With apologies to Joy Press and the Village Voice
New Series Examines Katrina Quagmire While Avoiding Partisan Politics
Wednesdays at 11 starting September 8 on FX
by Happy Drucker
September 3rd, 2005 3:54 AM
“I don’t think you have to deal at all with the politics of it,” Steven Bochco told Reuters about Over Here, the first drama series to take on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. A weaselly preemptive attempt to ward off criticism from administration apologists, no doubt, but it’s pretty strange to announce one’s intention to exclude politics in a portrait of an ongoing, furiously contested disaster. What that leaves is mostly a visceral experience of catastrophe. A squad of combat soldiers wanders around the swampy mist of New Orleans, filmed with a surprising visual lyricism that occasionally reminds me of Andrei Konchalovsky’s study of tyranny and freedom Shy People. The cameras sometimes seem to swoon with disorientation as these army privates march through the green fog of their night vision goggles or watch bodies moving toward them through a rainstorm. Plunked down in a strange place, they have no idea whom they’re fighting, whom they’re helping, or where they are.
Despite Bochco’s protestations that the show is apolitical, Over Here has a jaundiced air about it. A female soldier imagines herself as one of the flood victims stranded at the Convention Center. A likable central character gets shot by looters in the first episode, and the army forgets to inform his wife for almost a week. A whole squad waits outside a grocery store like sitting ducks, unable to attack the insurgents inside because of civilians with camcorders. “We’re going to wait . . . while some general 75 miles away makes a decision about goddamn public relations, about how it would look if we did this or how it would look if we did that!” shouts a sergeant. The series aims to evoke the horror and ambiguity of relief operations—one whole episode is dedicated to roadblock duty, with the rookies forced to decide among themselves whether to shoot potentially innocent people who bust through the checkpoint. It remains to be seen whether this kind of televisual “realism” will help us understand the disaster better, but the way things are going, Bochco should have enough grim material to last him many seasons.