We made reservations last night to see Dick Van Dyke in conversation with Carl Reiner at the Writer’s Guild, but canceled immediately when we heard the Paley Center for Media was featuring Southland as the topic of one of its monthly evening events. Unlike its annual film festivals, which are staged in large venues to accommodate thousands of fans, events held at the Paley Center are small, intimate affairs (less than 200 people), where stars and admirers sometimes even intermingle. We’ve attended many such Paley events—an early Mad Men panel, a tribute to filmmaker Robert Altman, a Friday Night Lights panel, the final episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, etc.—and have never been disappointed.
The stars of Southland were already walking the “red” carpet by the time we arrived. All the actors on the show are brilliant, but we were especially happy to see our favorites: Michael Cudlitz, who plays John Cooper, the training cop addicted to painkillers; Ben McKenzie, a rookie cop from the ritzy westside; Regina King, the sensitive but grounded female detective; and Shawn Hatosy, hotheaded Sammy Bryant, whose partner was killed this year in the most heart-wrenching episode yet.
Cast members and show co-creators Christopher Chulack and John Wells sat at the front of the small Paley theater after screening the last episode of the season. We learned that the show is shot entirely on location, helping make the action seem very true-to-life. Since Southland is on cable, seasons are only ten episodes long, allowing the writers to create story arcs that begin and end relatively quickly. Plots are inspired by events experienced by LAPD officers, who work closely with the cast to advise on how cops would actually handle real police situations. Everyone was obviously very grateful to still be on TV.
Filming for next season starts in October, so keep your eyes peeled for live location shoots around town. Then set your tivo. New episodes of Southland begin airing in January 2012.