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TNT’s ‘Southland’ Deal: It’s Hardly Uncommon

Media hype aside, there’s a long history of cable picking up network leftovers. ”Airwolf,“ anyone?

 Confirming weeks of speculation, TNT announced Monday that it will begin airing repeats of NBC’s failed drama "Southland" in January.

The John Wells-produced cop drama will run Tuesdays at 10 starting Jan. 12. The network’s package of episodes includes seven episodes that aired on the Peacock last spring and six hours produced for the network for what was supposed to be the show’s second season.

As TheWrap first hinted last month, TNT hasn’t yet decided whether to pick up "Southland" and turn it into an official TNT drama. That’s because it wants to see how the show’s ratings do first before agreeing to shell out the multimillion dollar sum required to revive production.

The deal between TNT and sibling studio Warner Bros. TV is thus a fairly common acquisition agreement in which a cable network is, essentially, picking up the off-net rerun rights to a series (along with some new episodes). While some media outlets have painted this move as rare, it is, in fact, far from unprecedented.

For example, in 2005, Syfy (nee Sci Fi Channel) struck a deal with 20th Century Fox TV to pick up 15 episodes of Joss Whedon’s Fox drama "Firefly"– including three episodes that had never aired on Fox. Had the show been a big hit on the cable network, it’s possible more episodes would have been produced.

Sci Fi also revived Fox’s "Sliders," first buying the repeats and then producing new episodes.

Likewise, Comedy Central picked up six episodes of the Kevin Smith cartoon version of "Clerks." The series was canceled by ABC after just two airings, leaving four half-hours as "originals" to Comedy Central. Had the show done gangbusters on Comedy Central, it’s possible more episodes would have been produced.

Cartoon Network also bought rerun rights to Fox’s "Futurama," including some unaired episodes. It was only after several years of repeats that Cartoon struck a deal to produce original half-hours.

Should TNT actually decide to revive "Southland" with new episodes, it would be a less common move– but hardly unprecedented.

USA Network, for example, produced a fourth season of "Airwolf" after CBS bailed back in the mid-1980s. Later, USA stepped in to help keep "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" alive when its NBC run seemed shaky.

Lifetime also gave fans of "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd" another season of the show after its network run ended.*

As for TNT’s pickup of the previously produced episodes, it was made possible by a deal between NBC and Warner Bros. settling out the various costs of the two parties’ divorce.

“We are extremely pleased that TNT has acquired all 13 episodes of ‘Southland,’ giving devoted fans the opportunity to watch a show that they passionately support,” said Peter Roth, president of Warner Bros. Television.


*thanks to commenter Marc, who pointed out the "Molly" move.