One of my favorite shows, Southland, aired its finale a few weeks ago. Following various LAPD officers and detectives as they do their jobs, it was dropped by NBC after its first season because it was “too gritty” for a network. It really has blossomed over on TNT, where the cops can swear and not get bleeped, blood can be shown after a suspect gets shot, etc.
I don’t watch the show because of the gory parts; I like it because it feels real and raw and the actors are all fantastic. If there happens to be a particularly bloody scene, like when a detective was hit by a gangster with a bat, I cringed but kept watching because it was over fast and was an integral part of the show. This season, though, things got out of hand and I actually had to question if I could finish an episode.
The episode that got to me involved two officers being kidnapped by meth addicts who are suffering from severe paranoia. Convinced that the officers had tracking devices hidden inside their bodies, the two deranged men started doing everything they could to find one. I won’t go into too many details, but lots of blood and screaming was involved, and before the episode was through, an officer was shot and killed by a bullet to the brain.
It was an unnerving episode because of the violence, and I was actually afraid I would have nightmares when I fell asleep (the show is on at 10 p.m.). It was a harrowing hour, because everything felt so realistic and I honestly had no idea how it was all going to end. You get emotionally invested in this program, and I was drained not only by worrying about the characters, but also the graphic depiction of a shooting.
I ended up not turning the show off, but I don’t think I could have handled much more. I get that nasty stuff happens out on the streets, but there comes a point where I can’t stand to look at a battered body any longer. Everyone else I know who watches the show agreed that it went well past their comfort zone, and one did actually have to turn it off. I don’t know what else they would have had to do for me to turn the channel, and frankly, I don’t want to know.
Is there a threshold you have for violence on television? Have you ever been so turned off by a show you refuse to watch it ever again? That’s definitely not what happened here ““ I still love the show and will tune in when it comes back ““ but I can see why some people would be scared away. Share your thoughts in the comments.