Ken Tucker
January 05, 2011 AT 02:23 PM EST

Southland got off to a fine third season last night, reminding us once again that it’s one of the best cop dramas on TV. There was an impeccable mixture of police action and personal interaction on Tuesday night’s season premiere.

Police detectives Lydia Adams (Regina King) and her partner Josie Ochoa (Jenny Gago) were looking for a rapist-murderer; officers Ben Sherman (Ben McKenzie) and John Cooper (Michael Cudlitz) were involved in an officer-down, shoot-out rescue mission; and detectives Sammy Bryant (Shawn Hatosy) and Nate Moretta (Kevin Alejandro) searched for a murderer within a Latino community.

In each situation, the seriousness and tension of the case was contrasted with coolheaded police investigatory tactics, and moments of light humor. It was especially enjoyable to watch Lydia Adams’ quiet irritation with her take-charge, we’ll-eat-tacos-for-lunch-not-salad new squad-car partner.

One of the best things the series does is juxtapose life-or-death situations with the most ordinary calls police officers receive, such as, last night, settling a dispute over the price of a doll between an irked customer and a stubborn salesperson. That Cudlitz’s back-pain-racked Cooper was the referee in this squabble made the petty argument all the more amusing, while never letting go of the fact that for some people, the advertised price of an item is worth arguing over. Southland manages to give every character his or her dignity.

Did you watch the season premiere of Southland? What did you think?

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