Premiered April 11 at 10pm
The newest entry in an impressive oeuvre of shows produced by the Home Box Office network certainly fits in with its predecessors, even if it may need more time to prove itself as a sustainable concept over more than just a short period. The 90-minute premiere feels like a lifelong movie, fully reaching into the aftereffects of Hurricane Katrina and exploring the lives of those who refuse to leave their homeland. It isn’t quite as clear which characters will become important and which will be quickly done away with, but for the most part, the storylines are all very interesting. Among the most intriguing are Kim Dickens’ restaurant-sustaining waitress, Clarke Peters’ stubborn patriarch, and Wendell Pierce’s charismatic musician. Melissa Leo makes for a terrific lawyer-turned-investigative-reporter, and John Goodman is a force to be reckoned with as her extremely political husband (there’s a reason why this guy is considered to be a good actor, and this just adds to that argument). Steve Zahn’s DJ is a bit of a different story, and even though his storyline isn’t necessarily terrific, it still helps to contribute to the mood and sensibility that seems to be generally shared by the residents of New Orleans. The musical parades through the street are particularly powerful, meaningful, and well-shot, though I do wonder how often they’ll be incorporated into the episodes. Most reviews of this show have been comparing it to “The Wire” because the two shows share the same creators and some of the actors (Peters and Pierce). I still have yet to see “The Wire” since I didn’t have HBO when it first started airing and I’m saving it for some time from now when I’m really itching to catch up on what I’ve heard is a great show. Since I can’t compare the two, I’ll say that this series certainly has potential, but it may have some problems trying to develop while staying confined to one recent, historical time period. “Mad Men” has succeeded in doing that well, however, so perhaps this show is just as well off in that sense. I’m certainly interested in following the lives of these characters, though it may take me another episode or two to really iron out who’s who and what exactly everyone was doing before Katrina and what they’re doing now.
How will it work as a series? HBO series never have much problem presenting in-depth voyages each week, and I think this show should be no different. As stated above, the problem of where the show goes from here is a notable one. FOX’s New Orleans-set “K-Ville” didn’t last more than ten episodes, but this show seems to have a broader scope and a well thought-out premise, and therefore it will likely do very well for itself.
How long will it last? It’s been a long time since HBO hasn’t renewed any of its shows for a second season. Both reviews and ratings were extremely positive, and I can’t imagine that HBO won’t want to continue this series. It’s possible that this may be a one-season show, but that decision would much more likely come from a creative standpoint rather than a popularity-related one. When I first wrote this review yesterday, I said that I’d expect a second season renewal announcement from HBO shortly. It turns out that I didn't even have a chance to post this before the show got renewed. That was fast.
Pilot grade: B+