In the penultimate episode of the fourth season of "Southland," a pregnant Detective Lydia Adams tangles with a suspect who stabs her repeatedly in her protective vest after tossing her around a shack. It's a harrowing scene, as Lydia fights with every bit of her being to prevent the thug from driving a giant screwdriver into her head, and it's typical of the show's gritty nature.
The brutal scene is also a typical day at work for Lydia's portrayer, the Emmy-worthy Regina King.
"It's very physical. I have scars up my legs to prove it," King laughs. "But I've always been an athlete … always been very physical, so that part of it is just kind of fun."
With "Southland" Season 5 set to premiere on TNT on Feb. 13, Warner Bros. has released a fantastic DVD boxed set, "Southland: The Complete Second, Third, and Fourth Seasons," giving viewers a chance to dive in and catch up with the show just in time for the new season.
"I thought that was a genius idea. I hope the word gets out, because that's the way everyone's watching TV now, watching [a series] all at once," says King, whose career started with her role as Marla Gibbs's daughter on the 1985-90 sitcom "227." "This gives the audience the opportunity to just totally engage. I'm crossing my fingers that it'll be like '24,' when they released their DVDs like that. That's how I got into 'Breaking Bad,' watching it all together on Netflix."
The six-disc set, which includes all 26 episodes of the show's second, third, and fourth seasons, also includes extras such as a tour of the show's filming locations throughout Los Angeles, a featurette on the stories behind some of the best scenes from the show's sophomore season, and deleted scenes.
Viewers who may have lost touch with the show after its move from NBC, where it was a casualty of the fallout from the disastrous Jay Leno primetime series, to TNT should expect a show that's done nothing but improve upon its original premise, with an even faster pace, great storytelling, and compelling characters who continue to develop.
"TNT knew what show they were buying into, so they really allow the producers and writers to do their thing, and they don't note them to death," King says. "They let the show have the life that the creators intended for it to have. The result is a faster-paced show, a more gritty show … we take pauses in the places that pauses actually happen in life, and we don't take pauses in places where pauses don't happen in life.
"A lot of times when you're watching TV, the shows are awesome, but it's written where you have a pause at a place just because the writers think the audience needs to settle in. ["Southland"] is totally different. We just keep going, and you have to go back and watch it over again and go, 'Wow, did that happen?' because we're on to the next thing. That's what happens in real life. There's always an emergency situation going on in the city. All cops have to be engaged, and it doesn't matter that it's your kid's birthday. That's their real life. Cops have to go protect you, so that you can celebrate your kid's birthday."
The new season will continue on with that frenetic pace. King's Lydia, one of the most committed, caring, and competent detectives in her squad, opted to go on lighter duty at the end of Season 4 because of a pregnancy she hadn't been sure that she wanted to continue. That certainly does not mean she's going to be sitting behind a desk the whole season, though. And despite her superwoman status, King says fans might be surprised at how Lydia handles being a new mom.
"Actually, something that's really interesting, she's not a great mom. That's what we would expect, because of everything that we've seen Lydia do or overcome. We enter this season, and we see that something that we thought was going to be natural for her is a struggle," says King, who also guest-starred on "The Big Bang Theory" in January.
"It's awesome that the writers did not take the easy way out and just have her be a great mom. I think it's much more interesting to tell the story of a woman that's great at everything else, but she sucks at being a mother."
The show's fifth season will also continue to explore the personal lives and motivations of this wonderfully complicated group of law-enforcement officers, and King promises that the "Southland" writers never shy away from going to some dark places.
"I think this season really is digging in deeper. I think we're almost at the core of these characters," says the actress, who also just directed her first "Southland" installment, the season's fifth episode.
"We've been peeling back the onion on all of these characters, and now we're at the place where it's really raw. You are going to see things about some of us that you may not particularly like, but it's human. You're going to see things that you think aren't particularly fair, that the character has to accept, because they're human. We're moving just as fast, but we're in more raw, emotional places."
A big part of exploring the lives of the core cast of characters will include introducing new faces into the mix in Season 5, including "One Tree Hill" alum Chad Michael Murray as cop Dave Mendoza, who bonds with Ben Sherman (Benjamin McKenzie) when he gets Sherman out of a scrape but then turns out to be a very different kind of guy than he originally presented himself to be.
Catch a glimpse of Chad Michael Murray on "Southland" in this promo clip:
C. Thomas Howell, as Officer Dudek, has been bumped from recurring to regular status for Season 5, and "Simon & Simon" and "Major Dad" alum Gerald McRaney -- whose presence is also, ahem, afoot on "Justified" this season -- will guest-star in several episodes as John Cooper's (Michael Cudlitz) training officer, Detective Hicks, who's now retired and spends all his time on his boat, drinking way too much.
The extra faces on the scene come on the heels of a particularly memorable performance by guest star Lucy Liu in Season 4 and add to the ensemble cast's strength. You can be sure that any actor or actress showing up on "Southland" really brings it, King says, because only the most committed performers sign on to the production.
"Well, the producers do their job to make sure that there aren't people coming in who don't subscribe to the style in which we do our show," says King. "Our show is not a show that's for people who are looking for glamour and a full trailer. We sometimes don't go back to our trailer until the end of the day. That's not to say that we don't go to the bathroom. But we travel a lot, and sometimes we're at six different locations, and we travel with our port-a-potties. That's how fast we move. It's not a set that allows for you to come and not know your lines. Very, very rarely do we do more than three or four takes. So anyone that comes on to the show, to do an arc or spend some time with us, are actors that have subscribed to that style and are stoked about jumping in. They wouldn't have been hired if they weren't excited about it."
"Southland" Season 5 premieres Feb. 13 at 10pm on TNT.
Noteworthy new TV DVD releases this week:
"Cougar Town: The Complete First Season" / "Cougar Town: The Complete Second Season"/ "Cougar Town: The Complete Third Season" (Lionsgate)
Yeah, that title is still one of the worst-ever TV titles. But the show itself remains one of the most fun sitcoms of the last few seasons, and this Lionsgate rerelease of the series' first three seasons makes it a great time to catch up with the Courteney Cox show and enjoy the current season on TBS.
"Gunsmoke: The Seventh Season, Volume 2" (Paramount)
The studio continues to release the classic western slowly; this volume contains the final 17 episodes of Season 7 (there were 34 one-hour installments for the season, or the equivalent of three seasons of cable drama today). Who else is curious about the inevitable complete-series boxed set and how much a 20-season, 635-episode collection will cost?
"Animaniacs, Volume 4" (Warner Bros.)
At last, "Animaniacs" fans can complete their collections with this, the fourth and final volume of episodes of the clever Emmy-winning pop-culture-spoofing cartoon.
"Alias Smith and Jones: The Complete Series, Special Edition" (Timeless Media Group)
The 11-disc set features all 50 episodes of the 1971-73 ABC western, with a bonus DVD of interviews with stars Roger Davis and Ben Murphy. Guest stars during the show included Oscar winner Sally Field, Burl Ives, Cesar Romero, Earl Holliman, and Michele Lee.
"Testimony of Two Men" (Acorn Media)
The Emmy-nominated miniseries stars William Shatner, Joan Van Ark, Ralph Bellamy, and the late Tom "Mr. Cunningham" Bosley. It tells the story of a post-Civil War surgeon who tries to bring modern medical techniques to his hometown, in opposition to the town's citizenry, who want to keep things just the way they are and will happily destroy Dr. Ferrier (David Birney) to make it so. Ah, '70s miniseries.
"Above Suspicion: Series 2" (Acorn Media)
Adapted from Lynda La Plante's novels, the "Above Suspicion" British TV series revolves around the law-enforcing adventures of police officials Anna Travis (Kelly Reilly) and James Langton (Ciaran Hinds). In this set, which includes the three-part "Deadly Intent" miniseries, the duo investigates the murder of another police officer, a friend of Langton's, and find that the case has ties to a notorious new drug and a missing criminal on the most-wanted list.
"R.L. Stine's The Haunting Hour: The Series, Volume Three" / "R.L. Stine's The Haunting Hour: The Series, Volume Four" (Shout! Factory)
Whether it's books or a TV series, no one crafts a better story in the horror genre for kiddies than Stine, and these two DVD collections of episodes from the Hub anthology series include guest appearances by "Modern Family" stars Nolan Gould and Ariel Winter, as well as "Twilight" star Booboo Stewart.
"The Virginian: The Complete Seventh Season" (Timeless Media)
James Brolin and Burgess Meredith were among the guest stars in Season 7 of the 1962-71 NBC western, which has been digitally remastered and restored for 26 full color episodes and comes packaged in a very cool embossed tin.
"Marvel's Ultimate Spider-Man: Avenging Spider-Man" (Buena Vista Home Entertainment)
A decidedly different, humor-focused spin on the Peter Parker/Spidey universe (see a preview of "Home Sick Hulk"), the 12 episodes of 'toon fun in the set include Drake Bell voicing a teen Spidey, with "Wings" star Steven Weber as Norman Osborn, Chi McBride as Nick Fury, and Tom "SpongeBob SquarePants" Kenny as J. Jonah Jameson.