Category Archives: Treme

Initial thoughts about HBO’s Treme

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As an admirer of David Simon’s The Wire, (I wouldn’t say I’m a fan) I decided to watch his new series, Treme co-created with Eric Overmyer. Though I didn’t have much initial interest in it, in my post-dissertation submission haze I thought, why not? So, Monday morning I settled in and watched the pilot.

Here are some observations about things that occur early in the pilot, which give the viewer a sense of the show’s narrative and aesthetic. Treme has a documentary quality and feel, as though we are expected to forget that it’s a fictional narrative and become immersed in the reality of post-Katrina New Orleans. The coverage here links the series to the geography of the city and its people. The Times Picayune coverage compliments Treme‘s opening sequence, which a montage of archival film footage and photographs, still images depicting moldy walls and waterlines, and snippets of Katrina news coverage. Strung together they indicate the blurring of boundaries between past and present, both the past and present of the life of New Orleans as a city, as well as the present 5 years post-Katrina world and the immediate past of “3 Months After.” There’s also an incongruity between the bouncy “Treme Song” and the images.

The scene just prior to the opening credits of the preparations for the first post-flood second line is dominated by a series of close-up shots and indicating that Treme will be about the small daily lives of the people of New Orleans.

Creighton Bernette (John Goodman), who is based on blogger Ashley Morris, is interviewed by an insufferable British documentarian who suggests that New Orleans is no longer a great city “worth saving.” It goes a bit meta when Creighton asserts, “the media … likes a simple narrative they and their listeners can get their tiny brains around.” Treme‘s complex, nuanced, and fictionalized narrative will fill in the gaps of simplistic media narratives. This is a conceit The Wire had, which raises questions about representation, realism, their relationship to television and news media.

My biggest hope for Treme was that it would feature more female characters than The Wire. Based on the pilot, it looks like  LaDonna (Khandi Alexander), Janette (Kim Dickens), and Toni (Melissa Leo) will have major roles, though they are all linked to other male characters as wife, ex, or “friends with benefits.” According to this wiki – Goodman was added to the cast last, interesting, since he’s given such a strong voice so early in the episode.

On the whole, the pilot presented us with a lose amalgamation of interrelated people working through their lives after Katrina. The mirco-narratives read like documentary vignettes and work more to establish its sense of  realism and documentary feel rather than establishing any, as yet, tangible story. There’s music and an attempt to paint a picture of the New Orleans as the main character, but it felt forced and a bit self-conscious. Granted, it’s a pilot, so perhaps my expectations are too high, but I think, to keep my interest, Treme is going to need more than atmosphere and music to keep me interested. I have the hope that it eventually will.