NBC has pulled the plug on John Wells' "Southland."
The move comes just two weeks before the gritty cop drama was set to premiere in its new Friday at 9 p.m. time period. Now, in its place NBC will schedule the less expensive news magazine "Dateline NBC."
"I am disappointed that NBC no longer has the time periods available to support the kind of critically acclaimed series that was for so many years the hallmark of their success," "Southland" executive producer John Wells said in a statement.
Wells added that he will shop the show to another network.
NBC will have to cough up some cash to producer Warner Bros. Television and Wells' production company, which had already received a 13-episode order for Season 2. Producers were busy wrapping production on episode 6 when NBC canceled the show. The network was paying about $1.5 million per episode in license fees for the show, and it will eat the costs of the finished episodes as well as the cost of shutting down the production, people familiar with the situation said.
Canceling a show before any of its new episodes have even aired is highly unusual. It begs the question of why NBC renewed in the first place. Ratings for the first season started strong in the spring but quickly cooled over its short, six-episode run.
Insiders also said that once NBC execs saw the initial Season 2 episodes, they were deemed too dark for network TV.
Because NBC now programs "The Jay Leno Show" at 10 p.m. across five nights a week, it had limited options as to where to program "Southland" once it decided Friday wasn't a suitable home.
Of course, Wells may not have endeared himself to the network when in August he criticized NBC's decision to give five hours of prime time to Leno. "I
wish NBC and Jay Leno well; personally, he's a very nice guy, but I
hope he falls flat on his face and we get five dramas back."
Actor Michael Cudlitz, who played John Cooper on the series, didn't take the news well and via his official Twitter account encouraged viewers to contact NBC in protest. "Don't go quietly. People need to know when they ... up this big," he wrote. He also posted the number to NBC's comment line but said "snail mail is the best."
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Photo: Ben McKenzie as Ben Sherman, Michael Cudlitz as John Cooper in "Southland." Credit: NBC