The recent return of TNT’s explosive flagship series, Southland — which chronicles the lives of Los Angeles police officers — also brings the return of one of the most complex gay characters on television today. While it may not have all the high heels of RuPaul's Drag Race or the funny gay dads of Modern Family or The New Normal, Southland deals realistically with the everyday lives of cops, gay and straight.
Here are five reasons you should be watching.
1. The Complex Gay Cop
Michael Cudlitz plays John Cooper, the strait-laced by-the-books cop, who also happens to be gay. When the show began he had a painkiller addiction due to a back injury that would force him behind a desk if he didn’t cover it up. It was only once his injury was remedied and he was back to his full self that the softer side of his character “came out.” Now, after a lack of love all around, Cooper has a new romance this season, and begins to develop himself as a person outside of his cop duties. John Cooper is one of the most complex characters on television, and for any viewer who makes the complaint that “every gay character on TV is so stereotypical,” Cudlitz is reason enough to tune in. (Also: We see his bare bottom this season. More than once.)
2. Good-Lookin’ Bad Boys
If you need to fill your Chad Michael Murray void since One Tree Hill closed up shop last year, then look no further than the City of Angels now that he has joined the cast as the resident bad boy. Since only Southland’s core cast has stuck around the entire show run, there have been various guest stars who come in for just a few episodes or an entire season, such as Lucy Liu’s fabulously feisty cop from last season. This year it’s Chad Michael Murray playing the young Dave (above left), a new officer with a mustache that would make any CHiPs officer green with envy. Now that Ben McKenzie’s character (Ben Sherman, the show's moral compass) is a more seasoned officer and no longer the lowest pup on the totem pole, Dave gets to come in and create havoc with his wild ways.
3. City of Lost Angeles
Not only does Southland tackle the tough lives of the LAPD, it also covers the dark underbelly of the city with year-round sunshine, from a Hollywood Hills rapist to last season’s episode about a gay teen who tries to take his own life after being bullied. The series can seem to lean toward the sensational, until you find that a lot of the stories are ripped from actual headlines. Of course the cops have to deal with the occasional Hollywood character (druggies, hookers, people dressed in costume), but there is also the drama of the characters’ home lives that proves equally interesting.
4. The No-Nonsense Detective
Regina King plays the sexy butch detective Lydia Adams, who is the classic example of the modern work-obsessed woman who leaves little time for a dating or social life. She has always been the firecracker on the show, which was proved even more so in the season 1 finale when, armed with a shotgun, she protects herself from gang members trying to invade her house. Since then she's been knifed, defended herself in shootouts, and, most terrifying of all, dated. Lydia has a whole new set of problems this season, which if you are just now catching up, won’t be spoiled here.
5. Cops Out of Uniform
Oh, and there are plenty of locker-room scenes.
The fifth season of Southland airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on TNT.