April 18, 2013 3:53pm PT by Michael O'Connell
'Southland' Wraps Fifth Season With Ratings Improvement and an Uncertain Future
Southland's fifth season came to an end on Wednesday night with episode that offered little in the way of a conclusion should it have to serve as a series finale.
No decision has been made on a possible renewal for the TNT drama, which remains a hit among critics as it performs modestly in the ratings. The season finale itself was up compared to recent performances, averaging a touch north of 1.8 million viewers during its one-hour broadcast. A week-to-week improvement of 15 percent, Southland was also up significantly from the soft 1.16 million viewers it earned during the Feb. 13 premiere.
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Also in the series' favor, its showing with adults 18-49 nearly doubled over the course of the season, finishing with 859,000 viewers in the demo. By both measures, Southland is in better shape than it was with its last season finale (1.7 million viewers, 630,000). The fifth season's Live+Seven Day average of 2.2 million viewers and 1 million adults 18-49 leaves it in more of a grey area.
This is not an unfamiliar scenario for Southland. The drama, which saw its original seven-episode season air on NBC before the broadcast network canceled it, has maintained bubble status since TNT picked up the rights and started airing it in 2010 to a still unmatched ratings high of 2.5 million viewers and 1.26 million adults 18-49. Adding to the uncertainty, three of the lead actors have other pilots in contention. Ben McKenzie is attached CBS drama The Advocates, Regina King stars in ABC's Divorce: A Love Story and Shawn Hatosy has booked CBS' Reckless -- albeit all are in second position to Southland, should a renewal come.
Southland is one of several TNT dramas with a questionable fate right now. The network, which typically dominates cable in the summer, saw less success in its play to beef up winter scripted offerings with a soft relocation for Dallas and an embarrassing launch for David E. Kelley medical drama Monday Mornings. The series opened to 1.34 million viewers and just 386,000 adults 18-49 before promptly falling off the radar completely.
Historically, TNT has not rushed into renewal decisions. The most recent pickup for Southland came a month and a half after its fourth season finale, so it could be a while before the matter sees any closure.