Ken Tucker's TV Prime-Time TV commentary

Tag: Southland (1-10 of 10)

'Southland' season premiere review: Hot town, hot tempers, hot show

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Southland returned for its fifth season on Wednesday night energetically unrepentant: This is a cop saga at once deeply satisfying (its roots in the best tradition of the oldest, most sere TV police procedurals, such as Dragnet and Naked City) yet stubbornly determined to unsettle viewers with stark frankness and emotionalism. READ FULL STORY

Ken Tucker's Top 20 TV shows of 2012: Here are the second ten, from 'Parenthood' to 'Bent'

Here, as I do every year, I follow up my TV Top 10, which you can find here and in the new, print issue of EW,  with my picks for numbers 11 through 20. Some of you have said these are consolation prizes, but that’s not so. There’s so much good television, that for a few years, I was stuffing my Top 10 with entries that allowed for multiple shows (“Best Thursday-night sitcoms,” for instance, allowed me to sneak three shows into one number – those were the days, eh?) until that started to become unwieldy and ridiculous. (Besides, as a part-time music critic, I like the “Top 20” phrase, with its roots in pop-music radio.)

11. Parenthood (NBC) Monica Potter’s Christina cheating death; Ray Romano trying to get Lauren Graham to cheat on Jason Ritter – great stuff. Julia and Joel adopting Victor – not so great. A show like Parenthood is always going to have trouble juggling its subplots and servicing its large cast, but this season it came damn close to broadcasting its best season ever.
12. Luck (HBO) It got better with each succeeding episode; Dustin Hoffman’s was just one of many finely shaded performances (along with a couple of gleefully over-the-top ones). It’s too bad this series got sidelined; the Michael Mann-David Milch production seemed headed for a victory lap if it had had a chance to run for a second season.
13. Fringe (Fox) The alternate-universe versions of my beloved characters never grabbed me the way the originals did, but this season made a good, strenuous effort to return to the fundamental dynamic that made this series so close to great: Its abiding notion that you take family where you can find it, and that that connection is humanity’s greatest source of love, fear, power, and vulnerability.
14. Sons of Anarchy (FX) Kurt Sutter’s take on Shakespeare is becoming more rigorous, more true to its source, yet also more exaggerated, with each season. This time around, he grounded the inherent absurdity of bikers-with-a-conscience (well, a few of them) with imaginative touches such as a finely drawn character for guest star Jimmy Smits to play.
15. Archer (FX) Dirty, slapstick, suspenseful, complex – what started out as a cartoon of James Bond plus The Man from U.N.C.L.E. has become its own unique piece of animated art.
16. The Walking Dead (AMC) Killin’ zombies: The stripped-back new mandate for the series cut away virtually all of its ponderous, moralizing flab while leaving the heart of its reason to exist – to ask, what does it mean to be human? – intact, throbbing with life.
17. Southland (TNT) The police procedural as a series of morality plays, free of preachment as well as cynicism. Probably the action series most mindful of morality, and willing to dramatize examples of it.

18. Hunted (Cinemax) If creator Frank Spotnitz was going to make a spy series about a woman who could pass as both a nanny and a bad-ass, he certainly was a witty man to cast Melissa George, queen of the lippy pout, in the role. She dove right into this satisfyingly knotty series, executed the fight scenes well, and reminded us why they used to nickname this channel Skinemax. No mean feats at all. READ FULL STORY

Completing 2011's TV Top 20: Ken Tucker's Nos. 11-20 shows, including 'Community,' 'Parenthood,' 'Game of Thrones'...

Here, as I do every year, I follow up my TV Top 10 with my picks for numbers 11 through 20. Some of you have said these are consolation prizes, but that’s not so. There’s so much good television, that for a few years, I was stuffing my Top 10 with entries that allowed for multiple shows (“Best Thursday-night sitcoms,” for instance, to let me to sneak three shows into one number) until that started to become unwieldy and ridiculous. (Besides, as a part-time music critic, I like the “Top 20” phrase, with its roots in old pop-music radio.) I had no problem this year coming up with a clean-cut Top 10; what follows are shows that grazed the list, missed it for reasons I’ll occasionally articulate below, and yet are nonetheless full of value.

11. Community So full of pop-culture allusions, it’s the one sitcom steeped in irony that isn’t smug about its own smarts. The series tried to dig a bit deeper emotionally this season, to warm some of the characters and perhaps increase its audience-outreach without betraying itself. Me, I could do with less Chang, more Britta, and a Jeff who doesn’t sometimes seem a charmingly quizzical bystander.

12. Parenthood This was the season that’s come the closest to juggling its big cast most deftly, providing nearly every character with a strong plotline. If it’s inevitable that Lauren Graham’s Sarah and Dax Shepard’s Crosby – the show’s most bumptious personalities – dominated the latter half of the season, I was glad to see strong showcases for Peter Krause, Monica Potter, and Bonnie Bedelia.

13. Prohibition Ken Burns and booze proved to be a smooth yet exciting combination. The year’s best TV documentary extended beyond the history of Prohibition to chronicle the era of women’s sufferage and the rise of gangsterism as well.

14. Modern Family The nation’s most popular sitcom had some growing pains this season: In an admirable attempt to try to widen and deepen its characters, it bumped into some sentimental moments that didn’t quite work emotionally. But that’s just a sign that MF is not becoming complacent, and its ensemble cast is a match for that of any drama on TV. READ FULL STORY

'Southland' season premiere review: Crime, punishment, and pain

Southland got off to a fine third season last night, reminding us once again that it’s one of the best cop dramas on TV. There was an impeccable mixture of police action and personal interaction on Tuesday night’s season premiere. READ FULL STORY

Place your bets on the Emmys now: Lead and supporting actress in a drama

There may be more talent crammed into the lead- and supporting-actress Emmy categories than in any other races. How do you choose between Connie Britton and Glenn Close, for example? Or between Archie Panjabi and Sharon Gless? Here’s how I do it; I think I know READ FULL STORY

A new 'Good Wife,' season finale of 'Southland,' 'Justified,' 'Parenthood,' 'V': What will YOU be watching at 10 p.m.?

Finally, a new episode of The Good Wife tonight. (It looks as though guest star Gary Cole is going to be getting involved with Christine Baranski).

But it’s on as the same time as the season finale of Southland. I’ve seen that one, and I can tell you it’s a doozy, with the return of Tom Everett Scott, and important developments in the story lines for pill-popping bully cop John (Michael Cudlitz) and much-abused cop Chickie (Arija Bareikis).

Meanwhle, over on Parenthood, Friday Night Lights’ slinky Minka Kelly makes her first appearance on the show, as an aide for young Max.

And on Justified, there’s a dandy new episode in which Raylan leaves Kentucky for one episode to take care of an L.A. case involving a colorful dentist played by Alan Ruck.

I even know a few people who DVR Lost to watch it at 10 p.m. after American Idol — crazy but true. Does anyone you know time-shift like this on Tuesday nights?

Combine all of the above with a new episode of V, which returned last week to strong ratings, and we’ve got yet another official Tuesday Night Pile-Up.

So I ask: What will you be watching tonight at 10 p.m.? Thanks.

'Justified,' 'The Good Wife,' 'Southland,' 'Parenthood,' 'V': Which will you watch/DVR tonight at 10?

Hoo boy, Tuesday night causes one of those viewer headaches: What show will you watch in real time, and which ones will you DVR?

This week, The Good Wife is a rerun, so that lessens the problem a bit. But READ FULL STORY

New 'Southland': Anger, pain, and a fine premiere

Wow, what a blast of eloquent energy Southland is. Its new TNT episode last night took off like a rocket. The cops dealing with an angry crowd (and dealing with the cop who made the crowd angry); the triple homicide case; Ben dealing with a hellish date night — there wasn’t a moment in this hour that didn’t draw me in on some level.

While I regret seeing the excellent Tom Everett Scott’s character sidelined with an injury, it makes room for the flashy new homicide detective played by Amaury Nolasco. He’s already creating some fine tension between him and Regina King’s Lydia. And poor Chickie — what she goes through with now not one but two lousy squad-car partners in a row… well, this cannot end well, can it?

What I find impressive about Southland is that it is determined to present us with a series of highly refined, detailed character sketches while also doing the job of being a solid police procedural, with cases we want to follow to the end. I remember when the series first started, I was disenchanted with Michael Cudlitz’s John, who was introduced as a hectoring bully. Well, he’s turned into a far more complex, vexed character, hasn’t he?

That’s just one example of the kind of meticulousness that’s going into Southland in its second season.

Did you watch the season premiere?

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'Southland' on TNT: Re-experiencing a terrific new series

Last night we had an unusual opportunity to re-experience a new series. Southland began its run on TNT; the cable network is re-airing the NBC episodes. The pilot last night had six minutes of new material that lengthened a few scenes for added character details and atmospheric texture.

I found that, having seen all seven of Southland‘s episodes on NBC, it was a complete pleasure watching the pilot again, to see where all the seeds were planted for upcoming plot developments. The way Ben McKenzie’s rookie character is initally so polite and deferential that his fellow cops think he must be from Canada. The way C. Thomas Howell’s Billy is such a fascinating d—wad right from the start. The way Regina King’s Det. Adams maintains a mask of objectivity while zeroing in on the sources of the terrible crimes she witnesses or tries to prevent.

Most of all, I noticed how creator Ann Biderman and her writers and directors shaped the show to slowly reveal surprising details about many regular characters, and laid the foundation for what was clearly meant to be a drama in the tradition of Hill Street Blues and ER — that is, fine NBC dramas. Before NBC squandered that tradition and cancelled it.

Starting Mar. 2, TNT will begin airing six new episodes.

Will you be watching?

Help me pick TV's best supporting actors of 2009: From 'Chuck,' 'The Office,' 'Southland,' and more!

It’s that time of year to pass around praise to folks who don’t always receive enough attention over the course of the TV season. Here’s my list; when I’m done, I hope you’ll add yours:

Ellie Kemper in The Office As Erin, Pam’s replacement as receptionist as Dunder Mifflin, Kemper has steadily established a distinctive personality and comic rhythm. Kemper, who’s also written for The Onion and McSweeney’s, radiates a sly devilishness beneath a fine poker-face. At first, Ellie seemed a little dim and as skittish as a pony, but by now, she’s part of Michael Scott’s inner-circle of crazy. Ed Helms’ Andy has a crush on the perky-smiling, soulful-eyed Erin, and she’s proven crush-worthy in extracurricular activities such as this:

Adam Baldwin in Chuck Col. Casey could have been consigned to play the big doofus, the muscle-man straight-man to Chuck and Sarah. Instead, Adam Baldwin has grabbed the role, taken the writers’ clever cues, and made Casey a he-man with READ FULL STORY

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