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Apr-11-2009 23:25TweetFollow @OregonNews
Southland Sizzles on NBC But Lacks RealismTim King Salem-News.com
One utterly unrealistic scene is complimented by more believable portrayals of gangland LA, aka the "Southland" - a term used regularly by LA news anchors.
(SALEM, Ore.) - The new NBC police drama "Southland" debuted last week, and I have to admit I was looking forward to it. The new show by the creators of "ER" definitely was a fast moving and exciting crime drama that I expect will be around for a long time. Well-written and at times unrealistic, it is typical Hollywood but more edgy and never slow.
The setting for the unrealistic scene that I mentioned is the first day for rookie LAPD Officer Ben Sherman, played by Ben McKenzie, who is paired with seasoned Officer John Cooper, played my Michael Cudlitz.
They see a yellow Ferrari Testa Rosa do an illegal u-turn which would constitute (most likely) a traffic infraction, in real life.
A young, blond-haired typically California rich kid quickly asks if they know who his dad is. The seasoned officer tells the rookie to "search the car" and upon doing so, the first-day cop pulls a baggie of marijuana out of the Ferrari's passenger side. As the order to search the car is issued, the driver objects, saying he didn't grant permission for the officers to search his car.
The seasoned cop responds by saying, "You've been watching too much TV kid".
This is troubling, because search and seizure is something Americans are legally protected from, that is if you read the Constitution. It's called the Right to Privacy.
But too few know this simple fact, and believe they must submit to search and seizure when they don't have to.
The program could have taught viewers a thing or two about their rights, but instead suggests that the "good guy" cop is in the right when he's completely wrong.
This scene came very early in the program and I thought that was going to be a sign of things to come, but it wasn't.
The Ferrari driver who implied that he was the son of a very wealthy man, recognized the rookie officer and thought for a moment that it was a TV show. Apparently the rookie cop is a Beverly Hills guy who chose to be an LAPD officer and prove his mettle. This appears to be the point for the entire Ferrari scene in retrospect.
Here's the simple reality check for the writers of this program; cops in LA do violate people's rights, they do it all the time and they have for a long time. But they aren't stupid, even the bad ones, and they know that rogue illegal cop stuff; searching without just cause or a warrant, needs to be reserved for poor people who don't know their rights, or have lawyers.
Rich kids in Ferrari's have dads with powerful attorneys and if cops have career patterns of constantly doing things illegally, then prosecutors and judges know they aren't credible and they fail to get convictions on arrests. Soon they cease to be cops, if they work for realistic agencies.
There are many variables, but even if it is a gradual process, there is real level of accountability for police officers and complaints go in their permanent records. Then there are civil law suits and other things officers don't look good for initiating.
Again, it is not to say that people don't routinely have their rights violated by police in LA or most other big U.S. cities, but cops have a good sense of what they can and can't get away with. The biggest group affected by illegal search and seizure are often minorities. Scenes like this one in Southland give people the wrong idea on many levels.
In the end of the show that same seasoned cop gives the younger guy a talk about how he can never lie, and always has to be honest. It seems confusing based on his character in the Ferrari scene.
The show's plot simultaneously involves the disappearance of a little girl, the shooting of a teenage boy who is mistaken to be a rival gang member by gangbangers in a low rider, and the dealings between witnesses who can help identify the shooters, the police, and their mother who wants zero involvement with the investigation.
The acting throughout was fantastic, it is worth watching and I look forward to the next episode. I think that Southland will go far and I personally enjoy seeing the places that I recall while growing up there. A friend of mine said, "Oh that's just what we need, another Southern California cop show!"
I couldn't agree more.
I have intentionally left a good deal of the plot out of this so as to not be a spoiler. Here is the link to the Website for the show. If you have high speed Internet, you can watch it in full frame perfection. Follow the video links: nbc.com/southland/
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