It’s almost impossible to separate “K-Ville” from its cynical underpinnings — leveraging the flood-ravaged remnants of New Orleans as the attention-getting springboard for an otherwise highly conventional buddy cop drama. Stripped of that context, the series is really just an excuse for oodles of gunfire, an action-heavy hour with scant reason to exist beyond its “filmed in New Orleans” label. The Big Easy can doubtless use the revenue from lensing there, but Fox won’t win any taste and sensitivity awards for testing these still-unsettled waters.
Make this Any City, U.S.A., and “K-Ville” breaks down as a standard “Lethal Weapon” knockoff, with Anthony Anderson as a caring, committed family man and Cole Hauser (the beset movie star in “Paparazzi”) as Trevor Cobb, the mysterious, slightly dangerous cop with whom he’s warily paired.
The opening, however, reaches back to find Marlin (Anderson) wading through the chaos of Hurricane Katrina — costing the character his previous partner and causing Marlin’s family to take refuge in Atlanta while he tries to bring law and order back to his ailing town.
Yet even before the first hour’s up, the series has drifted away from current headlines and toward procedural territory, as Marlin and Trevor investigate a string of shootings at fund-raising events meant to revive the region. The search yields lots of tough-guy patter and shadowy hints of corruption, as well as plenty of lame dialogue, with the duo’s captain at one point snapping, “There’s more loose ends than a whorehouse here.”
Having flitted between comedy and dramatic roles, Anderson stays strictly in serious mode, and given the grim tone, there’s little opportunity to lighten the proceedings. As for Hauser, it’s too early to draw much of a bead on his strong-silent type.
Series creator Jonathan Lisco has experience on the TV cop beat, but beyond its pervasive sense of gloom, the pilot’s facile approach to New Orleans’ sluggish reconstruction hardly suggests the city’s problems will be addressed with the sort of complexity that would do them justice. Nobody is asking for CNN’s Anderson Cooper to parachute in, but the setting requires a bit more depth than merely using the town as background for shootouts, and playing a version of “Who’ll Stop the Rain” at the premiere’s conclusion is pretentious, bordering on dense.
With its gritty trappings and sultry look, “K-Ville” ostensibly appears compatible with its lead-in, “Prison Break,” but lacks that show’s serialized heft. Those shortcomings could send men (more discerning ones, anyway) fleeing to NBC’s “Heroes.”
Fox has exhibited a knack for getting noticed with reality TV concepts, pushing emotional buttons and prodding sacred cows. Here, the intent seems to be baiting a drama with a tantalizing marketing hook, but the resulting gumbo — despite a few promising ingredients — is all gristle, no beef.
Perhaps that’s why “K-Ville” comes out of the development grinder feeling too unsavory to swallow.