Stars: Michael Cudlitz, Shawn Hatosy, Benjamin McKenzie, Regina King, Lucy Liu, Roxana Brusso, Dorian Missick, Lou Diamond Phillips, Carl Lumbly

Procedural shows about cops are, much like ones about lawyers and hospital workers, TV's most easily served comfort food. With new cases every week and a limited amount of narrative originality, hour-long dramas revolving around troubled policemen and women present channel-surfers with familiarity: action and modest suspense accompanied by stock characters.

Southland, TNT's LAPD series by way of NBC's premature cancellation in October 2009, is the exception. Given their usual scant 10-episode duration, Southland's creators didn't pull any punches in the show's fourth season. The signature grittiness propelled stars Michael Cudlitz, Benjamin McKenzie, Regina King, and newbie Lucy Liu to handle plotlines about teenage suicide, gangland murders, and precinct investigations with aplomb.

Using the presumptions associated with procedurals to its advantage, Southland continues to be TV's best cop drama.