BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.—Two years after Hurricane Katrina wreaked its destructive fury upon New Orleans, a new network television drama series is setting up shop there.
Like all TV shows, “K-Ville” will be judged primarily for its entertainment value and ratings clout when it debuts on Fox this fall. But it also will attempt to strive for something much more noble along the way.
“(We want) to bring back a sense of hope to the community,” actor Anthony Anderson told reporters during a stop at the TV critics press tour. “We want to bring back jobs and revenue, and help in that rebuilding process.”
Anderson, who plays a brash New Orleans cop in the series, pointed out that members of the show’s cast have signed on with Habitat for Humanity and are helping to rebuild homes on their off days. In addition, a number of local residents are being hired to work as crew members and extras.
“You know, this is our neighborhood, and this is where we plan on living for the next six, seven, eight, nine years,” Anderson said, his voice sounding earnestly sincere.
Of course, if “K-Ville” is to have a substantial impact on the New Orleans psyche and economy, it will first have to become a ratings hit and that’s where things get somewhat iffy.
The pilot episode made available to critics is an awkward mix of gritty social realism and the kind of glossy, over-the-top action sequences you’d find in a lighthearted buddy-cop film.
And so you have to wonder how it will play to a mass audience.
Creator Jonathan Lisco is confident “K-Ville” can strike the right balance.
“We want to create entertainment,” he said. “At the same time, we want to be socially relevant to the extent possible.” Meanwhile, Anderson is hopeful that, through its storytelling and vivid on-location footage, the show will help to remind the nation that there is still plenty of work to do in the Big Easy.
“When I first arrived to shoot the pilot, it was very disheartening to see the city in the state it was,” he says. “In Lower Ninth Ward, Jefferson Parish and other places, communities have been devastated and decimated. And this is two years later. So it was quite a shock and a surprise to me, too, what we’ve allowed to happen on our watch—our government or whoever. We’re there to do what little (we can), but we’re doing something.”
Having already installed two black men in the White House, Fox’s popular action series “24” will now go with a woman president for its seventh season, which launches next January. The actress playing the prez will be Tony Award-winner Cherry Jones, and while she’s certainly no Hillary Clinton, she does have experience playing a politician as a member of Congress on an episode of “The West Wing.”
It’s yet another indication that television thinks progressively when it comes to portraying the leader of the free world. In addition to the previous “24” presidents, “The West Wing” ended its run with a Latino (Jimmy Smits) in the Oval Office and, of course, two seasons ago ABC’s “Commander in Chief” gave us a woman president played by Geena Davis.
When the seventh season of “24” kicks off, the real presidential campaign will be heating up, and it will be intriguing to see if viewers and/or the media draw any parallels between Jones’ character, President Allison Taylor, and Sen. Clinton.
Also, can seeing a fictional woman president on TV make some voters more comfortable with having one in the actual White House? That might depend on how Jones handles whatever major crisis “24” is sure to throw her way.