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It's pretty much LAPD Galactica.
Whereas other cop shows on TV tend to be almost like a stylish video game, Southland prides itself on being dark and gritty. Several police officers have claimed that it's the most realistic cop show on TV.
Tropes in this series:
- Anyone Can Die: Seemingly played straight at the end of season 1, but averted in that Russell survives his neighbor shooting him. Completely played straight with Nate.
- Art Shift: When Tang and Cooper are being filmed by a documentary crew in "Integrity Check," the shots are far more vivid and colorful as opposed to the dull sepia tone that we normally see.
- Asshole Victim: Not too rarely, the people the detectives and patrolmen come across are this. The case leads can decide to be lenient on the perpetrators, but they're still beholden to the law, so vigilantes are usually punished for their crimes.
- Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Spectacularly averted with Officer Tang. After taking down a lunatic drug addict at the end of one episode, she starts the next with a seriously bruised face
- Break the Cutie: Sammy's life story at this point. S1 and S2 show his wife to be a lunatic. In Season 3, she's a cheating skank. He becomes involved in the lives of two kids, Janila and Li'l Casper. Janila ends up in Witness Protection after multiple attempts on her life, and Li'l Casper murders someone. And finally, he loses Nate, the one good and constant thing in his life! He copes by bonding with Nate's widow and children, until they become like a surrogate family to him. Then she leaves to avoid awkwardness a few episodes later. Guy just can't catch a break.
- British Brevity: Or the American equivalent at least, the first two seasons had 6 and 7 episodes respectively, season 3 had 10 and season 4 is scheduled to also have 10. This an oddity on TNT as most of their procedurals have anywhere from 15 to 20 episodes.
- But for Me It Was Tuesday: This is the framing device for the episode "Wednesday".
- Cowboy Cop: By the end of "Thursday" this is what Sherman is becoming, much to Sammy's despair.
- The Danza: Ben McKenzie as Ben Sherman.
- Deadpan Snarker: Many, but Cooper stands as the snarkiest of them all.
- Darker and Edgier: Upon moving to TNT from NBC due to the looser restraints on content.
- Driven to Suicide: Mike, the gay teenager who is found on a roof in "Legacy." While his first attempt fails, his second succeeds.
- Family Relationship Switcheroo: Moretta reveals to Sammy that his "little sister" is actually his daughter from a previous relationship. His girlfriend got pregnant just as he was about to begin his service in the Army, and his parents didn't want them to give the baby away to be raised by a stranger, so they took her in and masqueraded as her parents. Moretta's daughter doesn't take the news well; she begins acting out in the second season.
- Gayngst: Averted by Cooper, who tells a gay teenager that he has a lot of problems, but being gay isn't one of them.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Ryan Atwood is back with Coop.
- Hide Your Pregnancy: In-Universe example with Adams.
- How We Got Here: Every episode starts this way
- I Am Spartacus: A local community is harassing a registered sex offender and end up by burning his house down. When Cooper and Tang try to find out who did it, every member of the local community replies "I set the fire."
- I Did What I Had to Do: When their boss, Sal, loses his gun, Dets. Moretta and Bryant justify the department's (unauthourized) full-court press of the neighbourhood to each other by pointing out that they wouldn't have found out about a much bigger gun-running operation otherwise.
- Money-strapped Russ sells the photos that happened to come from Lydia's phone for a half a million dollars to TMZ. He lets her know that he didn't know they'd come from her phone, but his explanation is not appreciated ("I don't even know you, dude"). Needless to say, that friendship/UST is over and Russ is probably going to leave LA.
- Jerkass: Dewey, so very much.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He tried to help a prostitute in Graduation Day (okay, he also threatened to taze her) but he tried to help her and seemed genuinely unhappy when he found her high on a bench.
- Killed Off for Real: Nate Moretta, early in the third season.
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: "SULA" for USC, even though the scenes on campus were (at least partially) shot at UCLA.
- Los Angeles: Obviously.
- Meaningful Echo: "Look sharp. Act sharp. Be sharp."
- Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: See I Did What I Had to Do, above.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: A particularly brutal one is the content of Officer Tang's infamous YouTube video. She is not the one delivering it.
- Non-Idle Rich: Sherman comes from a wealthy background, but he lives and breathes being a cop, often creating a distance to his old friends and family.
- Pair the Spares: Non-romantic example at the end of season 3. Sammy and Sherman had both lost their partners, and Rule of Drama places them together when one transfers departments. Wonder Boy and Gangland Sammy together on the streets? Next season's gonna be fuuuuun.
- Parenting the Husband: The inverse is true: Tammi is so unbelievable naive, flaky, and Jerkass-y, that Sammy often appears to be the exasperated husband AND father!
- Put on a Bus: Chickie transferred to Metro.
- Rage Against the Mentor: Sherman to Cooper at the end of their partnership. Cooper's painkiller addiction has ruined him as a cop, and Sherman won't let him get a fresh recruit killed.
- Screwed by the Network: Due to the Leno/Conan debacle with NBC. Fortunately, TNT picked it up.
- Shown Their Work: A former cop and detective described the show as "the most accurate cop show [he'd ever seen on TV.]"
- Straight Gay: Cooper
- Teens Are Monsters: The teenagers in "Legacy" who beat Mike up, put his in a dress and drive him to commit suicide. Oh, and the cause of this is that a guy pretended to like him and then outed him to everyone.
- Television Geography: Heavily, heavily averted. One of the things the crew of the show prides themselves on is that they film a LOT of scenes on location. In fact, the riot scene in the season 2 premiere was actually filmed in South Central, and according to Word of God, at one point the cast and crew were fearing for their lives due to a lot of onlookers not knowing the riot wasn't real.
- Wilhelm Scream: When Roof Hopping, one should be careful not to misjudge the distance, as Mexican-jacket-guy found out...
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