'K-Ville' Captures New Orleans Today
The same is true for the most intense hurricane. Though much of the U.S. sat transfixed two years ago as Hurricane Katrina destroyed swaths of the Gulf Coast, those who watched from dry living rooms do not entirely get it. We do not know what is like to smell our neighbors decomposing and wonder what happened to our cars, houses, jobs and lives.
Perhaps some will say it is too soon, the emotions too raw to revisit that awful storm and what it left in its wake. But Fox's "K-Ville," premiering Monday, Sept. 17, does such an excellent job of depicting New Orleans as it tries to recover, that it is worth watching, regardless of the pain it might stir. Perhaps people should watch it precisely for that reason.
The hourlong drama focuses on a good cop, Marlin Boulet (Anthony Anderson, "The Shield"), who grew up and made his home in the 9th Ward. He stayed through the disaster, though his partner fled. He knows his neighbors and helps the elderly, warns teenage boys as they flirt with crime, and is determined to help revive his city.
His new partner, Trevor Cobb (Cole Hauser, "The Break-Up"), is shifty. Boulet is suspicious of why a recent veteran who served in Afghanistan and says he from the North, wants to be a cop in New Orleans.
"K-Ville" wisely films on location, as no other town could substitute for New Orleans. The opening scenes remind us how the city looked on Sept. 1, 2005, when New Orleans was under water. As Boulet works that day, he looks shocked but focused.
After showing the murky waters and fierce winds that destroyed so much of New Orleans two years ago, the pilot jumps to today. Though some neighborhoods look the same, so many, particularly those that were poor to begin with, remain in ruins.
"It is disheartening to see whole communities decimated, completely gone," Anderson says. "We look at the news and see they have FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) trailers and think everything is fine. But until you walk into a FEMA trailer where a family of four is living, and has been living for two years, and living in maybe 300 feet ... ."
"I spend the majority of my days in a trailer. Of course, mine is a luxury trailer -- I have a bedroom, living room, kitchen, bathroom. I stepped into a FEMA trailer a few weeks ago for the first time and my heart broke."
Despite the difficult topic, the show should entertain, its actors and executive producer say. Yet they also hope it reminds people that New Orleans continues to struggle.
"I feel as if I have a moral responsibility to render the spirit of the truth," executive producer Jonathan Lisco says. "By the way, I don't want to do that by shoving people's faces in the aftermath of the hurricane. I want to do that through the prism of my characters; it should be through reinvention and rebirth."
In the pilot, Boulet's friend and neighbor, a jazz singer, meets an untimely demise, and developers are greedy beyond reason. While that doesn't exactly make for shock TV, a well-reasoned subplot fuels the developer's acquisitiveness.
The pilot also does a solid job of introducing the cops' private lives. Hauser says he was impressed by the back story of his character, Cobb.
"He was a bank robber, armed robbery," Hauser says. "He was in with bad people. He wasn't a killer or a drug addict. Even before the storm, there were not a lot of jobs and great success stories coming out of New Orleans. He was living the way he had to live, not that it was right, it was just the situation he was in."
Now, Cobb tries to live a clean life. The New Orleans police, at least the way they're depicted in the pilot, are a committed, tough force.
"There's a strong argument that the people left in New Orleans right now are the most incredibly resilient and good-humored people, and suffering from post traumatic syndrome," Lisco says. "When you run into the cops, for example, it's hard not to think of them as heroic."
Before Katrina, the NOPD was infamous for being a woefully underfunded department whose officers were among the lowest paid in the nation. And there's a record of corruption.
"A substantial number of them left their post during the storm and that has not sat well with the cops who stayed and the general population," Lisco says. "You watch them go home to a half-built house or a FEMA trailer. This is a force that is full of heroes, and that is not an overstatement. Not heroes of a legendary kind but of an everyday kind."
Boulet and Cobb are heroes just for doing their jobs against all odds. That's what "K-Ville" will focus on, as the men and the city try to piece together broken lives.
"It is not going to be a weekly diatribe about what happened two years ago," Anderson says. "I hope it is an accurate depiction of the city and that this is something they can be proud of, and I hope it shines a light on this corner of darkness."