Briefly, About Treme
Starting Sunday, I’ll be posting recaps of David Simon’s Treme. I recognize in advance that this site doesn’t generally go in for this sort of thing – I’ve seen open threads about The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad but never full recaps – so I greatly appreciate Erik and Tod encouraging me to do so on the front page. But before beginning these recaps though, I wanted to get some housekeeping out of the way.
It Isn’t The Wire
The biggest complaint about Treme is that it isn’t The Wire. That is an entirely fair critique. Treme isn’t about big things happening; it’s about life ongoing. For those who came to appreciate Simon as a result of The Wire‘s big moments will inevitably be disappointed by Treme. If anything, it is a show about all of the characters from The Wire who never got any screen time; those families in the background looking out of their windows after yet another gun battle; those police officers in the background not investigating the vacants; those stevedores at the union hall waiting for a shift. If you’re not into those people, then the show will let you down.
It’s Too Insider-y
That the The Wire was about Baltimore was never explicit, even if it was implicit in almost every scene. Treme doesn’t even bother with that artifice; it is a show about a city that seems to be forever teetering on the brink of outright destruction. Whether from the devastation of Katrina – the show’s first season was explicitly about Katrina, the show’s second season was about the city’s post-Katrina rebound – or the impending doom of the BP oil spill, there is always enormous catastrophe looming. The Wire captured Baltimore’s slow and steady decline; Treme captures New Orleans, with the added pressure of natural and man-made disasters (and, most disturbingly, the mix of both). But for those unfamiliar with New Orleans itself, the show’s regional references can present serious difficulties for those looking for a reason to dislike the show.
So Who Is The Show For?
It is for viewers fascinated by those characters in the background. This takes two forms amongst the show’s fans: the insiders and the outsiders. The insiders are the people directly affected by Katrina and New Orleans itself. You can find them at places like Back of Town, perhaps the show’s most rabid collection of fans. When they watch the show, they’re not missing regional references, nor the connection between the show’s fictional characters and the real people that those characters were based on. For them, the show borders on being a diary of things that they themselves have experienced and for the record, I’m not saying this is a bad thing. Their enthusiasm is such that David Simon has commented and interacted with the site’s contributors.
I am not one of the insiders. There is a significant difference between the show that they’re watching and the show that I’m watching. I’d describe myself as one of the outsiders. My relationship with the city is tangential at best: I’ve been there a few times, I have friends from there, my father has written several books about jazz and goes to the city regularly. I have much love for the city, for its culture, for its food, for its music, but I’m just a far-off fan. As such, my response to the show is based solely upon what I’m seeing on the screen. This is neither good nor bad; it simply explains what I’m writing about when I’m recapping.
The show though is for both groups, presuming that those groups are full of people willing to watch the very human struggles that often accompany life itself. It isn’t for the people who have to have high-drama in every episode. (If you read that as, “It sounds like the show is sometimes boring!” then I won’t fault you for that, because yes, it sometimes is. Just like life itself.)
Given the particular politics that play out at this site, a show like Treme offers numerous jumping off points for conversations about all sorts of topics pertinent to what is done here at the Ordinary Gentlemen. The season’s first episode is Sunday at 10:00, after Boardwalk Empire.
Update: I probably should have mentioned that I’ve recapped the last two seasons elsewhere.