'K Street' is political oddity

— Next fall, could Democratic strategist James Carville win a best actor Emmy for playing himself on "K Street"? And if so, in what program category: Drama? Comedy? Public Affairs?

That's just one of the issues sparked by "K Street," the new HBO series about political consultants in Washington, D.C., whose second episode airs at 9 p.m. Sunday.

Executive-produced and directed by George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh, "K Street" is a largely improvised fusion of truth and fiction that throws actors (Mary McCormack and John Slattery among them) together with Carville and other real Washington insiders for 10 half-hour episodes, each of which will be conceived, performed, filmed and aired all in the same week.

If the premiere is any indication, this kookie project is a candidate to be the fall's most addictive new series.

"K Street" packs the immediacy of a newsmagazine, yet it's as crisp and literate as any scripted drama.

The weirdness of the "K Street" concept paid off right away, as viewers discovered that a one-liner from presidential hopeful Howard Dean during the real-life debate Oct. 9 was fed to him the day before by Carville while they taped "K Street."

That episode found Carville and wife Mary Matalin setting up a fictitious consulting firm -- and Carville agreeing to join lobbyist Tommy Flannegan (played by Slattery) in coaching Dean for the debate.

Carville huddles with Dean, during which he hands the former Vermont governor a ready comeback to any suggestion that Vermont's overwhelmingly white population means Dean has minimal interest in the needs of black Americans.

Carville advises Dean to say, "Look, if the percentage of black folks in your state determined your position on civil rights, then Trent Lott would be Martin Luther King."

Dean used this advice during the televised debate, which took place five days before "K Street" would air.

Here's a drama series that not only takes its cue from the week's real-life events, but can then influence them.


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