Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Never Heard of K-Ville

Last night, Fox premiered a brand new cop drama set in New Orleans called K-Ville. Foolishly, I had high hopes.

The show is shot on location here in town. It could help to shed light on some of the problems we continue to face as a community. We need all of the media coverage we can get...

What I wanted, what the city could use, was the New Orleans version of HBO's the Wire (maybe the best television program ever produced). That show addresses the wide range of socioeconomic issues that help to illuminate crime and community breakdown in the city of Baltimore.

Director Spike Lee's planned fictional drama about post-Katrina New Orleans sounded like a great idea because his documentary about the disaster so articulately expressed the city's anger and pain.

That show, however, was scrapped.

Instead, we got K-Ville.

I went to the bar to take in the premier, figuring the place would be packed and with curious neighbors. The bar was pretty empty though, it seemed most people made up their mind in advance that the show would be an offensive collection of cliché New Orleans images and sensationalized representations of real-life struggles. They were right to stay away, because that's what I saw at the bar last night.

Nobody from here calls the city K-Ville. That is an insult. We live in New Orleans and we want to rebuild New Orleans. K-Ville is a place that was forced upon the residents because of government's inability to provide levee protection. K-Ville is a place that is being made permanent by government's failure to aid the rebuilding process, or even provide social services. Has the rest of the country abandoned New Orleans? Is everyone now just resigned to K-Ville? That hurts. Does anyone call Manhattan 'Nine Eleven City?' The name of the show alone helped the bar reach a pessimistic consensus.

Without going into a whole recap, the show featured a bunch of characters with French-ish sounding names, a drive-by on Bourbon Street, and a team of criminals spraying machine gun rounds into a charity event on Jackson Square. The quote that inspired the most incredulous laughter was when the main character, stressed angry, and near his breaking point, directs his partner to drive to the restaurant. "I eat gumbo when I need to think!" (or something like that)

In the end, the hero cops solve the murder of a Jazz singer by uncovering a land-grab conspiracy involving security contractors and casino management. Case-closed. We all wondered how the show could continue beyond one or two more episodes because the premier had already pretty much exhausted the NOPD's conviction rate. In real life, only three people have gone to prison for over 160 murders committed in 2006.

In real life, the NOPD can barely get anyone to talk to them, let alone testify in court.

After the show ended, I decided that it just wasn't very well written and probably wasn't worth watching again. This happens all the time when networks try out new dramas. Sometimes they're just not that good. But the more I thought about it, the more upset I got. If you're going to risk offending people by trying to profit off our daily disaster, you better make sure it's good.

The national review of the episode that best articulates that challenge is by Robert Bianco of USA Today:

"It's possible America is ready for an overheated, buddy-cop throwback to 'Starsky and Hutch,' or for a pulp drama set in New Orleans -- though my bet is that it's too late for the former and too early for the latter. But to combine the two in one, for a show that makes a still-suffering New Orleans look like 'Deadwood' on the Mississippi, is not just bad timing, it's also excruciatingly bad taste."

As much as some of the characters' poorly written speeches about hope, rebuilding, and renewal demonstrate that the show has some good intentions, it's not enough.

What this city needs and deserves is a weekly documentary. We don't need fictional glorification of our broken police department, cartoon portrayal of neighborhood violence, or an overall exoneration of the government's culpability in our daily disaster.

There's a chance that the show could develop and grow so maybe it won't just be canceled right away. But in my fantasies, this show was an A+ window into the city that care forgot, a show that had every American in front of their television sets every week, engaging them in a broad look at the problems we face in reality, winning Emmy Awards and challenging national politicians to find solutions all along the way. Fox would lead into the season finale by playing Spike Lee's documentary unedited and without commercials.

Instead, everyone at the bar took the latest slap in the face with an Abita Amber and the knowledge that next week at the same time, we'll all be watching the Saints instead.


m.d. said...


The reality of the NOPD is so much more compelling a story than the fictional world portrayed in K-ville. I wish some of that was in the writing.

Oh, well.

charlotte said...

I am so happy to hear someone else who thinks the name "kville" is a slap in the face....exactly what I said.

Great post & I'm gonna link to it.

Lionel McClure said...

Mmmm, Abita. Solid, solid beer. Thank you for writing this review - you saved me the time I might have spent watching an episode of the show.

Two other things - you say The Wire may be the best show of all time. While it is fantastic I present to you this - it is not even the best cop show of all time. If you haven't, do yourself an enormous favor and check out The Shield. A truly amazing TV experience, even more so than The Wire.

Also, I'm adding you to my blogroll. Prepare yourself for a .4% readership increase. If you could find it in your heart to return the favor, I'd be ever so grateful.

marsupialis said...

K-Ville is dreadful. I, too, hoped it would be a realistic view of law enforcement in NO, now. You want The Wire, I'd settle for Hill Street Blues. Instead, we got Starsky & Hutch with artsier camera moves. We got the new TV narrative which tells us that it's not enough to set the series in a place of inherent drama, but we need to lard on the deserter ex-partner, and the criminal new partner with all the other stupidity this show brought. Watching the TV spots over the summer, I initially thought, this looks interesting. The more of them I watched, the less interested I became. We hung in for the whole first hour. We'll never watch another.

E said...

Thanks for the kind words y'all. And the links. The traffic makes me feel famous, I should go get new head shots ready.

jfritsch62 said...

Yes the show was a bit cheesy, a little more starsky and hutchy rather than the wirery. (huh?) But I loved Starsky and Hutch as a young teen and I loved this show. The car chase through the french quarter, so unrealistic, but sooo cool. Or should I say, "so boss man". The K-Vill production employed many people in our city, It had the potential to showcase much of the local talent-musicians, actors, street performers.. After watching a few episodes I came to like the characters more. and was glad to see that they showed the regrowth and the stalemate areas of the city. Yeah it was just another buddy copy show, but it was a cheesy buddy cop show in our city. The economy was and still is in need of as much stimulation as it can get. Given another season there would much more opportunity for real life NOPD stories to get worked into the script. As for the name of the show, I never saw it as an insult. It was a used to bring attention to the show. I'm sure no one meant to implicate that New Orleans was now K-Ville. I can see I'm rambling. I really did love the show. I'm going to miss Marlin and Trevor.

micheal said...

Thanks for the kind words y'all. And the links.While it is fantastic I present to you this - it is not even the best cop show of all time.K-Ville is dreadful. I, too, hoped it would be a realistic view of law enforcement in NO, now.

charley said...

Love to Watch TV Shows Online. I have seen this show as well and its really good show.

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