Tuesday, September 25, 2007

K-Ville Blues

The producers of Fox’s K-Ville deserve credit for filming in New Orleans. They certainly could have gone elsewhere, but they made the choice to help stimulate the local economy. However, with that said, based on the first two episodes, one wonders how long those K-Ville film crews will be around (pilot available here or for free download on itunes).

Granted television shows need time to develop their characters and the chemistry between its actors. However, from what was seen in the first two episodes, in K-Ville both are standard, at best. Billed as a hard-hitting crime series informed by the reality of life in post-Katrina NOLA, K-Ville is in actuality, disappointingly generic.

There is much going on in New Orleans that would make for riveting drama. The criminal justice system is in shambles. Recently, Democrat D.A. Eddie Jordan lost his second appeal in a racial discrimination lawsuit brought by former white employees of his office. One experienced forensics expert charged (successfully) that he was replaced by a candidate who “had little experience other than being a lifeguard and doing some office work at a law firm.”

What would have simply been an expensive tab for NOLA taxpayers (Jordan is not personally on the hook for the judgment) has taken on tragic dimensions for the city, as Jordan has proved incapable of prosecuting cases in a timely manner. Under Louisiana criminal codes, the state must file an indictment sixty days after arrest, or kick loose the accused. Under Jordan there were almost 3,000 so-called 701 releases (named for the applicable article of the code) in 2006.

It is not surprising the level of mistrust that has built up between the police and the DA’s office as a result. To make matters worse, drug gangs are relocating to city, recognizing the greener pastures afforded by prosecutorial incompetence. The dramatic possibilities of such a situation are rich. From departmental tensions, to the temptation to extract vigilante justice to circumvent the DA’s revolving prison door, K-Ville has the raw material to make The Shield look like Inspector Gadget.

Instead, K-Ville simply recycles a rogues’ gallery of left wing bogeymen du jour. In the first episode, the greatest danger facing the city is not the proliferation of drug dealers and their attendant turf battles, but a politically connected group of vigilantes obviously based on Blackwater. In episode two, it turns out that actually too many people are going to jail in New Orleans (a flat out insulting contention to New Orleans citizens protesting in hopes of making their streets safer), to provide prison labor for a corrupt warden and, of course, an evil corporation.

Rather than get to the heart of post-Katrina issues, K-Ville has been content in its first two episodes to fall back on tired liberal Hollywood clichés, in effect ignoring the facts on the ground. The direction is actually quite strong, and the production values look high. Dr. John performs on the theme song, which is cool. However, mediocrity would be an ambitious goal based on what has been seen so far. That is a shame. K-Ville is missing an opportunity for some powerful television.