Yesterday, Southland executive producers Ann Biderman and Christopher Chulack walked on the set of the critically acclaimed police drama while they were filming their sixth episode of the season and announced to the cast and crew that it has been canceled and would not return for its sophomore season even though not a single episode of the five completed had aired. They will continue filming and complete the sixth episode of its second season this week.

It’s been reported that the decision to cancel the show after execs over at NBC screened the first four episodes of this season and deemed them too dark an inappropriate for a 9PM time slot. This season was going to focus more on Adams (Regina King), Sherman (Benjamin McKenzie) and their partners Cooper (Michael Cudlitz) and Brown (Arija Bareikis) rather than the ensemble cast of the first season.

No word yet on when/if the six completed episode will air. Although there is still hope as executive producer John Wells (The West Wing & ER) is currently shopping the show around to broadcast and cable networks in hopes that they pick up the now network-less show. Southland might be a good fit for a network like FX who has a police drama spot open now with The Shield no longer on the air.

This news comes a week after Wells (also president of the Writers Guild of America, West) slammed NBC’s decision to move Jay Leno to the 10PM primetime slot by saying, “We lost five hours’ worth of time periods that have been known throughout the history of the network for putting some really terrific shows on. 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.”

It makes you wonder if he knew this was coming down the pipeline.

Someone else who’s not happy with yesterday events was actor Michael Cudlitz, who played Officer John Cooper. Today he gave an extremely interesting and brutally honest interview with Michael Ausiello of The Ausiello Files.

Here are some excerpts.

What was your reaction? Did you see it coming?

CUDLITZ: In retrospect, I saw it coming. We were two weeks away from airing and [the cancellation news] has created more press for the show than NBC has put into it on its own. They ran the first [Southland] ad – a 30-second spot – last Friday, and that’s the only one that they ran. That’s not a relaunch. When you have a network that nobody’s watching, it doesn’t benefit you to only advertise on your network.

What explanation were you given?

CUDLITZ: We were given the same statement that everyone got. [NBC] said they watched the first [four] episodes and determined that they were too dark. I don’t even know where to go with that. They were the scripts that [NBC] approved for a show that they picked up – a show they themselves advertised as an authentic, raw, and gritty look at the Los Angeles Police Department. So I don’t know what they thought they were getting… There’s something else going on I’m sure. We had a cast and crew screening on Tuesday for the season 2 premiere, and it was phenomenal. It was better than any of the episodes we have aired to date. It was fantastic.

Do you have a theory as to what else might be going on?

CUDLITZ: I really don’t. What audience are they afraid of pissing off? They don’t have an audience… There’s some speculation that they’re trying to cut costs because they’re trying to sell the network, but I don’t know. The thing that strikes me as very bizarre is that they have [six episodes] in the can, they don’t have anything on right now that is doing well, and our show is good. Why would you not put it on? So something else must be going on.

Anything fans can do?

CUDLITZ: They can express their annoyance. Networks are in this to make money, and it’s obviously proven by this decision. Because if they cared about the quality and the art then they would keep the show on the air just because of that. This was not a show that was costing them a ton of money. This is a show that would more than likely have made them money, even if not a lot. And it was critically-acclaimed, and they still chose to cancel it because of the bottom line. They’re obviously in it for the money. So if you let them know you’re not happy with what they did, that can’t do anything but help.

Whether you’re a fan of Southland or not, this brings about an interesting debate concerning whether or not programming like Southland has a place on NBC considering the network no longer has anything after 9PM now that the network decided to move Jay Leno into the timeslot that bore great programming like The West Wing and ER. How many West Wing or ER quality programs are we going to miss out on?

What do you think?

Source: The Ausiello Files