu PREVIEW

Rookie cop Ben Sherman (Ben McKenzie) in Southland. Pics: C4
Rating: ★★★★

More4: starts Thursday, 15 November, 10pm

Story: Ben, Sammy and Dewey chase an armed man into a school. Later Ben finds himself working with cynical street cop Danny Ferguson whose poor attitude affects their work.

Sometimes a criminal enterterprise is uncovered in a backwater, quietly getting away with murder and shooting up the neighbourhood without drawing much attention.

Southland is such an enterprise, a raw cop series about the LAPD that should be notorious as one of the best crime shows on TV, but it's been overlooked because it hangs out on the forgotten sprawl of More4. A bit like Justified, which is unjustifiably overlooked on 5USA.

Officers Copper (Michael Cudlitz) and Tang (Lucy Liu)
Well, hang onto your sofas because another heartstopping chase through the mean alleys and streets of Los Angeles is kicking off, as Southland gets unholstered for season four.

Southland – brutal and sometimes very funny
It's a full-throttle, brutal and occasionally very funny tour in the company of the uniforms and detectives on the frontline in LA. But this is no lame police procedural, it's a characterful study of the personalities coping with a sometimes very dirty job.

There's plenty of station-house banter – some of it not very PC – there is some hanging around the donut vendor drinking coffee, there are car chases, and a lot of face-offs with violent, mean and often stupid gangs and criminals.

We rejoin the show as Officer John Cooper returns to duty after back surgergy, being teamed up with a new partner, Officer Jessica Tang – Lucy Liu on secondment from Elementary. It's a good performance from her, showing a tough exterior we've rarely seen.

Lou Diamond Phillips – with attitude
Lydia is plagued by a former schoolfriend who grew up to be an addict and police informer, who now can't help placing herself in danger. And Lou Diamond Phillips has joined the beat as bad-attitude cop Danny Ferguson, who stands by while street kids poke the body of a gunman with a stick.

Ben is seriously riled that Danny hasn't secured the scene, but then, as Danny points out, the guy who shot this victim also died of his wounds. So, case solved.

The antagonism between the men builds into a locker room bust-up, with Danny telling the less streetwise Ben, 'The job is to shovel this city's shit so the good people don't know it's there.'

Inspired by Joseph Wambaugh
Be warned, the violence can be shuddering – men hit by trucks, beatings, shootings. All this juxtaposed with black humour. It's reminiscent of the novels of Joseph Wambaugh, the former LAPD cop who wrote brilliantly about the job in books such as The Choirboys.

Southland was created by Ann Biderman, who started her career writing for NYPD Blue. In the States, it moved from NBC to cable network TNT, where it was less heavily censored.

It's a bold, aggressive show, perhaps the closest thing to The Shield that we've seen in a while, and has a lot more fire in it than anything produced in the UK.

After a man bursts into the police station firing a shotgun, a cop asks, 'Who's the shooter?' And the reply comes with a shrug, 'Some guy.'

Says it all.

Cast: Michael Cudlitz John Cooper, Shawn Hatosy Sammy Bryant, Benjamin McKenzie Ben Sherman, Regina King Lydia Adams, C Thomas Howell Bill 'Dewey' Dudek, Roxana Brusso Alicia Fernandez, Jamie McShane Sgt Hill, Lucy Liu Jessica Tang, Dorian Missick Ruben Robinson, Lou Diamond Phillips Danny Ferguson, Carl Lumbly Joel Rucker