My Treme Post (Part 1)

There’s been a lot said about the HBO drama Treme. It’s set in New Orleans, from mid-November 2005, just a few months after Katrina, to St. Joseph’s Day, March 19 in 2006. In the 10 episodes of the series’ first season, the show managed to cram in a huge amount of, what for many viewers across the country, must have seemed some alien, bizarre and obscure culture and unreal events. Jazz funerals and second lines. Mardi Gras Indians. Post-Katrina atrocities from the lowest (repairs paid for but not performed) to the highest (thousands of people lost across the state and country; unclaimed bodies stacked in refrigerated tractor trailers) order. 

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about the show. It’s been picked up, turned over, looked at; put down, picked up again; dissected and examined even further by a squadron of NOLA bloggers at Back of Town. The creator/executive producer David Simon made an introductory statement for the locals’ behalf in the paper and gave a detailed post-mortem on the show after the last episode aired. The Gambit ran a pretty thorough article profiling the real New Orleanians on whom some of the characters were loosely based. The paper’s (and Nola.com’s) TV writer Dave Walker did a great job throughout the show’s run with explanatory posts and articles on the production’s  workings behind-the-scenes. His latest article examines the bloggers keeping track of the show, Back of Town in particular. (Aptly described therein by co-founder Maitri as “part local insider celebration and critique of the show, and part support group.”) 

My take on it was mixed. Over all, I liked the show, its phenomenal music and think it is a great vehicle to showcase New Orleans music and musicians to non-locals (and, for much of the music and musicians, a lot of locals, including myself). The writing was great, there was much attention to detail and a great effort to get the city’s cultural details correct (for a change–portrayals of New Orleans in the cinema and on TV have historically been atrocious). The acting, for the most part, was first-rate, the exceptions being performances by non-actors or first-time actors. But the plot(s)–many layers for many characters–though well-thought and fleshed out, are set against a backdrop in time I’d rather not have to examine again. And a lot of it seems forced, as if they wanted to cram as much NOLA culture into one season as they could, not knowing until much of the production had wrapped up that there would be a second season (which will begin production in September of 2010). As much as I enjoyed Treme and was rooting for it to surpass it, my pick for most creative, well-written and well-produced show I’ve watched remains HBO’s Deadwood.

I came to accept Treme as David Simon’s work of art. Each episode a painting; New Orleans the canvas and its residents and culture his art supplies. From what I’ve read in blog comments and on Twitter, not everyone necessarily appreciates being used like that, and that’s o.k., too. I can understand that.

Part 2 is going to be a post about the back of town culture that for many was a hidden aspect of the city that was brought to light in Treme, and the story of its one of its finest preservationist, Mr. Ronald Lewis, and his museum, The House of Dance and Feathers.

One Response to My Treme Post (Part 1)

  1. saintchick on June 28, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    first off I loved your post. I do (believe it or not) look to your opinion about all things NOLA. I watched every epi of Treme. I loved it. I loved that they took the time to introduce our beloved musicians, culture and our ACCENTS… they got that mostly right. I loved that they used a lot of locals.. actors and non-actors alike. of course some of it was fluff and I was okay with that. Seeing all kinds of places that I frequent was great. Although after Treme I doubt those places are gonna be secrets any longer. I am looking forward to season 2 to see what’s gonna happen ! I am hoping that they can somehow work some crunktasticness in there !!!

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