The Greatest TV Show About Louisiana You’ve Probably Never Seen
Actor Tim Reid is, without a doubt, best known for his turn as nighttime deejay Venus Flytrap on CBS' iconic comedy series, WKRP in Cincinnati. But few folks remember that jus a few years later, Reid starred in a show of his own, a then groundbreaking "dramedy," called Frank's Place. And it was set in New Orleans.
There have been a number of successful TV series based in the Crescent City. From the late 50s detective show Bourbon Street Beat (featuring the worst southern accents of all time), to the more recent True Blood and NCIS: New Orleans. But Reid's Frank's Place was one of a kind.
And what was so special about a series that was critically acclaimed, but, sadly, unwatched? From nola.com:
('Frank's Place' tells) the crawfish-out-of-water story of an Ivy League professor (Reid) who moves to New Orleans when he inherits a classic Creole restaurant. Right away, it was clear that it was different from other sitcoms. Shot on film and with one camera, as opposed to the three video cameras used by most sitcoms, it boasted a sophisticated visual style. What's more, it didn't feature a laugh track. Critics loved it, but audiences weren't sure what to make of it, and it was cancelled after a single season.
The show, the brainchild of WKRP creator Hugh Wilson, was woven in the tradition of classic TV sitcoms like Andy Griffith or Mary Tyler Moore, i.e., a relatively sane character at the hub of the wheel, surrounded by a bunch of crazies, leaning on him for direction. And at that, Frank's Place was brilliant.
Again, from nola.com:
"Frank's Place" is recognized by critics as a landmark TV series mainly for its aesthetic style. More importantly, though, New Orleanians recognized it as ground-breaking for its willingness to push past the stereotypes, making an effort to showcase the real New Orleans rather than presenting the easy, cliched postcard version. Not only did it feature a main character who was black, but it often dealt with issues of race, in the process painting a compelling portrait of black, working-class New Orleans. "Frank's Place" didn't just look like New Orleans, though. It sounded like it, too, as producers regularly wove music from local artists into the show.
So, why is Frank's Place, if so well done, virtually impossible to find? The same thing that made it so unique: Its music. Again, nola.com:
"Frank's Place" (has) never been re-released due to lingering music-rights issues. "That music now costs a fortune," Reid once explained, "It would cost more to put that music in the show now than it would to pay for all the actors that we had.