TV Review: 'K-Ville'
It's an uncomfortable gumbo in which the authenticity is simmered right along with the cop drama cliches
"K-Ville" may be the first FOX show in years to produce exactly the opposite reaction. If all it took to make a good TV show was correspondingly good intentions, then "K-Ville" might, indeed, be the "landmark" program the FOX promo department has been calling it for months.
Focusing on the heroism of New Orleans police officers trying to keep the city safe in the wake of Hurricane Katrina -- already a worthy aspiration -- "K-Ville" has gone a step forward by actually filming in the Big Easy. If ever the sentimentalist in me has wanted to see a show get a 10-season run, to funnel millions upon millions of production dollars into a city, it's "K-Ville." The TV critic side of me, though, isn't so comfortable with that idea.
The New Orleans shooting infuses "K-Ville" with a certain amount of inherent authenticity, though the show's location work seems to consist of two modes: Drive-by footage of the city's wreckage, of boarded up houses and shuttered businesses, and scenes of the actors in picture-postcard parts of the city that have already been better repaired. But just in case you don't know where the story is taking place, before the title card pops up on screen, our main character -- Anthony Anderson's born-and-bred Marlin Boulet -- makes himself a po-boy, lectures a young man on the importance of cypress trees, RSVPs for a weekend gumbo party and catches some jazz at a charity benefit. I'm well-aware that New Orleans is a city whose foundations are built upon food and music, but "K-Ville" lays it on mighty thick. Plus, with the gravity of Katrina weighing everything down, the "K-Ville" pilot is utterly humorless.
When characters aren't engaging in traditional local pastimes and issuing broad declarative statements to emphasize how far from fully reconstructed New Orleans is, they're trapped in the most conventional '70s cop drama imaginable. Anderson's Boulet is the hot-headed live-wire, a cop who eats and drinks New Orleans, even if it means boozing on the job. Cole Hauser's Trevor Cobb is his new partner, a more analytical man with a mysterious (and completely implausible) past, who's still capable of running after a suspect shooting two guns at once if the action cliche calls for it. There's the supportive boss (John Carroll Lynch), who shakes his head at Boulet's behavior, but also shows concern. And then you have Tawny Cypress, Blake Shields and a couple other actors as members of the police force who may get dialogue in subsequent episodes.
Anderson and Hauser are fine leading men, though their accents waver throughout, while the other actors seem unsure if they want to avoid doing hammy faux New Orleans accents, or if they just want to dive in and sound like high school students doing "Streetcar Named Desire." I prefer the performers who opt for the former. My biggest query is why, if you just going to make a new generation's "Starsky & Hutch," you'd do it without including an equivalent Huggy Bear character.
Maybe Huggy Bear is coming in subsequent episodes. After all, "K-Ville" may have produced a cliche-laden pilot, but the great thing about New Orleans is just how many cliches remain untapped. Unless the second or third episodes focus on a voodoo priest killing off topless Mardi Gras coeds by stuffing them full of beignet and holding elaborate jazz funerals and above-ground cemeteries, "K-Ville" ought to have enough narrative material to give the city a bit more of a financial boost before cancellation.