Wednesday, August 29, 2007

K-Ville: The Big Not-So-Easy

Today marks two years since Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana, devastating the city of New Orleans. And in those two years, TV has done its part to acknowledge and remember what happened in the Big Easy and its aftermath, from documentaries, both Spike Lee- and Discovery-helmed, to special episodes of shows like Dirty Jobs and Law & Order: SVU, to Anderson Cooper, Keeping Them Honest as he does, and even plot points on failed shows like Runaway and Studio 60. Now Fox is bringing us K-Ville, an entire show about life in New Orleans post-Katrina, and it's the sort of show that makes you wish that it would last a while, to keep the focus on the rebuilding efforts. That is, the idea makes you wish it would last a while. The execution leaves something to be desired, as I discovered when I watched the pilot on

The writing is often heavy-handed, with one character more or less getting the words "REDEMPTION ARC" tattooed across his forehead, and another character hiding a Dark Secret that seems to primarily exist as an incentive to keep people watching. However, much of the ham-fistedness is focused in the character of Marlin Boulet, played by Anthony Anderson, who in recent years has almost entirely redeemed himself for Kangaroo Jack. Boulet is a dedicated cop fighting to rebuild his city, and particularly his hood, the Ninth Ward. They're admirable sentiments that unfortunately take the form of speechifying, and they don't always work, especially his paean to the cypress tree early on in the episode. (Of course, I freely admit that one of my pet peeves is laymen using the scientific name of something for no reason, as Boulet does.) However, K-Ville does prove that it can successfully marry the activist and cop elements of the show, by showing us how much Boulet knows and loves his hood, and how hard he tries to protect it. That, I think, is the line K-Ville should be walking.

That said, there is promise. The show does well getting across the flavor of New Orleans, as diluted by Katrina as it is. Boulet gets interesting when he drinks on the job and gets into tricky negotiations with his wife about moving back home with their daughter. Boulet's partner, Trevor Cobb (Cole Hauser), is the character who is Not What He Seems, and, perhaps because of that mystery, and contrasted against the fact that Boulet is pretty much an open book, he's the more compelling of the two. While I wasn't particularly impressed with the reveal of the Dark Secret, I won't deny that it makes for a potentially rich backstory.

But it's only the pilot, and I've only ever seen a couple of stellar pilots. The second episode is always the true test of what a show is going to be, and so, because I really want to like this show, I'll wait until I see that before I make any judgment. But that doesn't mean that you can't make your own snap judgment by watching the pilot here.


David said...

Notes from someone who has been living in New Orleans for the past year (and watched the pilot):

Points of contention with the show: There is no such thing as a gumbo party, and no one in New Orleans would ever have one in August anyway (too damn hot); the house that Anthony Anderson's character lives in is probably in Broadmoor or Central City, not the Upper Ninth Ward--I worked in the Upper Ninth every day for a year and never once saw a historic double bay two-story. I know this sounds anal, but think about the difference between Brooklyn and Manhattan and you'll see what I mean. Also, with as many cops, tourists, people on foot, and cars crammed on the streets as there are in the French Quarter, very unlikely that anyone could drive through there and shoot up the place (twice!) and escape. This, for me, goes beyond the concept of suspension of disbelief--I think it just makes everything look silly.

All that being said, I thought the show was really pretty well done, although I hope they don't try to tell the entire story of post-Katrina New Orleans in every single episode, or it will get bogged down. I really liked the police chief (supervisor?), but then again, I've been partial to John Carroll Lynch ever since he played the cross-dressing brother on "The Drew Carey Show."

Fun fact: When the cops are on the way to "Ziggy's," they pass by a building with the graffiti, "Fix Everything My Ass". This building, which is at the corner of Desire and Law Streets in the Upper Ninth Ward, was once called Club Desire and was one of the places where Fats Domino first played in the late 40's and early 50's. And it's also down the street from two houses whose construction I oversaw during the spring and summer.

micheal said...

K-Ville was shot on location in New Orleans. Jonathan Lisco, the series writer and executive producer, toured parts of New Orleans with actual New Orleans Police Officers before writing the pilot in hopes of making the series as real as possible.K-Ville was shot on location in New Orleans. Jonathan Lisco, the series writer and executive producer, toured parts of New Orleans with actual New Orleans Police Officers before writing the pilot in hopes of making the series as real as possible.

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