Realistic look at the LAPD is gritty, violent, enthralling.

What parents need to know

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

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.

Not applicable
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.

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).

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.

Families can talk 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

Cast:Benjamin McKenzie, Michael Cudlitz, Regina King
Networks:NBC, TNT
TV rating:TV-14
Available on:Streaming

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written byatv009 March 12, 2011

Awsome, over the top cop show

Very excellent show. Shows how cops potray when catching criminals. Though its violent and has some swearing but I defenitly recomend for ages at least 14 and up.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Great role models
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 officers dealing with the potential dangers within their job, and even their daily lives. The whole show has a very gritty and tense atmosphere throughout, investigating grisly and disturbing crimes such as violent acts of murder, torture, rape, abuse, drug/sex trafficking, gangs, school shootings, and kidnappings - some involving children. The violence can be quite graphic and bloody, rarely any gore - this includes acts from criminals and civilians alike - shootings, domestic violence, assault, etc. There isn't any graphic sex in this series, but heavily implied with some crude/vulgar dialogue and references. The language can range from moderate to pervasive in some episodes - beeped uses of f**k, c**k, c**t, mother**ker, and unbeeped uses of sh*t. Drug use is common - some characters smoke, drink, party and use drugs - nothing too graphic or pervasive. Violence (3/5) Language (3/5) Drugs (3/5) Intensity (4/5) Sex (2/5)
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 15 years old Written byMoviefan101 August 6, 2009

Southland is a load of crap

This show sucks don't watch it


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