Last night we had an unusual opportunity to re-experience a new series. Southland began its run on TNT; the cable network is re-airing the NBC episodes. The pilot last night had six minutes of new material that lengthened a few scenes for added character details and atmospheric texture.

I found that, having seen all seven of Southland‘s episodes on NBC, it was a complete pleasure watching the pilot again, to see where all the seeds were planted for upcoming plot developments. The way Ben McKenzie’s rookie character is initally so polite and deferential that his fellow cops think he must be from Canada. The way C. Thomas Howell’s Billy is such a fascinating d—wad right from the start. The way Regina King’s Det. Adams maintains a mask of objectivity while zeroing in on the sources of the terrible crimes she witnesses or tries to prevent.

Most of all, I noticed how creator Ann Biderman and her writers and directors shaped the show to slowly reveal surprising details about many regular characters, and laid the foundation for what was clearly meant to be a drama in the tradition of Hill Street Blues and ER — that is, fine NBC dramas. Before NBC squandered that tradition and cancelled it.

Starting Mar. 2, TNT will begin airing six new episodes.

Will you be watching?

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