NBC may have stumbled and bumbled the prime-time Jay Leno experiment, but it looks as if the once-hearty network lost something more than Conan O’Brien in the highly publicized mess.
The Los Angeles crime drama Southland may be the first show in recent history to be renewed for a second season, canceled before any of those episodes ever air, then renewed on cable. And the trail of clues to that saga leads to Leno.
Though Southland was highly praised during its seven-show first season run and given a 13-episode pickup order for year number two, one crucial thing happened over the summer. NBC foolishly gave five hours of prime time to Jay Leno (something that certainly didn’t work out well). Eventually, the network canned Southland, saying that with the Leno move there was now no place on the schedule for it.
Cable network TNT stepped in and agreed to run both the complete first season and six of the new shows already recorded after NBC made its dumb move. Episodes air at 9 p.m. Tuesdays on TNT.
Besides jerking the show around throughout its entire existence by continually changing its time slot, NBC employed the even sillier tactic of bleeping out dialog on the shows that it did air. This week the two-disc set Southland: The Complete First Season – Uncensored (Warner) was released, allowing everyone (especially those who tried to guess what words were being deleted) to be able to hear the show as its writers intended.
Hopefully, it will also help lure more viewers to the current run of Southland on TNT. The show’s future is directly tied to its ratings, according to TNT officials. The cable network is on record as saying if audience response is good, the program will continue after all 13 currently filmed episodes are broadcast.