TV review by
Will Wade, Common Sense Media
Southland TV Poster Image
Parents recommend
Realistic look at the LAPD is gritty, violent, enthralling.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 6 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The show very intentionally offers a realistic, gritty look at crime and urban life. Its take-aways consequently aren't particularly upbeat or positive, but at least they're not artificial, either. Emphasizes teamwork and partnership.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Many of the veteran cops around rookie Ben are quite cynical, though they're obviously dedicated to their mission of fighting crime. Suspects' sexuality is sometimes discussed as a motive for crimes.


Several critical scenes include violence. It's not especially gory, but it looks quite realistic; when people get hit in the head, they fall down, and when they get shot, they die. That's how it goes in real life, though not in most action shows.


Plenty of raunchy, sex-themed talk and some flirting. Couples embrace and kiss, but there's no graphic sex or nudity.


The hardened cops talk just the way they might in real life, with a good bit of swearing -- though most of the choice words are bleeped. Still, plenty of expletives remain, including "a--hole," "crap," "p---y," and "circle jerk," as well as some off-color references to body parts, especially female genitalia.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Plenty of drinking -- in bars, at parties, and at home. The cops often speculate about drugs as a motivating factor in crimes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this gritty cop show is dark, violent, and very realistic. Unlike some police series, which manufacture drama with over-the-top crimes and romantic intrigue between the main characters, this series focuses on "regular" crimes and the honest anguish of the victims and their loved ones, as well as the officers' often troubled home lives. The violent scenes, while not generally bloody, have real consequences. There's also plenty of swearing (not always bleeped) and a good bit of drinking, as well as some raunchy talk (but no sensitive body parts are shown).

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byRay G. December 8, 2016

Fantastic Show

Amazing show that gives a deep look into what being a cop in south LA is like. Would definitely recommend for older kids and adults.
Adult Written bychristian2011 September 2, 2013

Very entertaining yet a grim realistic look at the lives of police officers.

Southland is a TV-MA rated crime drama show that is more darker and realistic in nature than your average CSI show. It deals with tenacious and ambitious police... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byFishing06 April 30, 2020

Great Show

Awesome show following LAPD on the streets. Very realistic, real gang members used in show. Great acting.
Teen, 13 years old Written bycrainey September 11, 2013

Great show

It's a great TV show, but can be inappropriate at certain times. But if your kid is able to watch PG-13 movies, then they will be fine watching this.

What's the story?

On his first day on the job, rookie cop Ben Sherman (Benjamin McKenzie) investigates the random drive-by shooting of a young boy; storms into a suspect's home, gun in hand; and, after seeing a fellow officer get shot to death, vomits all over the street. Just another day for the Los Angeles Police Department in SOUTHLAND, a gritty, violent, and very realistic look at a patrolman's life. Sherman's mentor is John Cooper (Michael Cudlitz), a jaded veteran who already knows that working the streets is exciting and dangerous -- and tries to teach his new partner that being part of the LAPD is "a front row seat at the greatest show on Earth."

Is it any good?

Being a cop is a tough and thankless job, and Southland doesn't sugar-coat it. The experienced officers are cynical, often bitter, after seeing just about everything during their years on the streets, and Sherman is getting a crash course in reality right from the start. Cooper and his peers have developed a hardened exterior because it's the only way to get by on the force, and Sherman stands out for his innocence. Clearly, he'll need to shed that soft shell, and fast.

John Wells, who also brought ER to the small screen, created Southland. That series also examined the personal crises of everyday life. But while ER tipped toward the melodramatic, the crimes here are the mundane but heartbreaking stuff of the big city: sudden senseless killings, missing kids, random violence. There are no criminal masterminds, no complex plots, no exciting heists. By focusing on the incidents' everyday nature, the show makes the honest reactions of victims and their loved ones seem more dramatic -- more human -- than the most "exciting" gunfights and daring rescues on other police series. Realism, it seems, is more interesting than any fictional drama.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about police dramas. Do you think this show is a realistic portrayal of a cop's daily life? How does it compare to other police dramas?

  • Does the violence in this show have more or less impact than what you've seen in other similar series? Why?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love action and drama

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