By EW Staff
August 18, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Rebecca Brenneman

9-10 PM · Fox · Debuts Sept. 17

K-Ville borrows so shamelessly from the handbook of police-show tropes it might as well be called Cop Drama. Every scene feels done, especially this one: A black cop and a white cop — neither of whom plays by the rules — get reamed by their captain (a gruff teddy bear, of course). But look closer: The actors are not in a police station, they’re in a FEMA-style trailer. And the soundstage isn’t in some anonymous lot in L.A., but in New Orleans, two years after Hurricane Katrina. Suddenly, K-Ville feels completely different.

”All I know is: New Orleans cop show.” That’s how executive producer Jonathan Lisco recalls the pitch from Fox chairman Peter Liguori. ”’Can you give me a little bit more than that?”’ Lisco asked. But Liguori responded, ”You’re the writer. Take it from there.” So while other new series toy with superpowers and spies, K-Ville — starring Anthony Anderson (so heartbreakingly wonderful in The Shield) and Cole Hauser (Paparazzi) as SWAT unit partners — tries to capture the visceral reality of Louisiana’s struggling Gulf port. ”We’re bringing light and awareness to this city two years later,” says Hauser, ”after America, the government, and the news have gotten off Katrina.” Hauser’s Trevor Cobb is the enigma — quiet, taciturn, with one too many secrets in his back pocket. Anderson, fresh off roles in The Departed and Transformers, plays Marlin Boulet, a man fighting to hold on to his hometown and his family. The question is whether he’ll end up losing both.

Drive five minutes outside the French Quarter or the stately Garden District and it’s wrenchingly clear what New Orleanians are up against: streets dotted with abandoned businesses and schools, neighborhoods so empty they echo, driveways that lead to nowhere — not to mention spikes in drug use and violent-crime rates. ”We’d be doing a disservice to New Orleans and to the show if we didn’t tackle and talk about those things,” says Anderson. However, some message boards and blogs have already dismissed K-Ville as a culture vulture, feeding on tragedy. ”That’s not the case at all,” counters Anderson. ”It’s not a show about Hurricane Katrina. It’s a show that takes place two years later in a city that was devastated by [Katrina].” Besides, ”Whatever we’re talking about here isn’t just isolated to this place. Will we get into some controversial topics? I believe so. Will they be foreign to anybody who’s watching television? No.”

As to whether K-Ville might actually help New Orleans, the fact is that so long as the production is there, so is Fox’s money. The network estimates the show’s first 13 episodes will pump $17 million into the local economy, and that 80 percent of the crew is native. ”Anytime we could possibly go local, we’re going local,” maintains Lisco. And for whatever reason — genuine or genuinely politic — K-Ville‘s Hollywood transplants are making an effort to connect with their new home, signing up with Habitat for Humanity and supporting New Orleans charities. ”It’s my community now,” says Anderson. ”This is family. This is where I live.” —Alynda Wheat