TV goes thru cycles. Of late, all the "real", meant to win awards TV shows seem to have been Doctor/hospital shows. That doesn't mean they've stopped trying to make police dramas (CSI's, Law&Orders, etc.), just that none of them have really reached the pinnacle. However, the doctor drama seems to have run its course and now the field is clear for the next Hill Street Blues.
However, I don't think Southland is going to be the one. Now, I've only seen the first episode on Hulu. Still, I'm not sure that the flaws I see can be overcome.
There are three stories crammed into a single hour format. 1st is the rich boy, rookie officer who is having a terrible day as he tries to earn his final approval to get off probation from a hard-nosed veteran of the force, who isn't giving an inch (and seems to turn out to be gay in the end). 2d is the story of a couple detectives trying to solve the shooting of a kid by some bangers (which eventually merges into the first). 3d is the story of a detective trying to figure out what has happened to a little girl who has disappeared. It was one story too many; the third should have been let go to give the other two some room to develop.
The filming is in what I'd refer to as MTV style (who knows if MTV still does this - I ain't watched in several years). The picture is done via unsteady cam in an obvious attempt to be "real." The positioning and zoom of the camera also seem to be an attempt to say "See, we're filming this like a video camera would." I'd hoped that this fad was fading, because it is just annoying; however, for now it still lives. Only one scene really works with this style and it's over in about 30 seconds.
As with most pilots, too much was crammed into too short a time period. We can hope that as the season progresses the story will spread out, slow down, rely less on gimmicky filming. However, in my bones I just don't feel it coming. I've got a bad feeling this is going to stay a show shot for people with 10 second attention spans.
1 give this show a provisional rating of average (3 out of 5).