TNT nearing deal for 'Southland,' but don't pop the champagne just yet
In Hollywood's worst-kept secret, Warner Bros. and TNT are putting the finishing touches on a deal to bring the dark cop drama "Southland" to the cable channel.
But whether this means "Southland," which NBC abruptly canceled earlier this month, is getting a new life or a temporary stay of execution won't be known until next year.
Under the terms being negotiated, TNT will buy the seven episodes that ran last spring as well as the six new episodes that Warner Bros. and John Wells Productions made for NBC. The show is not going back into production because TNT will decide whether to order additional episodes of "Southland" after it sees how the drama performs. The show isn't expected to make its cable debut until after the new year, and the new episodes might not run until late February or early March.
The deal comes a few weeks after NBC pulled the plug on "Southland," a decision that surprised Warner Bros. and John Wells. Last season, NBC ran the show in a 10 p.m. time slot, but this season it was moving the drama about Los Angeles beat cops to a 9 p.m. home because Jay Leno now occupies all of the network's 10 p.m. time slots.
Although NBC expressed support of the cop drama last spring, the tone of the show apparently got a little too grim for the network. But because the time slot change meant "Southland" would air at 8 p.m. in much of the country, NBC wanted to cut back on some of the violence and language. There was resistance from the Wells camp, however, and NBC ultimately decided to drop the show and replace it with "Dateline," which is much cheaper to produce. There has been speculation that cost was also a factor in NBC's decision to cancel "Southland" -- the network had to pay about $1.5 million in license fees per episode, people close to the program said.
Because Wells is one of Warner Bros. biggest producers and is responsible for "ER," which made boatloads of money for the studio, there was a real push to find a new home for "Southland."
TNT will likely schedule "Southland" at 10 p.m. We'll see how it does against Leno.
-- Joe Flint
Photo: A scene from "Southland." Credit: Justin Lubin / NBC