When the Shows Go Marching In: A History of TV Shows Set in New Orleans
by Danny Gallagher, posted Apr 13th 2010 11:04AM
Very few shows have featured New Orleans as its setting, and it's not hard to see why. The list is a mix of critically acclaimed but quickly canceled shows, and critically disemboweled and canceled-just-as-quickly shows.
'Treme,' HBO's new drama from 'The Wire' creator David Simon and 'Wire' writer/producer Eric Overmyer, could break the mold that so many others have tried to crack. Judging from the first episode, their chances are looking good. If 'Treme' goes on to achieve the fame that 'The Wire' has, it won't just have its staff, creators, or even the city to thank for providing such beautiful inspiration.
It will have these other shows to thank for choking on that overcooked beignet for them.
It's hard to tell if this early 1970's crime drama from ABC is set in the Crescent City since you barely see any of it, except for a few clips of the French Quarter to remind you. It starred James Franciscus as an insurance investigator who goes blind in an accident on the job, but refuses to quit. Think of it as 'Blind Justice,' but with a lot more paperwork.
It only lasted a year and seems to have been lost to the fabric of time and memory. In fact, if martial arts and movie legend Bruce Lee hadn't appeared in some of the episodes, bits and pieces of the show might not even have found their way to YouTube.
This late 80's comedy from CBS had a good 22 episode run, and even though it didn't get picked up for a second season, it made a lasting effect on television's technical and dramatic elements.
The show starred Tim Reid as Frank Parrish, a professor who inherits his late father's restaurant, Chez Louisiane, and ends up learning a lot more than just how to make the perfect etouffee. It may have not have scored many eyeballs in its time, but the show broke new ground as one of TV's earliest single-camera "dramedies" that dealt with very serious racial and class issues without using comedy to soften its message or dramatic undertones.
'The Big Easy'
'Silk Stalkings' may not have lived up to the caliber of dramatic shows that USA has carved out for cable these days, but its early success prompted network heads to turn Jim McBridge's critically acclaimed erotic thriller into a crime serial of its own.
The episodes were hit and miss before it eventually developed into a stream of typical cop cliche plots that simply ran through the list of offenses in the U.S. Penal Code. Unlike the other shows, however, it did most of its principal filming in New Orleans.
Here's another short-lived show that dealt with the seedier side of the Big Easy, which is pretty seedy considering that public intoxication and rampant nudity is considered a "Wednesday" in New Orleans.
Larry Hagman starred in this edgy drama series in the late 90's as a down home southern judge with some very dark secrets hidden under his robes.
They stayed hidden because it only lasted eight episodes.
'Chief Wiggum, P.I.' from 'The Simpsons'
"The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase" episode from the 11th season gave three characters from the vast array of colorful (if the only color you care about is yellow) characters from 'The Simpsons'' their own chance at TV infamy. If one of these are actually produced when 'The Simpsons' finally ends, the one I would be pulling for with every fiber of my mental will would be 'Chief Wiggum, P.I.'
Springfield's former police chief moves down to the Bayou Bay to open a private detective agency with Principal Skinner, but soon finds himself embroiled in a hot tale of espionage and kidnapping with one of New Orleans' biggest, boldest and most stereotypical Cajun crime bosses, Big Daddy. Of course, the show didn't do any filming in the actual New Orleans because (1) it's a cartoon and (2) Tipitina's would never let a film crew shoot out their windows, even if it was really, really funny.
'The Real World: New Orleans'
One of the series' more memorable seasons took place in the Crescent City, which is natural since a show about seven strangers living together who constantly look for a good time describes the occupants of every other house on St. Charles Avenue. MTV recently announced the show would return to New Orleans for its 24th season.
This was the first series set in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent failure of the levees. As such, it had a unique chance to address the issues surrounding the devastating effects of both. Instead, it relied on typical cop show cliches like angry police chiefs and ridiculous car chases and probably made people think New Orleans' biggest post-Katrina crime problem was a lack of realistic sounding speeches from embattled NOPD officers.