Monday, December 22, 2008

HBO Pimp Series Set in Oakland

By Chris Thompson
Mon, Dec 22, 2008 at 8:18 AM

We just heard about the new HBO series, "Gentlemen of Leisure," over the weekend, and are awfully intrigued. The show will feature a fortysomething pimp trying to get out of the game, but the allure of the life keeps sucking him back in. And yes, it's set in Oakland. Now, the Trib reports, Mayor Ron Dellums is afraid that the series will present Oakland as, um, a hotbed of crime and prostitution. "The people of Oakland have come too far to have our city's name trampled upon in the name of entertainment," Dellums chief of staff David Chai told the Trib. And while many people hope that the show will treat Oakland with the same complexity as The Wire did with respect to Baltimore, at least one blogger, OakBook founder Alex Gronke, is ambivalent about the enterprise.

Honestly, we can't figure out why. For one thing, neither Dellums nor any of the other critics have seen the scripts or have any way of knowing how the series will characterize Oakland. But let's say it plays up all the most lurid aspects of the city, without David Simon's depth of vision. So what? With a homicide rate on track to at least equal last year's 127 murders, and a terrible prostitution problem that spawned the city's asset forfeiture laws, is anyone seriously going to deny that crime is one of the defining features of the city right now? Does anyone really expect television producers to focus on how pretty Lake Merritt is or something? When your city is the fifth most crime-ridden in America, people notice. And some people make TV shows about it. There's only one reason to dislike the new HBO series: if it sucks. Otherwise, get used to it.

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