Set in post-Katrina New Orleans, “K-Ville” is a cop show that has a chance to be so much more than a cop show. But you have to wonder if it’s really up to the challenge.
“K-Ville” stars Anthony Anderson as Marlin Boulet, a police detective who valiantly stood by New Orleans through the catastrophe while many of his peers - and even his wife - high-tailed it out of there. Two years later, he’s still fiercely fighting for his ravaged city, as well as his broken family, but the strain is showing.
Anderson, who deserved an Emmy for his recent guest work in “The Shield,” is magnetic once again, delivering a performance full of emotional honesty and rocking the heck out of his scenes.
In Monday’s opener, Boulet is introduced to a new partner, Trevor Cobb (Cole Hauser), a taciturn man with a secret to guard. It’s the kind of dissonant pairing we’ve seen countless times before: Boulet is black; Cobb is white. Their backgrounds are different, as is the way they approach the job. They initially clash, then form a bond. Oh, and they both answer to a gruff, burly boss.
That kind of shopworn setup, among other things, is what keeps “K-Ville” from being a truly distinctive piece of television. This, despite the fact that it is shot in one of the most exotic locales the country has to offer.
The problem, at least early on, is that “K-Ville” comes across as a show that doesn’t really know what it wants to be. Part of Monday’s pilot feels like a po’ boy version of HBO’s “The Wire” - an ambitious production, with a gritty sense of place, that yearns to delve into the larger themes of politics, race and sociology.
On the other hand, the episode also features an overheated gumbo of explosions and car chases and amped-up gun fights, along with a rushed and very pat resolution. In other words, ingredients that you’d find in any other standard-issue buddy-cop action saga.
Is it fair to demand more? After all, the series is fighting against a tide of escapist TV and more specifically against a show - “Heroes” - that defines the trend. “K-Ville’s” humble, street-level heroes can’t fly or teleport themselves, so what’s wrong with deploying a few slam-bang theatrics to help level the playing field?
Besides, this is Fox, not HBO. Viewers are actually required.
Still, it would seem that when you set a drama series in New Orleans, you have an obligation to do right by its people and stand for something. There are obvious opportunities here to go after bigger game, and, at the very least, a need to remind America that this is a city that remains in a world of hurt.
Creator and executive producer Jonathan Lisco apparently feels the weight of that responsibility. As if to appeal to our sympathies, he sent a note to critics saying, “Balancing our goal of making populist entertainment with our desire to be meaningful is no small task.”
He’s right. It’s a colossal task that most network shows don’t even have to worry about. But this show does. And in the coming weeks, it will be intriguing to see which side of the scale “K-Ville” winds up favoring.