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Obligatory Treme Post

Treme_3rd & Danneel as Urquhart & Annette_1

Expanding on a comment I left back o’ town:

Finally saw it Thursday night. Absolutely blown-ass-away. All my expectations were exceeded. I’m so impressed by the execution of the pilot and the potential of this series.

I think it is going to give The Wire a run for its money. That’s high praise; I loved The Wire.

You know who turned me on to The Wire? Ashley Morris, that’s who. For those who don’t know, the character played by John Goodman in Treme is based (more or less) on the late, great Ashley Morris, one of the most colorful and passionate of our local bloggers, a man I barely knew in truth. But I read him. And it was his writing in praise of The Wire that led me to check it out on DVD. We watched the first three seasons in rapid succession, just after our daughter was born. Eventually we watched them all, and I do think it’s just about the best TV I’ve seen.

I think The Wire and all the other work David Simon and his team have accomplished have set the stage for this. I think we may be seeing an artist reaching his peak. I think this could, just maybe, be the beginning of a masterwork, which is a rare thing in any medium — but especially television.

Having produced roughly a hundred television programs myself, having taught production at the university level, I feel I have some minor inkling of just how difficult a feat that is.

Watching this show Thursday night I feel like a bunch of things are coming full circle. Seeing Ashley dramatized was part of it. Most of all it’s given me pause to reflect on the fact that, in spite of everything, in spite of all the challenges and hardships along the way, I’m glad we came back after the storm. I’m glad we made that decision. Proud, even. This show may just illustrate why I feel that way, to a national audience.

A recurrent anxiety I hear from fans has been the question of how well Treme will relate to a national audience. I’m not worried about that. If the pilot is any indication, the series would seems to strike just the right balance between authenticity and accessibility. I think it will mystify and intrigue and ultimately seduce a national audience.

There are some things it would be cool to see in this season.

  • In December 2005, Eyehategod played at Juan’s Flying Burrito in Mid-City. The building was freshly gutted. They used a generator to power the amps because there was no electricity.
  • Speaking of electricity, when we had our juice restored just before Xmas ’05 it was the only light for blocks in any direction. A magical moment to be sure.
  • The re-opening of the universities (on my birthday) in January ’06 remains the single most hopeful day in the city’s recovery, I think, with only the Super Bowl giving it a run for the money.

I don’t expect to see these things, nor will I be disappointed if they don’t materialize. These are just some random thoughts inspired by the possibility.

(Perhaps a few more words about the first item: I was in Mid-City but I missed the show, to my everlasting chagrin. In fact, I’ve never seen Eyehategod live. As their name might suggest, they are an extreme metal band, and are in fact consider progenitors of a distinctive style known as sludge. It is dark, heavy, brutal stuff. Since music plays such a big role in Treme, wouldn’t it be a trip to see (and hear) something like that, something that runs so contrary to the sound of brass bands and dixieland jazz? It would also allude to the “dark” underground subcultures that seem to thrive here, which add to the general mystique of the city.)

Word’s already come down from on high that HBO has green-lighted a second season. Apparently they are going to try to cover a year of recovery in each season, which would mean the wave of violence that took Dinerral and Helen and the March for Survival would fall in that second season. I wonder if they will tackle those? It would only make sense. But I have no idea how closely they intend to cleave to actual events. I wonder if David Simon and crew have been watching tapes of me speaking at that rally at City Hall. That’s a bizarre thought. And if they did stage that event, does that mean they’d have to cast someone as the mayor? Maybe he could play himself, like Kermit Ruffins.

This is a hell of a lot more than I ever wrote about K-Ville but that’s as it should be. Still, I doubt that I’ll have much more to say as the season rolls on. I’ll be watching but I doubt that I will be commenting. I have too many other topics that preoccupy me.

So, for good local perspective on the series as it unfolds, be sure to check out Back of Town on a regular basis. I know I will.

Published inRadio & TV


  1. Garvey Garvey

    I am sorry to be missing this as it comes out, but really looking forward to watching it in rapid succession on DVD later. I did that with the Wire, all 60-something eps in a row (over a couple of months). Saying it is as good as the Wire is high praise indeed (best show ever created). I wonder if they’ll have a different story arc for each season, like the Wire. That was perhaps the most amazing part of the Wire, for me, was that each season could be so deeply about something different than any other, yet fundamentally the same in so many ways. It’s a massive Rashomon in a way, where the city is examined (i.e., instead of a single event or series of events leading up to the single event itself).

  2. rickngentilly rickngentilly

    it’s a real thru the looking glass experience.

    i think they will present the things you spoke of in future episodes and seasons.

    the strange thing about watching this show even after just the pilot is that something that happened to yourself is depicted but maybe not just exactally the way you remember it.

    i’m trying to say that they cover that time from many different peoples’ take.

    at the same time it’s not offensive to your own experiance and makes it easier to slay the ptsd beast.

    i got a huge ptsd flash back when clark peters’ character first walked in the bar and his hand starts involuntary shaking.

    than he takes the snapshot from his flooded house and puts it in a frame of a larger picture and than he starts taking stuff out of the bar to the street to begin the baby steps of rebuilding.

    all this took place in quick screen time but it summed up my first year and a half back in gentilly and it felt real.

    when i was looking on the hbo site for previews to next weeks show i found a section that had the music from the pilot listed.

    when d.j. davis and his neighbors were having the speaker battle it was mystikal vs. louis moreau gottschalk.

    that tiny scene and the tiny detail of a rap battle between mystikal and gottschalk did it for me.

    i’m looking forward to seeing how the storyline of the contracter who’s getting all the big ass fema money to gut his neighborhood to plays out.

  3. […] on treme i keep feeling like i should be blogging about the new hbo series treme, like just about every other blogger in new orleans and elsewhere. i did watch the premiere last sunday and then even […]

  4. Beth Beth

    Hi – I am compelled to reply to one point: “The re-opening of the universities (on my birthday) in January ‘06 remains the single most hopeful day in the city’s recovery, I think, with only the Super Bowl giving it a run for the money.”

    That would be the re-opening of the universities that closed for the fall semester. UNO did not. We finished our semester online, with about 7,700 signing up for classes starting on Oct. 10. In January, we held our Fall 05 graduation ceremony at the Hilton downtown, graduating more than 700 students.

  5. toneknee toneknee

    OK, liking it a bit more now. I take back every slight bit of criticism I had about the show. This is once again signature David Simon. Character and story development look promising and music is pure lagniappe. John Goodman’s character hit home when he was talking about the demise of Tulane’s traditional engineering programs. I honestly did not know his character was based on Ashley Morris. Lester Freamon is a New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian.

  6. Ian Zamboni Ian Zamboni

    It’s no surprise that you were on my mind as the go-to guy to get a REAL opinion on this show, but I found it to be literally the most pitch-perfect pilot for a series that I’ve ever seen.

    Which leads to a certain amount of anxiety for the second episode, which I haven’t watched yet. I hope they can keep the momentum, considering one of the head writers just passed away.

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