2007 Verve Awards

2006 Verve Awards

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Best Arts and Culture Blog Nominee

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


The New TV Season: K-Ville

Mondays, 9pm (Fox) starring Anthony Anderson, Cole Hauser, Blake Shields, Tawny Cypress, and John Carroll Lynch

In retrospect, K-Ville could never have escaped being heavy-handed. As the first television series to dwell upon the struggles of post-Katrina New Orleans, the show has an earthy, plaintive melancholy that drifts listlessly through the atmosphere, weighing down the otherwise traditional buddy-cop scenario with a leaden gravitas. Even the action sequences (which in last night's pilot included three gun battles and a breakneck car chase) lack the abandon that visceral reactions require.

But perhaps the blue mood that pervades K-Ville isn't completely a bad thing. American television is fraught with escapist fantasy these days...and with the world going to hell in a handbasket, some serious socio-political drama might be just what the doctor ordered. Tonally, the show rips off the saturated colors and humid dread of the last New Orleans drama (the little-seen, much-adored Andre Braugher series Thief), and it clearly owes a debt to The Wire and The Sopranos. The leading duo -- hard-bitten local cop Marlin Boulet (Anthony Anderson) and hard-bitten Ohio newbie Trevor Cobb (Cole Hauser) -- are a fish-out-of-water pair that haven't yet developed a rhythm. But if their previous work is any indication (Anderson in Hustle and Flow, Hauser in Tigerland), they should be fine in a few episodes.

But the problem isn't really in the details or their execution...it's the ethos. Like New Orleans itself, K-Ville will only become vital if it can escape its own sense of loss. The ongoing tragedy of Hurricane Katrina is a complex, intricate, living thing, which means show elements -- a murder mystery, police corruption, hothead officers -- must have sophistication and cultural currency. Otherwise, it's just pandering to our sense of social concern.

What shouldn't happen on K-Ville is overly theatrical bullshit...and sadly, there's some already creeping in. Boulet's most evident flaw is his still-raw emotion about being abandoned by his former partner during the hurricane...and because of this obvious and easy character trait, we're subjected to an endless parade of scenes where he loses his shit in many, many ways. (Pointing his gun at his new partner while driving around town, asking him maniacally "What's your angle," is as ridiculously overwrought as it sounds; they don't even try that on Nip/Tuck, for crying out loud.) I hope that K-Ville has a future; we could really use a nuanced national discussion of New Orleans, and the Bush Administration isn't interested in leading on that issue. But in order for television to heal that national wound -- or even to entertain us -- this show's got to get a lot smarter. Quickly.



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