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'Southland' Has Still Got It: How To Build A Detective Show

Southland Cast

First Posted: 01/17/2012 8:27 am Updated: 01/17/2012 8:35 am

"Southland" is one of those show that always delivers, both as a strong police procedural and a compelling character drama. With the show's return (Season 4 premieres Tues., Jan. 17, 10 p.m. EST on TNT), we thought we'd take a look at why it's so addictive.

Of course the characters are always at the heart of this show -- when the new season kicks off, Officer John Cooper (Michael Cudlitz) is back after some rehab and joined by a new partner; Officer Ben Sherman (Ben McKenzie) is no longer the "boot"; Det. Sammy Bryant (Shawn Hatosy) is moving on after the death of his partner and the birth of his baby; and Det. Lydia Adams (Regina King) continues to let her work and personal life intersect. But there's more to a good TV series than just compelling characters.

When you break them down, all of the best TV detective shows have some similarities that help make them a success. Here are seven elements to build a detective show that all-time favorites, like "The Shield," "The Wire," "Law & Order," "CSI" and "Southland," have mastered.

How To Build A Detective Show: A Flawed Protagonist
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Audiences are automatically inclined to feel a separation between themselves and law enforcement, even on TV, so giving on-screen cops and detectives real-world problems helps to instantly evaporate any disconnect. "The Shield" had some of the most flawed cops in the business and L.A.'s finest on "Southland" aren't exactly perfect either. The worst of Dr. John Cooper's (Michael Cudlitz) addiction to pain meds might be behind him, but that doesn't mean he'll ever be perfect.

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