Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Why I Love The "SouthLAnd" Houses

There are very few studio sets built for "SouthLAnd."  Most of the show is shot in and around Los Angeles.  Accordingly, actual houses and apartments are used in many scenes.  And one of my favorite things to do when watching an episode for the second (or third) time is to pay close attention to these residences and how they are decorated for the show.  Those responsible for scouting and choosing the locations and setting them up for the shoots are very talented folks.  They are always perfect backdrops for the action and drama unfolding in the story.

Many of the homes used seem to be in working-class neighborhoods, for example.  Often a crime has been committed within the home. A victim, a criminal, or the family of a victim or criminal might live in the house.  Accordingly, the house has to be chosen and arranged in such a way as to reflect its history and the personalities and lifestyles of the characters who live there.  A home chosen for "SouthLAnd" is often quite charming, though older and a bit run-down.  The paint seems to have been selected, at some point in the past, with care.  The outside walls and trim might be of lovely, though somewhat faded, colors.  There might be a front porch, maybe a little weathered, but perhaps with a welcoming chair or two.  A screen door might be mounted in front of the main doorway, hinting at a time in the past when little children peeked out of it in the evening, waiting for their daddy to arrive home.  There is often a front lawn -- sparse, but trimmed.  Curtains might be seen through the windows, maybe sewn by a new mom home with her baby twenty years ago.  So, as we see Officer Bryant and Officer Sherman approach such a house, as we wonder what they will find within it, we are also made aware of the cultural backdrop and the socioeconomic situation of the individuals they are about to meet.  We feel for joys had and joys lost in the lives of these people.  We are attuned to the fact that there were better times in these places, and this touches our hearts.

As Sammy and Ben enter the home to search it or to make an arrest or even to comfort a victim, our hearts are further touched as we see the more intimate space of the people they encounter.  Furniture often harkens back to the era of my own childhood, indicating the rich family history of the characters -- and, perhaps, their poverty.  There are often built-in cabinets and shelves holding inexpensive, yet precious, knick-knacks -- trinkets carefully chosen on family vacations or given as gifts for special occasions.  Family pictures grace the walls of the home -- walls painted in warm colors by somebody who loves or has loved the victim (or criminal) in the story that is unfolding before us.  The house is usually clean and well-kept -- although, if a crime has been committed therein, it may be in disarray.  But, we can still see the careful housekeeping this disarray masks.  And this is a fitting reminder of the upheaval -- emotional and otherwise -- which crime inflicts upon innocent lives.  We imagine a family eating dinner, watching television, or getting ready for bed in a home that is rather poor, yet carefully kept -- when violence enters into that space.  And we can all feel in our guts what that would be like.  We all know in our hearts that we are potential victims.  And herein lies at least part of the power of "SouthLAnd" and the stories that it tells.  In carefully crafting these scenes, in their brilliant use of a home and its decor, the people who bring us this show make the victims, and even the criminals and those who love those criminals, relatable.

If you are a "SouthLAnd" fan, you have probably noticed these things, as I have.  But, if you haven't, I would encourage you to really take note of the work so meticulously done by the location scouts and set decorators of this courageous show.

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